The Universal Modes of Enactment
in Human Experience
A Self-Witnessing Account of the Discovery of
and My Interpretation of Its Significance for the Human Race
Please note: This essay was written 4 years before I started studying Swedenborg. See Afterword written in 1999
Table of Contents
Foreword One: Awakening
The saga of a human life strikes us
with awe. We focus on details, and get involved, and the awe vanishes. Once in
a while, our involvements appear to redirect themselves, and once more, we catch a glimpse
of the whole. Once again we are filled with wonderment and acceptance.
This second-time-round awakening or
re-awakening, is now familiar, yet no less awe inspiring. We remember having been
here before, yet it still feels marvelously unbelievable, reassuringly compelling in its
defiance of comprehension.
How does this all come about? Scientific and philosophical accounts as known in the classical and contemporary literature are familiar to us. After much involvement in that mode of thinking and reasoning, we find them puerile and make believe. In no way does contemporary empiricism in psychology come to grips with the fundamental realities of human consciousness. The current standards of empiricism and of experimentalism in psychology function effectively to exclude any sort of evidence that is dependent upon the acceptance of personal and unique observations and data. Yet only personally unique perspectives can yield the data for constructing radicalist formulations that relate to the objective reality of human experiencing.
|Comment written in 1999:
It's interesting that I was able to sense that the uniquely personal is inward and real at a time when inward meant less real. What I call "radicalist formulations" are those based on self-observation of experiencing . I took up the position that this objective reality at a time when "empiricism and of experimentalism in psychology" were striving to exclude the experiential, the personal, and the unique, as much as possible. I was taking an intellectual leap, a chance for which I could be ostracized, I thought. One book that gave me courage was Gendlin's Experiencing (I'll check the reference).
Also, Albert Ellis, who is still going strong today, even stronger than in the 1970s. Ellis established the relationship between behaviorism and rationalism. He was enormously influential in psychology, as a result. However, even Gendlin and Ellis avoided the issue I'm raising here: the connection between rationalism and a higher reality. At the time, this higher reality was associated with "consciousness" so that I grabbed on to this concept, hoping to ride it to this higher reality whose discovery I was craving for.
At the very least, the existence of the topic of consciousness allowed me to pursue these higher realities without being accused of being a theologian in disguise. That would have ended my career as a scientist. I was working at the University of Illinois, Champaign, until 1971. This department of psychology prided itself in being the fourth best in the country, and I was called in once to the Chair's office, to account for myself in leading an Ellis-based Communications Workshop for towns people, off campus, in the evenings, as a personal activity. What was I up to? Was this research? Was I giving counseling under the table? It was an atmosphere of intimidation, and your focus and interests had to fall within acceptable, politically correct, scientific approach. I've kept rack of some of the key people who influenced me in that early period of my career--see this article.
Let us name a few relevant issues which ordinary empiricism excludes:
This self-witnessing report presents my explorative attempts in what I've come to call radicalist empiricism.
|Comment written in 1999:
At this period, covering two decades in my training, 1950-1970, I did not have the idea that the mind and the spiritual world are one and the same thing. I did not have an idea of dualism in terms of two real worlds, one material, the other substantial. I was a dissatisfied monist or materialist because that attitude in my field required a lesser scientific value to be put on "soft" stuff like consciousness, awareness, mental states, thoughts, feelings. Instead of that mushy stuff, a greater scientific value on should be placed on "hard" stuff like reaction times, selection choices, voice analysis, brain scans, and so forth, which were indirect measures of experience, and to my mind, irrelevant to what I was looking for.
Here I use the expression "radicalist empiricism" to refer to my approach in studying what is moment to moment awareness. I felt it important to retain the word empiricism, unlike some in the psychodynamic and transcendental psychology fields, who gave up on empiricism, arguing that experience cannot be invested empirically but required other methods such hermeneutics, content analysis, literary criticism, philosophical comparison, and so on. I was against abandoning the fort to the materialists. The future lay in science, not something lesser.
I was able to see plainly that the self-witnessing method was empirical when employed through the discourse thinking approach, that is listening to yourself as you forced your thinking to be in sentences. This approach is familiar to everyone because it is one of the methods used by authors and movie directors to inform us of a character's mental processes. But this was not an acceptable method for psychology in that "hard-nosed" period of its history.
But I knew it would be a hard sell. Already my mentor, Charles Osgood, who was at the time, President of the prestigious American Psychological Association (1964) had called me "a mentalist in disguise" in one of our public exchanges with graduate and colleagues students around. I was defending the idea that "intention" could not be given a sensory-motor meaning, like he was wanting to do for the sake of remaining a behavioristic psycholinguist. The attack was then just beginning between the new Chomsky-Fodor forces, self-defined mentalists, and the Hull-Osgood forces, self-defined as cognitive behaviorists. The book of readings on Semantics that I published with my colleague Danny Steinberg, contains a line up of this debate.
I fought hard to remain a behaviorist, and I had to defend the idea that mental processes are behavioral processes. That was my Ph.D. dissertation at McGill University in 1962. Here, in this document, I go a step further, with the recognition that empiricism in the study of awareness was radicalist, that is, it required re-entering the origins of psychology, as the study of "psyche" or mind, but now, through the modern ideas of empiricism.
In what follows, note the care I take to translate subjective sentences about experience (in quotes), to the objective language of behavioral psychology.
Experience is an act of living through an event. It relates the person to the event; it expresses a personal involvement in events as they occur. "An experience I'll never forget" refers to something the person observed or lived through. "It is not within my experience" refers to all that has happened to me to date, everything done or undergone by me. "My experiences include the effect on me of anything or everything that has happened to me, my individual reactions to events, feelings, etc.
Have We had any previous experience?" refers to activity that includes training, observation or practice, and personal participation. It includes any knowledge, skill, or practice resulting from this. "I am experiencing sadness" specifies the value of the personal involvement at a particular time. "I am conscious of my experiences is an assertion that I am aware of what I am feeling. "My unconscious experiences are hidden from my awareness" is a stipulative proposition that sets up a dual relationship between the speaker and the experiencer, for instance:
the speaker asserts something about the experiencer which
the latter knows nothing about. Thus, a person may experience unconscious needs and
desires. These refer to personal involvements in events that are not recognized or
known to the speaker.
experiences include reactions to feelings, it follows from the preceding, that some of a
persons reactions, feelings, and thoughts are unconscious or unaware to the
speaker. Since some of these reactions include verbal comments and verbalized
feelings, it follows further that a portion of our reasonings will thus be similarly
Thus, I am deriving a perspective on
experience that shows it to be a continuous life activity whose details in content or
value are partially obstructed from conscious reflection. Note that experiential
continuity is not matched by a commensurate continuity in consciousness or awareness: the
latter fluctuates and oscillates between waking states and sleeping states. It also
fluctuates over life segments from childhood, to maturity, to old age.
Thus, consciousness and awareness oscillate, while experience is continuous. It is clear that experience includes this oscillation in consciousness, since it includes all activity. The crucial question is this: can this experience of oscillation of consciousness become a conscious activity, as many other experiences become conscious to the individual observing self in a self-conscious manner?
The contemporary literature is replete
with various sorts of claims to the effect that changes in awareness can be produced by
meditative or contemplative activities of this kind. It is claimed that merely
witnessing one's experiences is a sufficient condition for a mode of existence far
superior in quality to the ordinary level of consciousness, as expressed say, by social
success or artistic creations. If this claim is true, and if a way were found to get a person to merely witness the self, it should
immediately be brought forth as a most important public issue. Surely it is
important to examine such a possibility, for if practicable, it would greatly enhance the
The following is a summary of my
evidence to date. It will be seen that, by and large, the evidence is strongly
supportive of the merely-witnessing claim. At the same time, the evidence shows that
merely attempting the performance of the activity is not a sufficient condition for
succeeding in performing it. Each experiment is reported in the following format:
The series of experiments reported here will be seen as cumulatively interrelated.
EXPERIMENT 1: Merely Witnessing Doing Nothing
(1.) Rationale of the Problem
The conditions for doing nothing are
commonly known. We say: "Im not doing anything." as an indication of
availability for interaction. We say: I didn't do anything. as an
indication that we have nothing to report about it right then. However, it is
obvious that doing nothing does not refer to the cessation of experiential continuity nor
to oscillation in consciousness. For we say that "I slept, then I awoke"
rather than "I did nothing, then I did something" to refer to the same sequence.
Therefore, the question arises: When we are performing the activity we refer to as doing nothing, what are we in fact doing?
The purpose of this experiment is to
investigate the answer to this question using the method of merely-witnessing.
(2.) Conditions of
I sit in front of this table.
Upon it is this pad I am writing on. I will make my first attempt of merely
witnessing as I sit here comfortably, with my eyes closed. Right now, my back aches,
my mouth feels dry, my fingers hurt from writing. I have an authentic slot for the
performance of the experiment. I wish to stop writing. I feel I want to take a
break. To stretch. To stop being occupied writing this. When I stop writing
this paragraph, I begin my condition of doing nothing. I will then assume a viewing
position for merely witnessing. If my attempt is successful, and I perform the
merely witnessing activity, I should feel enlightened and ecstatic. I will then
attempt to report my experience.
(3.) The Evidence
My experience lasted approximately fifteen seconds, possibly more, but I'm certain not over one minute. I straightened my painfully cramped legs. This sub-activity represents for me the outside boundaries of the experience. All others are organized within the structural features of this central theme. I now reconstruct these features as involving such components as:
This report does not appear encouraging at all. I felt no ecstatic perspective. It is of course possible that one may require more than fifteen seconds to become enlightened. But how long? As an arbitrary figure, let us pick seven years. Seven years ago I became aware of oscillating activity in my consciousness. For several years thereafter my recurrent observations of these oscillations evoked intense reactions both emotionally and, expressively, in my writings. Eventually, however, I became increasingly aware the way in which these intense reactions were more and more contracted in time. The condition of merely witnessing oscillations in consciousness does not allow unrecognized involvements, though it allows any involvement. Thus, in theory at least, merely having intense reactions does not invalidate the merely witnessing condition: only not recognizing them invalidates the condition.
Have I, then, during these past seven
years of awakening experienced states of enlightenment?
My memory prompts me to a definitive
answer: Yes, I can easily affirm the assertion that I have had recurrent experiences of
states of enlightenment. Further, I can assert that these experiences are directly
related to my observations concerning these oscillations in consciousness.
I recall that, in the beginning, I did not consciously disentangle from my experience the fragment of it that related to enlightenment per se, and the fragment that related to ecstatic and intensely transporting feelings. I came to this realization, it appears to me now, by becoming aware of states of ecstasy that were not simultaneously accompanied by enlightenment. Thus, the possibility arose that feeling states and states of enlightenment are independent of each other.
|Comment written in 1999:
As I read this today, I recognize the significance of this discovery. Obviously, "feeling states" refer to the affective domain and "states of enlightenment" refer to the cognitive domain. I had discovered empirically, through self-witnessing, that the affective and cognitive domains are separated.
Later in my studies of Swedenborg, this division was confirmed, and more than that, it was designated as "nothing can be more important than to understand how the two act as one" -- see here for more on this.
In the Writings of Swedenborg (died in 1772) we find the frequent assertion that people don't know the difference between a thought and feeling. When I read this in 1981, I thought, surely this has changed with all the psychology going around this century. No. I have conducted so-called informal surveys with friends and they don't know the difference. I tested my students who are majors in psychology in their final year, and they don't the difference. And if I were bold enough, I would test my colleagues in psychology, and I predict they won't know the difference.
Friend, do you know the difference?
This topic shall return, so I will let you read on.
I remember a significant dilemma: why should I pursue ecstatic feeling states just because I know I can be successful at it?
I now realize that I am already in an enlightened state. I now remember that I've had this realization before. It feels as though I had it many times.
I now realize that the possibility exists that I may forget that I am already enlightened.
What makes my situation different from other
people's is the fact that my ordinary reactions, when I forget that I am already
enlightened, appear to be significantly contracted compared to theirs. As a result,
my re-awakenings occur more regularly. Each time I adapt to a pattern of re-awakenings, my
merely witnessing activities decrease. My enlightenment becomes automatized at this
new and higher level. I then no longer am aware: I have forgotten that I am already
enlightened. My reactions return to their dramatical involvements. But since
they are still contracted, I reach a new enlightenment and ascend another level of
witnessing. My re-awakenings assume a new pattern. I then wonder: will there
be another wave? How could there not be?
END OF EXPERIMENT 1
The preceding discussion is quite obviously favorable to the process of merely witnessing. But it shows that merely witnessing is not a sufficient condition for maintaining a steady state of enlightenment. To insure the latter, the individual must develop mechanisms for counteracting adaptation to enlightenment and its gradual dissipation from consciousness. One such mechanism appears to be the process of contraction, which happens to be the one I have personally explored. It may be useful to have some description of it. To this task I now proceed.
EXPERIMENT 2: Observing the Process of Experiential Contraction
(1.) Statement of the Problem
The notion of contraction relates to
habits of memory scanning, in the following way. Consider the common situation of
what we often talk about as "I'm getting better at it", referring to a person's
involvement with managing one's interpersonal interactions in difficult or trying
circumstances. For instance: "I'm getting better at getting along with
him" or I'm getting better at being able to just ignore that" or "I'm
getting better at keeping my concentration on it", and the like. These
standardized displays (or comments) allow us to mark publicly to the other participant that we are referring to a complex package of personal experience
relating our involvement with that topicalized issue. These exchanges do not, however, specify or identify the content of this experience.
They are only labels or titles for the experience, the contents of the experience itself
|Comment written in 1999:
This finding was important. I generalized it to my work in psycholinguistics where it turned up as "the Principle of Indeterminacy of Meaning" in which I argued that the definition of a word allows us to put words together in a sentence, and this sentence does not have a definition as the words themselves have. One version of this principle will be found in this chapter.
Since we use sentences to communicate, I concluded that the communicative value of the sentence, that is, its meaning, is indeterminate, and is serviceable only because it homes in as title, to the general area. My final conclusion was original and revolutionary, namely, that sentences are encapsulated titles for paragraphs, pages, and chapters which we would have to write or say to describe our experiencing in a more specific or referential manner.
This led to the idea that a new paradigm of linguistics or psycho-linguistics needs to be developed in which we deal with the syntax of titles as encapsulated references to particular operations of human experience. If you want, you can look at a paper I wrote on titles.
In ordinary interactions, participants
typically exchange such titles without actually specifying the story itself. These
exchanges are therefore impersonal (not inauthentic, not dehumanizing, not victimizing ---
they may but need not have such additional value characteristics). They are
impersonal because the participants act as if they are exchanging cards upon which
appear titles of what they are talking about, but not the stories themselves.
Remember that story in which two friends memorized a bunch of jokes by number, then
all they had to do is to say a number, to have them both explode in laughter. But
remember also Searle's Chinese Room in which you pass written cards to those outside
without knowing any Chinese, but only having memorized which answer card can go with which
Sentences, viewed as encapsulated titles, are examples of contraction. Much of ordinary talk is contracted-talk. That kind of talk is common in the contemporary North American register because it is so functional. It consists of making impersonal exchanges count as sufficient behavior for maintaining the membership rituals.
The socio-function of a thing dictates the dialectics of ordinary pragmatics. The social function of a thing forces or engenders the impersonal register by contingent environmental practices. In other words, those who are good at keeping interactions at an objective impersonal level, are more productive, and get rewarded. The opposite is the case with those who fail to adapt to the productivity reward contingencies. They get punished, or, reward is kept from them. What is pragmatic in this impersonal relationship context is therefore determined by its function, use, or productivity.
The successful compete, and win, all within this register. The membership standards of high character, role sophistication, duty, service, obligation -- are all stated within the impersonal register. It is truly democratic and impartial.
That same register provides the data for contemporary
scientific psychology and for its practices in mental health and education. Also, the
language and register of psychotherapy, is cast into a mode of human engineering that
presumes a behavioral register (viz. the laws of behavior) that is quite
practically conceived by therapists as actual. Thus, they are lead to accept the
prima facie evidence of experimental argumentation and conclude inauthentically
that the laws of behavior (in the impersonal register) are indeed the laws of a natural
actuality. They are not. Contracted-talk (the
impersonal register) is not a necessary condition for socialized exchanges.
Let us present the argument for this assertion.
Suppose we adopt a strategy familiar to therapists and ask:
"You are telling me that you are getting better at that. Can you tell me in what way you mean this? Can you elaborate further on this?"
-- or some such stratagem. We might get in response such things as:
"Well, I mean that I dont feel as much anger as before, when I used to get all tense and defensive,"
"I am referring to the times I used to get involved with her in such a way that I was not aware of my real reactions towards her, towards how she was acting, which made me tense and defensive without knowing it; but now I'm aware when that happens and either I control myself better or I become more objective or whatever it may be at different times, but the resultant of it is that I'm no longer doing the same thing and I've gotten much better at it, especially in the past few days."
Consider the above elaboration, and consider all the ways
in which such further elaborations could be gotten into by the person, either by oneself,
or as prompted by a therapist or some other participant, and furthermore, assume that a
very substantial record of such detailed reports are accumulated either in a file or in
the cumulative phases of a relationship (viz. the dyadic history of events). Then
Examine such a statement as "I
used to get involved with her." In the example above, the person specifies the ways
in which he used to be involved: he says that he is referring to "involved with her
in such a way that I was not aware of my real reactions towards her, towards how she was
acting." Note that the specification given, is but a title whose story is not
given: i.e., he says "I was not aware of my real reactions": what were these
reactions? Or, again: "I was not aware of my real reactions towards ...
how she was acting": how did she act?
Thus, it turns out that the person is prompted to specify and identify the content of the stories referred to by the titles they exchanged. Then, what they do in their further elaborations is to provide additional titles that refer to content not specified or identified.
Instead of homing in, they scatter; instead of a
convergent solution to what's being talked about, there is a divergent or increasing
number of possible answers as they explore further and produce more titles. To
convince yourself of this, practice by pursuing the argument in precisely the same
algorithmic method as I have illustrated with the example, but using your own attempts at
describing it as fully as you can to a hypothetical listener and questioner. Note
that no matter how far and deep you are led in your argumentation, you will continue to
give specifications that refer the listener to a package of experiencing whose details are
not specified, thus making it an infinitely recursive and unending process. This
idea was clearly seen by Harold Garfinkel in his 1967 book Studies in Ethnomethodology.
We have arrived at a very strong position from which to view the process of contraction and its relation to habits of memory scanning. Interpersonal talk is always contracted and impersonal; it never reveals the experiential referent event about which the participant is talking to the other participants.
This very strong conclusion, unrealized in the understanding of contemporary practices in psychotherapy, leads to a very strong and practical conclusion:
(internal dialogue, discourse thinking, thinking to oneself, making personal comments or
having reactions, etc.) is always contracted and impersonal.
The evidence for this conclusion needs
to be presented. If true, it can function as a tool for expanding awareness.
This principle is an instance of merely witnessing: it is an observation about the
ordinary oscillation of consciousness. If the process of reflection is authentic, we
validate the conclusion through our own unique position. At that point, we are
self-actualizing, and we are in the process of awakening, which is the feeling of being
The following conditions describe the attempt that will constitute this experiment. The purpose of the experiment is to examine the evidence that will arise as I deliberately attempt to validate the above conclusion.
I depart therefore with the presumption that the conclusion is correct. I call this the Positive Bias and is the opposite of the more common Null Hypothesis approach, which is the Negative Bias. At the same time I remind myself that my attempt at performing the conditions necessary for the positive evidence to arise may not be successful. The evidence may not arise. Or if something arises, I may observe it but forget it later in the reporting.
Therefore, since these invalidating conditions may
themselves occur without my awareness, what appears to me to be negative evidence or no
evidence, is not that. Rather, the necessary conditions for the evidence to
arise were not actualized by me, and instead, other conditions prevailed. In that
case, I will not know whether the lack of positive evidence is due to the inauthenticity
of the conclusion (its falseness), or to the fact that I failed to enact the necessary
It is clear, therefore, that the logic of radicalist empiricism requires the exclusion of all negative evidence. Its postulates are presumed to be practical and actual; its conclusions must be evidenced by positive observations of self-validation. In that case, the observational data always relate to authentication of the person's unique perspective, hence they are, ipso facto, self-actualizing.
|Comment written in 1999:
This is a remarkable conclusion, given that I had come to this radical position on my own steam, as it were. I was taking a chance making such radical declarations solely on my own evidence. Ah, this was the rub! I was challenged to throw away my politicized fears of scientism and to rely only on my intrepid experiments and their results. This was authenticity.
And so here was a result that struck me as awesome in importance. Negative results could be attributed to a number of things, and so one had to keep going until positive evidence was obtained.
Years later I came across Swedenborg's notion of the negative vs. the affirmative attitude, which is similar to what I saw here on my own. He called this process "confirmation" of the the truths of revelation. It is a downward operation from the rational, where the truth is formulated and seen, down and out into the natural mind, where its sensory knowledges or sciences serve as the database for confirming the rational or spiritual principle.
(2.) Conditions of Observation
My task is to enact a mode of consciousness as defined by the following memory scanning instructions:
(i) I am to go about my usual way on the daily schedule; therefore, I will maintain my habits of memory scanning usual on my daily round.
(ii) At the same time, I am to observe specifically the process of contraction in my Intra-personal activities; viz.
"When I talk to myself what am I saying?" or "When I watch myself act, how do I title the experiencing details? How do I use these titles to later reconstruct the details that were there but where not referred to in my observations or in my recollections of them or of my experiences?"
I will record notes, or not, as my involvements warrant. I will declare an end to the experiment when the appropriateness of such an action prompts me to do so.
(3) The Evidence: Navigational
This is approximately 48 hours later. At this point, I am totally incapable of projecting an outline for how I should present whatever it is that I have to present.
The very thought of working on such an outline on a piece
of paper while I interrupt this account, is odious to me. I am experiencing a strong
compulsion to continue writing, feeling at ease and reassured that whatever will come out
is what is required in this report. It will organize itself, whatever I do. Therefore, I am
content in letting it happen.
I am experiencing a contact with the
first episode. I became aware of a dilemma that causes disease: the episode
flashed in my mind. I saw myself in one scene of that episode and realized
immediately that it was filled with details of my personal habits. I do not wish to
report them here.
The recognition that I have taken a
definitive stand on the Issue feels relieving, salutary. I feel reassured once
again, that my report will organize itself appropriately despite this difficulty, despite
Because I want you to know what I am
talking about, so that you can actualize your own enactment in the validation of the
conclusion, I am prompted to talk about certain features of the episode in question. This
move in my report is engendered by the relationship we have developed over these many
The episode occurred a few minutes after the start of the experiment, and lasted approximately 40 minutes. I had decided to retire to my easy chair and enact what I call navigation performances. I have developed over the past seven years a personal method or ritual which allows me to alter my ordinary modes of memory scanning. I understand that navigational performances are neither rare nor difficult nor extraordinary. I refuse to engage in mystifying formulations as to what they really mean or are. I have never felt any need, poetic or scientific, to erect a rational context for the interpretation of the existence of navigational experiences: I see no ghosts, soul, extra-terrestrial beings, angels, devils, gods, or God. I am only aware of experiencing, of being the flow, of being the topic, of being the relationships. I am aware also of all the ways I can dramatize my experiences, by reifying themes and myths as actual in my imagination.
|Comment written in 1999:
Here again, the utter emptiness of my visions is plainly in evidence. I did not know at the time, but I can see it now: I was trapped in the natural mind, bouncing around transcendental concepts, but not getting any results. How could I?
The natural sees only darkness when peering into the rational mind, that is, the spiritual world. Without acknowledging God, what reality could I be in touch with? Theistic science could not yet be born in my mind, for at this point I was an atheist. Despite this, my discoveries were unconsciously rational. They were not self-engendered, but inspired. How this is the case will come out later. Read on.
During my initial months and years of observing my navigational experiences, I remember dramatizing a great deal: I toyed with the idea of contacting or being contacted by super-human entities; I reified myself as God, or The-Only-Intelligence-Alive; I encountered intelligent forms of life that felt absolutely alien to my being, and about whose intentions towards me I could not even speculate; I have felt the spooky sensitivities, the sensation of presences, the foreknowledge of the future, the contact with the Immaculate Conception; and many, many more. Never did any of these experiences prove to be validatable by another person. I conclude therefore that these experiences are titled in my memory, but that the details of the content under these titles remain unavailable through their specification: what is available instead, are these titles which are quite obviously cast in the standardized dramaturgical themes of the North American topic register.
The various reports in the literature concerning navigational performances are all cast in such a standardized dramatical theme: Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, Jesus, St. Augustine, Alistair Crowley, Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary, John Lily, Carlos Castaneda, Franklin Jones--to name but a few that are well-known to me and to contemporary readers. These personal reports are actually personal dramatizations. They constitute interesting and informative details, not about the reporter's experiences, but about how he titles his experiences. Therefore, such reports attest to the varieties of, not human experiences per se but the varieties of a particular kind of experiences namely, the contemporary styles of acceptable dramatizations in reporting navigational performances.
|Comment written in 1999:
How astonishing that I could make the list above, putting the Bible and Jesus at the same level as Timothy Leary or Carlos Castaneda. I had utterly no knowledge of Jesus, except by literary reputation, which I was mimicking. And I had utterly no knowledge of the Bible and the secrets and truths it contained. All I had was my sectarian childhood and my graduate school atheism. Thus I was more blind then Helen Keller.
I discuss my religious background in this article.
On the other hand, there may be another
mode of dramatizing content, of recording titles for experiences, which function not to
reconstruct content but to reconstruct process, independently of however content is titled
by the self-conscious observation of navigational performances. The following
represents such an attempt in connection with the episode I am mentioning.
As I was approaching a certain state of consciousness, while executing my habitual pre-navigation ritual, I became aware of some presence of an awareness that I remember having then reconstructed as some point in space, distinct from me, but related to me. I reified this feeling or sensation by giving it a standardized dramatized title:
"That's me over there observing my experiences. That's me the Witness."
I was simultaneously myself having experiences and myself observing them and myself formulating them and myself reacting to them.
I interrupted my exercise and, fetching my pad and pen, recorded the following which felt like in the nature of an important insight or realization about myself:
"My public performances are but an excuse to justify my private rehearsals of them: the former makes me tired while the latter fulfills me.
REFLECTIVE AWARENESS: Distinction Between Consciousness and Experiencing
Life is the process of
experiencing. Experiencing is a feature of the human life activity. Our
literature is replete with the many varied reports that have accumulated over the race's
history, reports which index the modulations in imaginative styles which gave rise to the
myths and legends of human life, its origins, and its ultimate direction. These are the
reports that experiencing has produced.
It is clear, when stated in abstract,
uninvolved terms, that these reports generated by the process of experiencing are not the
experiencing. The collective social enterprise of organized knowledge and tradition,
in their aggregate, still does not represent experiencing, but only various sorts of
reports made possible by the existence of experiencing as a process in the world.
While the above has been recognized by
many noted writers over the course of the race's history, its reflexive implications for
the quality of experiencing have not been adequately formulated in the general
understanding, as evidenced by the existence of various multitudinous and contradictory
programs or ways of living, all which purport to lead to a higher and fuller quality of
experiencing. Such disagreements attest to my observation that the reflexivity of
consciousness and its relation to the quality of experiencing has not been adequately
formulated in the general understanding of organized knowledge. This, too, may be
granted without much difficulty.
I want to point out the important
observation that the fact that this relationship has not been adequately formulated in the
general understanding of organized knowledge leaves open the possibility that specific
particular individuals may reach an understanding of this relationship that goes beyond
the state of organized knowledge. Thus, it is more important to see the issue of
understanding as separate and independent from the issue of formulating that personal
understanding as knowledge.
This article has three purposes.
The first, is to develop the argument that establishes this independence. The
second, is to provide the proof that understanding experiencing cannot be formulated as
knowledge or report. The third, is to develop an empirical procedure, called
radicalist empiricism, which facilitates understanding of experiencing by self-validating
procedures of objective observation of experiencing.
The basic argument can be briefly
stated here, by way of anticipation.
I begin by establishing a distinction
between consciousness and experiencing. Consciousness is a process of awareness of
reflexivity. That is, experiencing includes the process of consciousness such that
consciousness is a reflexive awareness of experiencing. Reflexive awareness implies
two logical components: an experiential process and the reflection of that process as
content in awareness. These two components are independent as shown by the fact that
the content of reflexive awareness relating to a particular experiential process or
activity can be reformulated any number of times by adding additional content or context
to the latest attempt at formulation. Thus, the content of consciousness varies
independently from the process of experiencing. Understanding consciousness is a
separate task from understanding experiencing.
The implications of this conclusion are
striking. For instance, it leads to a reformulation of the basic nature of
memory. In the traditional formulations of this notion, the human brain, or the
mind, is seen as a repository of information stamped in through the process of
experiencing and later available for recall or comparison through various postulated
mechanisms of storage and retrieval of coded information. Left entirely unexplained
and mysterious, is the process whereby experiencing is transformed into the coded
information. This article will show that this transformation process involves a
coding procedure that yields only reports made up of titles that refer to packages of
experiences but never to the specific details of these experiences. In other words,
the coding and retrieval of information in the process of memory, no matter how much it is
elaborated and detailed in description, will always remain non-specific and uninformative
concerning the experiences themselves. Therefore, the content of consciousness,
being the content of awareness, being the content of all memory, is a content made up of standardized
imaginings or impersonal titles or labels for the actual experiencing process,
but is never the authentic reflection of the experiencing process itself.
These considerations lead to further
important and insufficiently understood consequences for the quality of
experiencing. Since experiencing includes the various reformulations in content of
awareness, memory, or consciousness it also will include this process of constant
reformulation in content. Thus, the quality of experiencing will relate to this
reformulation process, but it will be independent of the specific changing content of
it. No matter how we formulate and reformulate the content of consciousness over
time, it is not the details of these accounts in awareness that will affect the quality of
experiencing. Only the process of continuous reformulation will.
Hence, the quality of experiencing
cannot be affected by any specific content of consciousness. Thus, the adoption of
beliefs concerning life, the self, and the world, or the change in content of such
beliefs, cannot affect the quality of the experiencing process. Only the process
itself of sequential reformulations over time; whatever their content, can affect the
quality of experiencing. What is this interaction?
The process of reformulating the
content of consciousness affects the quality of experiencing in the following way.
This process of successive reformulations, which constitutes the changing
content of consciousness over time, may either be witnessed or not. When the
formulation process is witnessed, it raises the quality of experiencing. When it is
not witnessed, it leaves the quality of experiencing unaffected. Witnessing the
reformulation process of consciousness raises the quality of experiencing in the sense
that the witnessing activity, which is but another experiencing process, extends the
experiencing process. Another way of saying this is that witnessing extends the
contact between the person and the real environment: in which one functions to produce the
process of self-actualization.
Thus, not the changing content of
consciousness, but rather the witnessing of these changes as personal life process, that
contributes to the raising of the quality of experiencing or being in life. There is
then this crucial and practical relationship to be understood between witnessing and
The process of witnessing is to be
distinguished from the process of awareness, observation, or consciousness. The
stratagem of self-observation has been traditionally offered as a means of increasing
self-awareness. However, it is clear that self-observation only produces continuous
reformulations about self-awareness and consciousness. It can-not produce an
increase in the quality of life or experiencing.
Witnessing, on the other hand, is an
experiential process that is different and independent of the process of observation or
self-observation. While the latter yields standardized impersonal reports,
continually reformulated as consciousness, witnessing yields only another experience, not
another report. It is an experiential process and therefore, not itself formulatable
as a report. Therefore, witnessing cannot form part of the content of consciousness,
while self-observation does.
The traditional scientific accounts of
man and experiencing have attempted to describe human behavior in terms of models that are
appropriate to the description of machines and computers. The scientific tradition
has therefore consistently omitted from its accounts an understanding of man that sets him
apart from whatever it is that machines and computers do not have. Thus, while we
can formulate such accounts that deal with man's self-observational activities, and can
conceive of advanced types of machines that simulate these self-observational activities,
such accounts will remain impractical and inauthentic for understanding man on account of
the fact that mans witnessing activities (as distinguished from his
self-observational activities) remain undealt with in these traditional scientific
The process of witnessing cannot be
encompassed in any sort of model that requires observational data, as is the case with all
traditional scientific accounts. The process of witnessing cannot validly be reduced
or transformed into a report containing observational data. We need therefore an
objective account of the process of witnessing itself, though this account may not include
self-observational reports as data. Radicalist empiricism, as outlined here, does provide
a basis for such an objectivity. We will show that witnessing is both personally
unique in content as well as unreportable and unavailable to consciousness. We will
describe empirical methods of self-actualization that depend on the reconstruction of
witnessing processes in the here and now. These depend on a mode of witnessing that
we call merely witnessing or witnessing the process of contraction in consciousness.
These activities are validated only in the unique experience of the individual and are
independent of consensual evidence or standardized reporting.
INTRODUCTION TWO: SELF-ACTUALIZING
1.1. I begin by explaining the
title of this article, which affords us at the same time the opportunity of defining the
scope of our topic.
As a first cut we can say that we are
dealing with the way people think, or more specifically, we wish to present some
observations of a very interesting and fundamental sort about the nature of human memory
and consciousness. We hope to be able to demonstrate in this article that these
fundamental observations about the nature of the human thinking process are of a practical
sort that can be of immediate value to the reader. In this, we assume that our
observations can be corroborated by the reader himself who can check out what we are
saying through objective self-observation of the thinking process.
Second, we should say that we are
dealing specifically with the North American cultural standards of operation. This
is important to remember since the formulation of our observations are designed to be
relevant to such an audience. Nevertheless, while the individual content of memory
and inter-relationships of ideas varies across cultural identifications and historical
periods, it will be seen that the dialectics of memory and its pragmatic social functions
appear universally relevant to the species.
1.2 We need to discuss, at this
point, our attitude towards objective self-observation. In the history of Psychology
in North America, the so-called school of introspectionism was at its heyday under the
supposedly professional paternalism of Titchener at around the turn of this century.
According to standard historical treatment of the topic (e.g. Boring), introspectionism as
a scientific movement lost out to the experimentalism of functionalists and later,
behaviorists, neo-behaviorists, and cognitivists in the "human experimental,
"developmental," and social psychology" fields of endeavor. It
is important to realize that Titcheners introspectionism, as well as the Wundtian
German psychology of the late nineteenth century, was primarily an experimental
endeavor. Thus, it is the case, that functional experimentalism won out against
introspective experimentalism as the dominant and standard approach in American scientific
When we talk about objective
self-observation we do not mean to refer to any sort of experimentalism, introspective,
functional, structural, behavioral, cognitive, etc. Instead, we mean to refer to the
systematic, explicit reconstruction (viz. objectively stated criteria and specifications)
or formulation of natural memory or thinking mechanisms as they actually occur, or, as the
individual actually performs these acts. In the experimental attitude, the
conditions of observations are specified, usually after the observations are made, in
terms that are operationally repeatable across samples of a given population. This
requirement restricts inherently the nature of the evidence or facts that serve as input
to theory, interpretation, and application. We have found that these restrictions
exclude automatically and wholesale the inclusion of precisely the sort of evidence we
need for the construction models of particular, individual, and unique acts.
Thus, the experimental attitude leads
to the formulation of nomothetic principles of human behavior) that is, principles that
apply to "the average" or "the mode" of a population or sample.
It is then hoped that generalizations towards individual particular cases can be made to
be practical. Unfortunately, the rationalizations involved in justifying the
nomothetic approach in such applied fields as education, counseling, and psychotherapy,
are very complex and not at all clear. Hence we find the contemporary scientific picture
of experimentalism which is enormously inconsistent and fragmented. Hence, also, the
low degree of adequacy of functioning ordinarily characteristic of the individual in his
group, leading to mass population symptoms that occupy much of our public and private
focus: anxiety, depression, guilt, fear, doubt, confusion, ignorance, and various forms of
illnesses and feelings of worthlessness, dependency, and weakness.
Therefore, we are proposing in this
article an approach to objectivity that is self-actualizing: the context and conditions of
observation are not specified, either before or after, the recording of the
observations. We say merely that the context is natural or actual, and furthermore,
unique to the witnessing observer. It would be un-realistic as well as unnecessary
to require that individual, personal, and unique observation conditions be fully stated
and much less, replicated. Instead of replication of observation conditions, we
speak about ratification of validity concerning the observations themselves.
In other words, a particular
observation about human memory functioning is proposed by someone, say, as we do in this
article. Next, the listener or reader acts as if the proposition were true, viz.
assumes that the observation is factually correct. Finally, he attempts through
self-observation to validate the correctness of the proposed observations. At this point
either of two things can happen: either the person is cap able of ratifying the proposal
as valid, or he is not capable. In the positive case, the individual gets the
feeling that something about his way of functioning has been clarified to him and he feels
realized or actualized. In the negative case, the person may either decide that the
proposition is wrong or that he cannot validate it, or, continue to attempt to validate
1.3 We call our attitude "the
radicalist register" byway of marking two of its important features. One is
that the validation process involved in the ratification of radicalist assertions is
always actualizing and objectifying, rather than nomothetic and subjectifying. In
other words, the ratification process in the radicalist register always requires evidence
that is personally relevant and available to the individual's understanding
The other important feature of the radicalist register is that nothing is ever excluded
from the formulation of a proposition, including the very process that generates this
formulation. Thus, radicalist assertions always have a global, universal
applicability that is independent of context or sampling.
2. THINKING IS A SCANNING OPERATION
2.1 It stands to reason as well as
to common experience that we are natural organisms capable of storing a great deal of
information. A simple and sufficient demonstration of this is given when someone
asks We questions and We give various sorts of replies. How old are We? When is the
last time We've seen John? What did We do last night after dinner? Who is the
current Secretary of State? Have We voted yet? And so on. A more subtle,
but equally convincing demonstration, is given whenever we talk to ourselves or think
"consciously": the picture that is evident upon reconstruction is that we have
some-thing in the nature of a scanning mechanism that allows us to focus our attention,
awareness, or witnessing on different segments of our available memory. Thus, we may
isolate, in reconstruction, what some of our scanning mechanism has accomplished. We
do this by reference to standard available topic domains or topics, as performed commonly
in reporting or describing transactions. Thus, we might say something like this:
"I was sitting in the waiting room waiting for Marty to come out of the doctor's office. I was aware that people were looking at me surreptitiously. I thought about how that affected me. It was very unpleasant. I tried to focus on other things thinking about work and shopping. I was relieved when Marty showed up with a bright smile on his face."
It is clear what the person is talking about. We do not need experimental replication to validate the radicalist truth of the observations related in this report. By thus validating radically the observations reported, we ratify and accept it, as might be evidenced in Wer reply: e.g.,
(a) "I hope We didn't have to wait too long in such an uncomfortable situation. Me too, I get ill at ease when people look at me and I don't have a legitimate purpose for being there."
(b) "Oh, why do We care, anyway. They are just strangers. Maybe Wer Ego needs strengthening."
It can be seen that both replies (a) and (b) grant ratification of the original report, by implication, by tacit agreement, even though the content and attitude shown in the two replies are transactionally and functionally quite different. An example of non-ratification would be the case where the reply does not relate in the eyes of the original reporter to his report. E.g.,
(a) It was a very nice doctor. Did We have a good time waiting?"
(b) Ive got gall bladder stones. Dammit!"
Here, the replier acts as if he has failed to ratify the original report. It should be made clear that the crucial variable for deciding whether ratification has taken place is whether or not the participants jointly agree (or indicate by their action that they jointly agree) that such ratification has taken place. Thus, in the second example above, the two replies may yet constitute ratification, if it is the case that the two participants have among each other and to themselves exchanged signs that ratification has occurred. This sign may be gestural, facial, or functional (by presence or absence of certain expected comments, depending on the setting and the relationship).
2.2. It is clear that some
interactions involve ratification displays (or transactional moves) whose format is
conventionalized by the daily ritual of conversational conventions. These standard
ritual idioms often mark the exchanges that people engage in on the daily round. One must
be careful not to confuse ritual style with its functional value. The modulation style of
conversational moves and reply moves mark such things as membership identity, role type,
and personality. What matters here is to realize the functional value of moves, not
their variable content. Thus while it is the case that in many of our public
exchanges we use transactional idioms of a standard, pre-defined format, and thus can
relate to strangers we've never talked to before, nevertheless many our exchanges in
relationships of a more intimate sort are personally informative. Thus, in the end,
it is only the participants themselves that between them and among each other decide
jointly as to the functional value of a reply move: that is, whether or not it constitutes
ratification of what went on before, between themselves.
2.3. We wish to focus our
attention now on how it is that scanning operations turn into habits of scanning in
particular familiar ways. This problem is related in a fundamental sense to habits
of ratification procedures in our public exchanges, in the senses discussed above.
It stands to reason that the fact we
can talk to just about any stranger on the North American continent is a fact that does
not come about as a by-product of some other condition: that it just so happens that we
all talk largely interchangeable versions of English, and it just so happens that humans
are sufficiently alike that we hit upon the same logic and the same topics. It is
evident that common practices of socialization (e.g., schools, T.V.) and maintenance of a
standard order or ratified operational procedures for establishing order (e.g.,
jurisprudence, legislation, and clubs) are generatively responsible for the remarkable
fact of universal accessibility for relationship among the North American natives.
How else would we have national press services, federal programs, national unions, or
international monetary agreements? How else would we have public issues, standard
topics, official procedures, or national character?
We may refer to all this cultural
activity in relation to the individual, as the standardization of memory scanning
habits. In the academic literature, this topic is discussed in relation to such
topics as enculturation, assimilation, education, training, indoctrination, brainwashing,
psychotherapy, expansion of consciousness, and the like. Common to all of these notions is
the view that the individual has developed habits of scanning memory that are different or
antithetical to some specified standard pattern, and, hence, we find the involvement with
change, with modification of behavior, with development of awareness.
2.4. The requirements of
maintaining a functionally viable North American grouping eventuate into what we call
socio-functional pragmatics. That is, survival and success of the individual are
made contingent upon the individual's relationship to the officially ratified standards
and procedures. The pragmatics of social settings always tends towards a stable
socio-functional system. In common parlance, we recognize this as common sense,
ordinary logic, practical understanding, or in their antitheses, as idealistic,
impractical, fictitious, theoretical, metaphysical.
Thus, the pragmatics of socio-function
establishes a self-contained cultural milieu that maintains itself in orderly change
through the contingent enforcement of standardized public practices and attitudes. If the
individual is to survive and experience the social rewards, he must come to develop and
settle upon habits of memory scanning that will allow him to exercise membership.
3. THE MODE OF CAPTIVITY THROUGH THE DAILY SCHEDULE
3.1. Natural systems tend to break
down towards their simplest state. For instance, a burning match or candle will
continue to consume itself unless disturbed by some other event in its environ went.
A body in motion will continue to move unless counteracted by another force. It is
sometimes assumed that some sort of entity called the human spirit or will is not subject
to this natural pattern. However, it could equally be true that the person who
asserts that is wrong either because there is no such entity, or if there is) its nature
is not all like they suppose it is. Thus, we can maintain correctly the position
that all systems and their components, however formulated, can themselves be included into
a still larger system, and therefore any proposition asserting some absolute freedom or
restriction cannot be true or accepted logically.
This radicalist attitude is itself a
statement of absolutes, hence subject to its own proposition of denial. But this
conclusion is quite acceptable because we see that it is merely another format for the
observation that natural systems tend to break down towards their simplest state, and our
radicalist proposition is an instance of such a breakdown.
Therefore, all is well, thus far.
3.2. We can say now that the
pragmatics of socio-function is a group historical process that is independent of the
individual and his personal unique perspective. We can say that his cultural
environment is his environment, and that the contingencies of socio-function represent the
pragmatic strategies of action that are left available to him through this now, 'external'
There thus develops the relationship of
the individual to the group standards. His time henceforth must be accountable to
these group standards that maintain historical independence of him. Not only his
time, but also how his time is spent. This accountability vie refer to as the daily
3.3. We see the daily schedule as
a standardized socio-functional mechanism in groups for the development and maintenance of
memory scanning habits among its membership. Even a superficial examination of our
ordinary day-to-day lives shows the extent to which people's lives are organized by the
ratified public order: national audiences of millions, supermarkets, department stores,
banking practices, holidays, public facilities and utilities. As a result of these
massive organizational contingency practices, the social environment has created the
uniformity of behavior across the membership that is indexed by surveys, polls, and
What does all this show?
It shows that in order to survive
by standardized criteria of success, the individual must learn to manage his daily
schedule in a practical way that will afford him continued access to membership
rewards. In accomplishing this, he embroils his personal life with the lives of
other persons in relationships that are entirely conditioned by the daily schedule.
A great portion of his waking conscious life is devoted to the management of these
relationships within the daily schedule. At that point, he has become captive, his
own efforts being responsible for his state of captivity. His memory scanning habits
have become inter-personally functional: what he thinks about a great deal, the terms of
his thinking, and the logic of his reasoning are all cast in the socio-functional
register. Thus he attempts to survive and fulfill himself.
4. MEMORY AND SOCIAL IDENTITY
4.1. Social identity can be seen to have two components. One refers to a socio-legal entity that is stabilized and permanent. Name. Place of origin. Job position. Education. Membership affiliations -. The sorts of things we put into personal record files, biographical histories, and case reports, official as well as self-generated, written as well as oral. The other component refers us to a socio-personal actuality that does not remain stable over time. We experience oscillations in mood, phases in relationship, and cycles in developmental pattern. We typically formulate our socio-personal selves in changing terms that mark modulations in self-perception, in self-evaluation, in self-actualization:
(a) "Today I feel different."
(b) "I no longer get upset at it, as I used to."
(c) "I feel like I'm finally grown up."
(d) "I feel sad on rainy days."
(e) "This experience has greatly affected me."
(f) "I am not myself today."
We now wish to focus our discussion on the relationship between this oscillating, changing socio-personal component of identity and memory mechanisms.
4.2. The individuals success
or lack of it in managing the non-stability of the socio-personal component is intimately
bound up with the external requirements imposed by his daily schedule. The
pragmatics of contemporary social setting in North America allow and foster management
tactics that give priority to adequacy of socio-legal membership functioning. Thus
it is the case that many people ordinarily will allow long lapses of time during which
their memory scanning mechanism has been totally captive in the service of the daily
schedule and its attendant problems and preoccupations.
The group standards are clearly
supportive of such a pattern. Many standard value orientations such as patriotism,
citizenship, institutional loyalty, role related success, traditional qualities of
character, all function directly to impress upon the individual that his life is public
life, that his goals must be public goals. Much of education, rehabilitation, and
psychotherapy center around this theme: namely, that the natural, fluctuating nonstable,
ever-changing socio-personal actuality must be contained within the permissible and
ratified group standards for individual existence.
Thus, the ordinary social state of
consciousness is generated principally by what might be afforded by an individual's daily
schedule, its group standards, its standard topics, its topical formulations and
resolutions. In that state, the individual is captive, indoctrinated, assimilated,
ethnocentric. His feelings of inadequacy and un-fulfillment, his alienation and his
dependency upon untrustworthy others are now his real environment. He has no other
resources but what the group provides. If he is seriously malfunctioning in his public
interpersonal life, he is treated and re-indoctrinated. Or else, he suffers quietly,
4.3. Who am I? What am
I? Where am I going? What's really going on around here? These are the
familiar but poignant slogans that echo mans cumulative burden of cultural
history. The ritual of talk, which characterizes our species uniquely in the Solar
System, is the functional element that maintains this human cry. It might be said
that it creates it. But how?
There is a simple argument, which is
this. Talking implies a separative duality and a separatist perspective: that is,
first, a duality that divides the process of talking into separate parties to the process,
i.e., there must always be more than one participating subject to the talking process: two
individuals, or one individual acting like two by linguistic mimicry of dialogue.
And second, it implies more than one perspective: if A and B talk to each other, 'A and B'
represent A listening to himself and B listening to himself; it is clear that they
represent opposite positions vis-a-vis each other, as indeed literally expressed in our
references to the conventional exchange (face-to-face talk; My Worthy Opponent; the two
parties hereunto mentioned; the State vs. McCloud).
Thus, the ritual of talk, both inter-
and intra-personal, pre-supposes the logical reification of existential uniqueness (as
Viewer, as Spokesman. as Talker) and of individual separateness from all other (talking)
individuals. It creates the first person singular, the I, who is the
Subject of all my assertions. Whatever I say, it is I who says it. I claim
that I mean what I say. I mean what I said. I am. I think. I am
responsible. I take heed. I hereby promise to. Yes, but who are
We? Are We the person I knew ten years ago and with whom I went to summer camp for
fourteen years? Are We the person I originally married? Are We the person that
promised me never to get mad whenever I lose my temper and scream at We?
These, too, are poignant lines in the
everyday mythology of our North American legends. We have been characterized by many
of our gifted spokesmen as the Age of Alienation, or Anxiety, or Psychologizing, and our
Search as the search for Meaning, for Integration, for Resolution of Commitments, for
Authenticity and for Self-Actualization. These characterize the contemporary
familiar modulations of the drama of Identity, of the Ego, and the Selves.
Identity and memory. Memory and
scanning mechanism. Habits of scanning and socio-functional pragmatics.
Survival and contingent rewards, and habits of scanning, and the daily schedule. The
daily schedule and habits of scanning and consciousness. Consciousness and identity
and memory. Standardization, socio-function, pragmatics, logic, common sense.
Language, register, duality. The ritual of talk.
We hope that we have been sufficiently
informative in the earlier pages of this article to allow the reader to piece together the
argument that is given in a contracted form. (We may suggest that We take a few
minutes for this, checking back, if necessary, to the materials in the preceding
pages. We believe, after many less successful attempts, that this would be
preferable to compounding the argument by still further elaboration at this point.)
We wish now to continue with the development of our principal argument.
4.4. We would now like to present
the relevant evidence for captivity. That is, the socially functioning individual
that holds membership in his interactive group, accomplishes this position (and its
contingent rewards) by successfully managing a personal daily schedule within the social
settings of his daily round (from bed back to the bed, in our culture, at least).
The management of the daily schedule embroils the individual in relationships with other
persons. These relationships among participants are carried out in episodal
exchanges arranged in standard locales. The exchanges are managed by joint
reciprocal reference to ratified standards of operational procedures. We have called
this organizing functional system for human interaction, the register. Thus, a social
group comes into existence when several individuals of a species act towards each other as
if there were a set of ratified consensual norms to govern their behavior amongst each
other. As if behavior is constitutive: that is, it is established by prior
convention, by mutual agreement, explicit or tacit, or implied, or inferred, or expected,
or conferred, or presumed, or assumed. These various terms give us the character of
constitutive exchanges: their structure is transactional, that is, claim-based. All
displays by which transactional exchanges are marked represent public declarations of
association with the self: I act, I move, I respond, I reply, I question, I demand, I give
in, I disagree, I revolt, I assert, I believe, I experience, I feel, I see, I understand,
I rest. These are the claims that I make to We; also, whenever I talk to myself or
think, I talk, I act as if I am talking to my self. I act as if I am a duality:
spokesman and witness, performer-observer, emoter-feeler, projector-screen,
subject-abject, talker-listener, speaker-hearer, doer-thinker, planner-plan,
thinker-thought, and so on. This constitutive duality engenders the dialectics of
the register. It generates the social setting; it isolates the here/now coordinates
we call the context of on-going interaction.
4.4. The context of on-going
interaction is thus seen as a pivotal conception. The specification of what
constitutes the social setting derives from the standard register: it identifies the
components and procedures of constitutive exchanges; that is, the rituals to be enacted by
the parties to an exchange and the possible transactions in their permissible (meaningful)
thematic modulations as functionally organized under role types. These role
organized functions are institutionally managed, by the group for the group, by reference
to acknowledged ratification procedures (e.g., precedent, tradition, law, order).
The successful management of one's role behaviors represents the individual's daily
round. His personal daily schedule from bed to bed is the record of his
moment-to-moment existence: what he has to think about, all the things he's expected to
do, all the ways he must figure out to do them, the way he must constantly manage his
reputation, what he says or claims, what he is aware of feeling, thinking, what he has to
notice to survive, to be accepted, what he has to remember to function, what he must keep
track of, what he forgets, the puzzles he formulates, the comments he makes, or in short,
It is clear now that individual
actuality, or consciousness, or being, or existence is very intimately and fundamentally
embroiled with the standard reality of the group consensus, of the socialization process
during acquisition stages, of the institutional maintenance programs in education,
professionalization, the mass media, of bureaucratization, of mass production and
consumption, of standardized knowledge, of role assimilation, etc. These social
relationships are carried out by constitutive as-if behavior that requires, for their
successful enactment, the acquisition of individual memory scanning habits that occupy the
individual's actual consciousness on this daily round. This ordinary state of
existence is the state we have called captivity.
THE REGISTER OF CAPTIVITY
5.1. We would now like to present
the details of the evidence for captivity.
The unsuspected reaches of the daily
schedule into the deepest as well as the most automatic habits of scanning by the
individual are, at first, staggering and overwhelming to come to realize. This is a
most crucial point and we want to make sure that we communicate adequately the nature of
these observations. We need therefore to state in some more explicit terms the
specific ways in which the daily schedule ramifies the broad spectrum of control of
consciousness over the socially captive person.
Let us discuss, first, the more readily
recognized features of this control, then go on to the areas where the ordinary attitude
does not sufficiently clarify the nature of this external control over the individual's
scanning habits. Finally, we will discuss the consequences for relationship phase of
differential selectivity in scanning habits between the participants involved, and how
such intersections constitute the context of socialized existence.
Our discussion might be facilitated by
reference to the accompanying figure which is a more or less arbitrary selection of some
of the more readily recognizable control features of the daily schedule. The first six
items of reference are grouped together inasmuch as they all deal with what we might call
"internal dialogue - that is, thinking in the form of talking to oneself,
reasoning, figuring things out, planning, analyzing, etc. The second grouping
contains items 7 through 13 and refer to automatized habits of thinking or scanning the
environment. Many or most of these, if not all, (it is not necessary at the moment to
resolve this further), have at one time been non-automatic, conscious, and deliberate (as
for example during acquisition stages)
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE DAILY SCHEDULE
A. THINGS WE FORGET: INTERNAL DIALOGUE
1. Information, Facts
2. Resolutions, Commitments, Promises
3. Insights, Understandings, Realizations, Awakenings
4. Positions Assumed in Exchanges
5. Subjectifying Rationalizations and Justifications
6. Sudden Memory and Reconstruction of Actuality
B. AUTOMATIC HABITS WE NO LONGER
STANDARDIZATION OF MEMBERSHIP DEALINGS
7. Opinions, Facts, Information
8. Assumptions, Presumptions, Implications
9. Attitudes, Orientations, Values
10. Expectations About Appropriate Behavior
11. Ritualized Replies and Remedies (Role Type)
12. Directions Concerning How Long Things Should Take
13. Directions Concerning Mixing Activities
5.2. The problem of memory
resolves itself in practice as the problem of availability of information. Some
models assume that nothing is ever forgotten, though the availability of memory items
varies with the context actual during performance. Other models agree with the
contingency effects of the conditioned context, though they may further postulate various
mechanisms of decay or interference, both of which give the appearance of
forgetting. We need not be concerned here with these various models of
forgetting. Whatever the case may be concerning these various interpretations of
various appearances or behavioral manifestations, in practice, the availability issue is
essentially primordial: it solely defines on-going performance in exchanges.
It is logical to infer that information
necessary to enact the interaction rituals will be functionally available to the
interacting participants; without the contextual availability of a repertoire of
transactional displays, it would be impossible for the individual to maintain membership
functioning. We are led therefore to the notion of a display repertoire, which
represents all the meaningful displays that an individual accrues to his performance
skills and can be triggered by contextual features of the setting.
Display repertoire should be seen in
its broadest coverage: a display is the unit of transactional exchange. It marks the
individual 's claimed position in the exchange, and provides the contention point for a
remedy or reply. The reply move must also be cast in the accredited register of
display mechanisms. The indexing media of display repertoire covers the sensory
modalities as well as the symbolic: a display may be a visual sign, a change in
appearance, a verbal comment and its implications, or it may be the noticed absence of any
of these in slots where they could have occurred.
Thus, it is clear that display
repertoire covers all availability of functioning in on-going interactions, whether
publicly enacted or privately witnessed. The socio-functional pragmatics of economic
employment resolves itself, in practice, to the conditioned availability of pre-defined
segments of display repertoire (viz. skills, competencies, abilities, potentials,
etc.). That is, accreditation for hiring practices (training, education, degrees,
licenses, etc.) are functionally designed to certify availability of specified skills
under pre-defined contexts. This has created the dynamics of social
achieve-achievement and individual competition as regulated by the daily schedule.
Thus, the enactment of the daily
schedule contingently engenders a pattern of availability in display repertoire; the
organized structural features of this pattern are variously recognized as role type,
personality, skills, knowledge, character, experience, actuality, etc. These define the
living person: his habits and his modes of functioning.
5.3. The relationship between
display repertoire and consciousness needs now to be specified. It is neither
logically necessary nor practical to allow excess undefined implications to the notion of
consciousness as long as it is made clear that we are dealing with human consciousness as
a pragmatic entity. For instance, claims by various sorts of persons as to
their ability for expanded consciousness remain unratifiable by personal observation
unless they are pragmatically socio-functional; that is, such alleged phenomena become
real or actual only upon personal experience. However, such phenomena are not
available for validation to the ordinary attitude. Therefore, to the ordinary
attitude, consciousness refers to the awareness of operations relating to display
repertoire in the terms and in the register of the standardized membership rituals.
The captive mood of consciousness thus
overlaps with the standardized organization of display repertoire. To the socially
captive person, consciousness is restricted to the available scanning programs of display
repertoire. A record of his consciousness would be a biographical record as imitated
by fiction writers in their dramatic productions. The content of consciousness is cast in
the transactional register: what I am aware of, what I notice, what is important to me,
what I say to my-self, what I figure is the case, what my presuppositions are, what
I react in certain particular ways --- it is the individual's display repertoire that is
referred to by the relative pronoun in all these cases. Consider what's involved in the
ordinary management of the daily schedule. However one distributes one's activities on the
daily round, there is a primordial planetary principle no one can escape: that is, all
activity takes up time, and time never waits. Social, socio-functional pragmatic
time runs up in one direction: it always goes forward. A life time has a limited
number of days. A day has a fixed number of seconds. As each second ticks
away, the new day becomes older, and dies. Therefore, the daily round affords a
limited number of transactional displays. It stands to reason that a heavy daily
schedule of activities occupies the individual's limited moments of consciousness to a
greater extent than a relatively unscheduled day. Thus we have such things as
Sundays, holidays, Evenings, Vacation Periods, etc. during which the captive person
experiences a significant change in his relationship to the "working
schedule." We need now to examine the ways in which the reality of social
settings prescribe both vacation time schedules as well as work schedules, so that the
socially captive person is never free of standardization, even when he is "on his own
5.4. We should first point out the
obvious fact that vacation-time schedule, no less than work-time schedule, is
circumscribed by and contextualized within the standard schedules. The excitement of
Friday afternoon to millions of North Americans is counter-balanced by the Monday morning
blues. Summer vacation jitters in our schools has its counterpart in back-to-school
jitters in our homes. The departing teenagers on their way to a date are reminded by
solicitous parents of curfew time, and if they forget, the local radio announcer will
remind them that it's curfew and do they know where their children are? We may sleep
in on certain mornings but noon does come around, and if not, evening, and the next
morning. We may take an extra hour for lunch, once in a while, or even as a new
habit, but five oclock pushes on, and there is no way of neutralizing that fact.
What about segments of time: does the
socially captive register allow isolated, even though circumscribed, chunks of free
moments? It is clear that this freedom only refers to an apparent choice of
pre-defined activities, and not to the very content or composition of particular
activities. Thus, We can choose which program to watch, but all broadcasts are in
the standard register; We can choose which books We read, but We have to buy it at the
bookstore or borrow it from someone who has bought it; We can choose which section of the
newspaper We want to read, but it remains the newspaper; We can choose to listen or
not, but when We do, We only hear what can be said; We can choose to talk or remain
silent, but in either case, We follow the possibilities prescribed by the ritual; We can
sit around doing nothing, but how can We stop doing things in Wer head?
The duality of perspective and role
position imposed by the rituals of interaction reifies the separateness of the individual
from other individuals and from his selves. It creates the socialized individual and
the captive consciousness. We have discussed the evidence that shows that the
ordinary individual's consciousness is preoccupied with memory scanning habits that reify
an individual actuality whose unique pattern is contained within the socio-functionally
managed schedule on his daily round. We have examined the most general and most
readily recognizable contextual features of ordinary settings and the way they prescribe
the content of consciousness. Let us now examine some additional evidence.
5.5. An example of hidden thought
control in standardization of professional activity can be cited from our own
situation. As academicians, we find that our role availability has been pre-empted
by the group standards in many ways, but we wish to point out specifically the fact that
our socio-legal identity markers (name, position, department, courses taught, etc.) serve
to facilitate our quasi forced exposure to many sorts of visitors and pieces of
mail. Consider, in particular, our experiences with receiving regular and voluminous
communications, through the mail, and through the periodic visits of representatives from
the textbook publishing industry.
Both the circulars and the comments
made by the representatives when visiting our offices use a line or a discernible
motivation that is quite readily classified by all concerned as salesmanship. This
is quite ordinary practice, and though we tend to joke about being pestered, etc., the
group standard clearly defines such an exchange as professionally normal and ordinary.
Similarly, the slogans of the
commercial circulars are presumed to be quite normally in the register of salesmanship,
whatever the style of the pitch. That too is recognized as standard practice as we
skim the daily mail and nonchalantly drop the junk into the junk box.
But what are then the hidden features
of this ordinary exchange? For this We need to know who is involved and why.
First, there are the writers and the consulting editors who are academicians like
us. The circulars we receive very often quote parts of the authors writings or
reproduce table of contents and sometimes, detailed sub-headings. Thus, the
commercial circular contains some pivotal information relating to subject matter
topicalization: in fact, it is an informative index of the topics treated in the
book. This function is, however, hidden to the ordinary attitude. Thousands
upon thousands of our colleagues are perennially exposed to such topical indices.
Most of it is in a language and register that feels familiar to the professional.
Can he possibly disentangle where he obtains his vocabulary? His familiarity with
terms he himself may not use? Or may incorporate in his vocabulary? Did it
come from a textbook, a circular, an abstract, a colloquium, or a convention speech?
These distinctions are not ordinarily maintained; they are not socio-functionally
pragmatic. They get lost in the experts knowledge and attitude. They
5.6. The conversations with the
publishing representative reveal similar directive scanning requirements that cumulate
into standardized and automatic habits of topicalization and topic focus projection.
He identifies for us, and his colleagues similarly for thousands of our colleagues, the
text for the years the trends across the nation, the latest topics in the academic
arena. We need not accept or ratify the correctness of his choices as the this or
the that, and we often have no or contrary choices of our own, or those of other
representatives. It is this very freedom, publicly acknowledged and ratified, that
covers up the hidden function of the exchange: which is, that a small set of marked titles
and topical sub-divisions repeatedly recur in these monopolized exchanges, thus allowing
for the continued maintenance of standard topics and topicalized standards.
Now we can extend this exemplar case to
other professions, private clubs, lodges, unions, commercial institutions, official and
legal notices, and so on, to the full complex gamut of activities related to mass mail
contact and distribution. Also to be included are the numerous public signs,
commercial and traffic, as well as public directories such as the yellow pages,
broadcasting programs, newspaper want ads, supermarket labels, posters, cards, literary
catalogues, and etc.
In the ordinary attitude, these various
differential activities are scanned for potential information. Some of it is felt to
be practical and crucial; some of it is seen as interesting; some of it is mistrusted;
some of it is recognized as familiar and annoyingly redundant; etc. But all this
related to the recognized and ratified functions of information transmission in mass
populated fields; whatever ones further reactions to them may be, positive, neutral
or negative, there is still to be dealt with the hidden function of the exchange. This is
the same as in our own professional sub-variety of it, namely the mass assimilation of
great numbers of people through the introduction and infusion of topic slots and their
associated vocabularies. These then coalesce and cumulate into the standardized
scanning habits the individual must develop to survive adequately in the social
setting. They generatively determine the content of memory and thought as the
internal dialogue unfolds with each ticking of the human life-clock. They occupy our
topic focus, they fill our attention, they structure our reasoning, they condition our
habits, they generate our talk, they govern our rituals, they determine our positions,
they define our ordinary selves.
5.7. We can now discuss the
standardization of memory scanning habits in ordinary interactions. We first point
to a few common observations:
A is sitting in a waiting room. He sits on a chair, with back straight, both feet down, eyes straight ahead, hands on knees. He remains immobile for two minutes. The other people look on surreptitiously. They slump. They sit up. They turn the head this way and that. Their facial expression is neutral or slightly changing once in a while as if in response to some internal dialogue.
A now changes his position. he bends down, fixes his
shoe laces, then stays honchoed for two minutes. The other people look on.
Some smile. Some smile and return to a more neutral expression within two or three
seconds. Others smile and continue smiling for ten seconds or more. Then they
smile less and less, as if they are control-ling the rate at which their face changes from
the smile to the more neutral look.
We wish to focus on these exchanges and recognize their standardized structure and function. Quite obviously, body posture and movement are ordinarily managed, deliberately as well as unwittingly, in such a way as to conform to the limits of permissible variations in amplitude, direction, intensity, and rhythm. Thus, as soon as an individual transgresses these standard limits, as A does in the case above, his non-standard behavior assumes notice value. Notice value in body activity and appearance, is related to expectations of normalcy, and their violation. According to the information provided in the sample case above, it is clear that the other people in the waiting room are engaged in a continuous managing of their facial and bodily postures. Their focus of attention is required to monitor normalcy signs. These normalcy signs relate to the standard operating procedures of given social settings. Thus, once again, we see the way in which the pragmatics of contingently managed exchanges occupy the individual's scanning habits on the daily round.
6. STANDARDIZED IMAGININGS AND THE RECONSTRUCTION OF
6. 1. We have been discussing the
case for captivity as the ordinary state of socialized consciousness. At this point
we must come to grips with the problem of the uniqueness of the individual in relation to
the standardization of his memory scanning habits. It is impractical, as well as
unnecessary, to seek refuge in some non-objective reaffirmation of the person's spiritual
essence. We are committed in this presentation to an objective statement of the
human condition. It must include all forms of accounting practices: scientific,
religious, spiritual, ordinary, humanistic, science fiction, poetic, and etc.
Therefore, only such statements are here relevant that are socio-functionally practical:
the reader must be afforded a viewing point from which he can ratify our statements
through personal validation. That, and only that, defines the very relationship that
makes this very transaction actual: us, the writers, and We, the reader.
Therefore, we must build upon a
cumulative definition of individual uniqueness that is objectively specifiable. Only
then will the full strength of the previous comments on standardization become reified as
that which uniquely characterizes actual exchanges, including this very one, which is
obviously unique, as well, yet standardized. How else would We understand this
sentence?? How else would We have read this far?? Notice how we can use the
standardized personal pronoun "We" in the previous sentence: who is
We are attempting to be as deliberate
as we can: we are attempting to reflect upon this very exchange we are now having, as We
are reading these lines. Who are we talking to? Clearly, logic dictates that
We are the reader, so we are addressing We, yet we don't know who We are. We are
addressing a generalized We, yet We are unique. Wer uniqueness of identity and
personal record, each of We separately, and us, separately, does not prevent the
standardized exchange. The latter is thus independent of uniqueness. Every
book in the Library of Congress is a unique product. Yet all books conform to the
contemporary standards of publishing. Every personal record generated by an
individual's daily round is a unique accomplishment. No other individual has had or
will have another one just like it. This follows logically from our space/time
postulates as well as from our experience. We watch the band walk in perfect unison
down the football field. We marvel at the accomplishment of an orchestrated
performance. We feel compelled to present a sober face in appreciation of trainers
and directors, practice and coordination, memory, persistence, and dedication.
We know that each machine-like element in the group whole is a fellow person, a captive
brother, a uniquely feeling and composed entity, cut out of the same tender rib, soft,
dangerous, cunning, separate, warm, unique, sharing, competitive, friend, murderer.
Each unique record of actuality is a life-theme story. All stories of socialized
persons are cast in a standardized register. The content of each record is a content
of uniquely creative standardized imaginings.
6.2. Thus, we need not feel that
our captive mood of standardized existence robs us of our individual uniqueness or
creativity or originality. But we wish to focus our attention right now on the
relationship between captivity and suffering. This relates to the problem of how to
characterize uniqueness: only an accurate characterization of my uniqueness affords me any
sort of authentic answer to "Who am I?", and only an authentic answer will
actualize me. The inauthentic answers don't feel as good as the authentic
answers. Authentic answers feel relieving, freeing, clarifying, hopeful.
Inauthentic answers feel tight, threatening, conflictual, time-consuming.
Thus, it is in the objective attitude
of the radicalist register that we are attempting to communicate these observations on our
collectively human operations, including the present exchange. This attitude sees
individual uniqueness as an authentic reconstruction of an individual's uniqueness: one's
objective characterization by oneself for oneself of what there is to witness about the
personal life record that one is producing. This authentic witnessing is the
objective reconstruction. It is the individual's only chance, from the logical point
of view, to free oneself from the captive mood. Everything else one does fails to
substantiate one's uniqueness. One's self-actualization involves the authentic
reconstruction of the unique record one is producing. The individual, therefore,
must witness their uniqueness, in order to actualize. But in the captive mood, it is
difficult to witness the uniqueness of ones record: our witnessing scanning habits
keep us constantly focused upon the transactional topic domains. Even under
spiritual or self-analytic work, the meditating individual is constantly talking to
himself, or if not, as with experienced mediators, they appear to lapse into another sort
of captive mood variously called inspirational, astral, expanded, non-terrestrial,
super-human, or just plain Nothingness or some other single Word/Concept. But such
solutions do not appear practical. They embroil the individual into further and
deeper, and sometimes more subtle, relationships of a fixed order. The fixed order
is either internal, external, both, or neither, relative to the individual. This
raises a most serious obstacle to the aspiring candidate or practitioner: if the
standardized order specified by the teacher does not fit the individual's uniqueness, his
problems of captivity will continue to plague him. If the fixed order is experienced
as authentic, the authentication will be relative to the fixed order rather than relative
to the actualization of the individual's uniqueness. Thus, though such an individual
is spiritually awakened, his social state remains captive. His consciousness, even
if at times objective, insists on returning to an ordinary steady state. To the
spiritually awakened this oscillation is experienced as suffering.
Suffering is an existential
symptom. It is related to ordinary consciousness. It is the experiential
reification of the oscillation of consciousness from ordinary states of captivity to
self-actualized states of objective witnessing. The individual who is not aware of
his suffering operates in a captive mood of consciousness: he might reach positions of
social success and believe himself to he actualized, or happy, or whatever.
Nevertheless, in a more objective perspective such ordinary experiences are ultimately
inadequate. The individual may at times, or much later, come to realize this, since
the oscillation of consciousness arises unexpectedly.
What is important is to determine whether the objective
perspective of witnessing the unique record one constructs can be acquired in relationship
or whether it is a natural process outside the bounds of objective discourse. Can
certain sorts of relationships facilitate or affect this process of
self-actualization? If so, how? I shall discuss this issue in the final
section. The solution I offer appears to me practicable. We must be the judge.
7. SUDDEN MEMORY: A NEW DISCOVERY
7.1. I trust that I have given you, the reader, a sufficiently coherent feeling about the preceding sections. If not, it might be best to review in your head the specific problem areas. Having done that, decide whether you wish to re-read some sections or go on. This section is the most crucial: it contains the nature of my discovery about the standardization of consciousness, the key to the control mechanisms that maintain ordinary social captivity. You undoubtedly realize by now that you are not hereby reading an ordinary article. This writing attempts to contact you more than to transmit a piece of communication. This is because we are engaged in an exchange that attempts to reflect itself. We are talking about consciousness, about here/now awareness, about automatic memory scanning habits, which, in the ordinary treatment of these topics, are dealt with as objects of intellectual examination. If that were my purpose in this kind of communicative exchange, I should have written in an altogether different style, one that is more nearly patterned after the contemporary publishing industry's standards of acceptability, and also therefore, more reassuring to you since you're already familiar with that. But that is not my purpose.
My aim is not for us to treat memory, thinking, and
consciousness as a topic in the usual mode that has accumulated in the
dominant academic literature, pretending that it makes sense or that it refers to us (We
are human, aren't we?). And as behavioral scientists, we feel silly or hesitant or
penitent, so that we renew our resolution to try to go further, to learn more about it, to
take more courses, to read more books, to interview more people, to carry out more tests,
to think some more about it. Yes, we are good at it. We are dedicated.
We are persistent. We are sincere. We are vulnerable. We are
disappointed. We are frustrated. We get angry. We feel guilty. We
huff and we puff. We smile. We feel silly. We sit up. We take
heed. Suddenly, we are intrigued. We wonder all sorts of things. We get
excited. We anticipate wildly. We are ecstatic. We experience having gotten
lost. Something is wrong. We worry. We get distracted. We get
involved. We stop witnessing. Our awareness is already gone. We are
captive. Suddenly we are awake, and we begin again.
7.2. It was such a relief for us
to discover that people don't always know what they are saying. I felt stupid
whenever I failed to understand. We were impressed by authority, by intelligence, by
great skill. We were tricked into the standard legend of the expert: if I need a
plumber or an electronics engineer or a surgeon, why not also, the expert who can tell me
about myself, about my memory scanning habits, about my captivity--the GURU. After
years and years of agony, of self-flagellation, or nail biting, of costly preoccupations,
of expensive relationships, of ecstatic disappointments, of oscillating reawakenings, we
are here. Need I say more?
We are baffled. And why
not? Consider what we are doing: We are attempting to follow whatever it is that we
are attempting to say. Right. Sounds good? But it's not. It's not
an objectively accurate description of what we are doing. Here is the proof: Isn't
it the case that we are doing much more than that? We are also reacting, and
commenting, and sensing, and organizing, and rephrasing, and exploring implications, and
interpreting, and etc., without even mentioning all the other sorts of things we are doing
just right now (eating, sitting, resting, waiting, getting educated, listening to the
traffic outside, hearing all sorts of things, contacting, breathing, sensing, moving
muscles, changing positions,
.). Certainly it is the case that saying that we
are trying to follow what we are trying to say is not untrue, but neither is it accurate.
7.3. Let us examine this problem
in greater detail. We are so used to saying that we are doing this and we are doing
that. We are reading. We are reading an article. We are reading an
article while waiting for dinner to be ready because we are interested in this topic and
we believe that what it says in there is meaningful, and can be understood. We feel
involved, stimulated, excited, bored, frantic. We attempt to put it all
together. Dinner is ready. We talk about it. We eat and talk about all
sorts of things. We watch the late show. We turn off the T.V., and the lights,
wonder about brushing our teeth, we relax, and flit in inner landscapes, we drift
away. We wake up. It's time to get dressed.
It feels like a hopeless task: to
describe everything accurately, completely, objectively. And if, by some miracle of
some separate reality, we should be able to accomplish a total and full description of
what I am doing just right now", even if it were but a mental or some
super-mental picture, it would still be incomplete because, not included will be
Wer relationship to that picture: who is making the picture, who is looking at it,
what holds it there, where do the components of the picture come from--none of these will
even be included. Even if we include all of these as well in, now, a still more
accurate picture, left out it will be: who is looking at this new picture now... and begin
Therefore, actual exchanges can never
be fully and accurately described. Instead, descriptions are given for which various
sorts of ratifications are possible. The type of ratification given by the
evaluation of the description (another person or the speaker) is thus informative: it
represents a selection of possibilities. Choosing one type in particular contributes
the evaluator's display for the alignment that is taken up. We are claiming that we
are choosing X. Later we may claim not X because we claim that we have changed our
mind. Still later we may claim that we have changed our mind again and claim X
again. What is this play? This pretend game that is really real? This
as-if behavior --that is it!
If I say to myself "Who am
I?", what kind of a description is possible? If a fully accurate one is not
possible, then which description should I ratify as that which I believe to be true right
now? Does it make a difference? How?
If I say to myself, "What am
I?" or What's going on right now?" or "Who the hell is in charge
right here, anyway!" or "What is the answer, what is the secret!", I
recognize myself crying out in my aloneness. If I choose
an-answer-to-ratify-for-the-time-being, to calm my nerves and reduce my palpitations, I
know I am fooling myself. I stand awed at this power I have, to fool myself right
under my prophet's nose. We think we have problems: We want to know who is causing
trouble in our shop or how to invest wisely or who stole our bike or how to get to Park
Avenue. That's nothing compared to my problems: I just want to stay away from
all of that. You try that, if you think that's easy!
7.4. So, we are all in the same boat. Our imaginations have been standardized. We think about us, what we think about others. Perhaps not in unison, for often we don't think the same things even if we try to! But they claim they can think of something that we can't possibly think of, and we claim we can think of something they can't possibly think of. Tit for Tat. You claim you wouldn't care to think that, I claim I wouldn't care to think this, and so we often disagree and act as if we are not thinking the same things.
It is clear the way the dialectics of
interaction produces this necessary division between you and me: for if I look at myself
in the mirror, my enantiomorph will look out at me. He is a strange version of
me. If I see his right hand wave at me, I feel my left hand wave at him.
If I catch a glimpse of his face as I'm looking away from the mirror, he disappears,
but I may still see him through the corner of my eye if I'm careful not to move except for
Who is my enantiomorph?
I think. I am aware. I am conscious. Who is thinking? Who is being conscious? Who shall give the answer? Which one should I ratify?
The circle is closing. Our argument is getting concrete. Do we feel the wall of bricks yet?
7.5. We are good. We are persistent. We have gotten this far. Those who have left, therefore, will never know this. They have left in frustration, anger, negligence, or circumstances beyond their own control. Now that you are here, you no longer feel uptight, suspicious, disagreeable, heavy. You feel, interest, curiosity, excitement, hope. You wish that this were really it. That you could really understand and feel clarified. Therefore, you can also relax and feel comfortable. Now, we too, are ready. Let us begin, then.
7.6. We feel tender and vulnerable. We cry for ourselves. We hide, or, we think maybe we ought not show it, then and there, or here and now. We are perplexed. We are impatient. We are puzzled. We smile. Why do we smile? We cry out. We feel overwhelmed. Why do we feel over-whelmed? Why do we cry? Why do we sob? We pity ourselves. We are tender and feeling. We hurt in so many ways. We avoid and we feel helpless.
But we are also strong. Because even if we continue crying, we know it's going to be all right. So we continue crying. And crying. And we sigh. And we stop crying. And we feel resigned.
And we cry some more. Until we no longer do:
Now we are hesitant. We are
tougher than before, but also wary. Our toughening up has made us more solid.
Now we have some character. We have bought some time. We are on a plateau and
we are eager to explore. Now we cry with excitement. We are involved again,
hopeful again. All is well. We even look around ourselves and feel stupid for
not having seen that, or that, before. How could I have been so silly, so blind, so
naive, so closed? Ah, how much better it is from this vantage point. How much more
So now We are in a tolerably stable
position. Things are going pretty good, here and there, and We can always fix up
that thing over there, and if all goes well, keep my fingers crossed, I'll be over there
tomorrow, or possibly the next day, at worst the weekend, and then, well, then, we'll
see. We're a little wise now. So we do our business, stay out of trouble,
remember our blessings, dabble a little here and there, try out a few things, a few new
relationships, a few new experiences, a few new therapies and programs, and we get
along. Ups and downs, but isn't perfection a childish idealism? So we
strengthen our resolve, we renew our efforts with re-awakened inspiration, we remain
But why do we continue to seek? Why did Buddha come back after he was already in Nirvana? Why do enlightened men continue to serve and abet ordinary relationships?
Know then that we are not here. That we are not the participants to this exchange. We have sent spokesmen and ambassadors. Only, the Ambassador is, in this case, also the President. So now the Ambassador claims at the round bargaining table, that he has to go check first with the President. What is the Opponent going to do? Especially when it turns out that the Ambassador -- President is also the Opponent! What will you do then?
Laugh, of course.
Because We would feel the absurdity in
the scenario. Our reason is shocked by what we can accomplish.
7.7. We realize that our vulnerabilities are self-made scenarios. We are surprised that this realization does not alter anything. So what.
If we don't get lost at this point, we'll be in good shape. If we can resist the temptation to begin again... we might just make it this time.
We are surprised to discover that separateness and aloneness do not hurt. We remain balanced. What now?
Keep your cool. Let's review what we have discovered about sudden memory.
First, what we already know about memory is that it is selective and has scanning mechanisms. There appears to be forgetting or conditional availability of information. There also appears to be automatic as well as deliberate control in the operation of memory scanning habits. We can prove that memory is organized so that informational materials are interconnected in specific ways. We appear to have a type of memory called by psychologists "long term memory" as well as another type called "short term memory." For instance, if we're given a telephone number by the operator, we can thank them, hang up, dial the digits But what if it's busy? We now frantically start repeating the digit sequence in our head, or, as most people would feel compelled to do, out loud.
Why is it necessary for us to
keep repeating the number? Of course, because otherwise we'd forget it. How
come we forget that but not, say, who we just saw running down the hall? Why can we
keep the latter information in our heads, without having to frantically (or calmly) repeat
it as with the former? Why?
Various sorts of complicated
answers have been given. In neurophysiological terms, in terms of networks of
associative structures, in terms of programmed tapes, in terms of energy, space, time, and
functional relationships. So be it.
Now, what we are
looking for is something else. We are looking for a realization, not an
explanation. And we are left unconvinced that explanation leads to realization, for
it can also lead to further mystification and non-realization.
In other words, we are looking
for a process. We dimly apperceive, or at least, wish to commit ourselves to, a
position which would make us comfortable with our various realizations, as our moments
unfold. That is a process. It is a process of relationship, of relatedness, of
relating. To what?
Now be very careful. For as soon
as we ratify some sort of answer to ourselves, we are committed to an involvement
with our directionality: Quo Vadis, my brother? Where will you go? Out of
place, but aren't all places, places? Out of time, but aren't all moments related to
time, whether in or out? Haven't we already arrived, since we can't go
So, gingerly, with great caution, we
are lead to still more subtle explorations. What is process in relationship?
Various answers are already
familiar and available from our display repertoire. Process is change. Process
is independent of content. Process is dynamic and functional. Process is
constant. Process is growth, development, directionality, ritual, determined, natural.
Somehow, though all of these
elaborations are interesting in many ways, they yet remain incompletely
satisfactory. Somehow we get the feeling that no matter how much these elaborations
are sought after deeper, they will lack some essential quality we are looking for.
7.8. We feel that the way we think is so strictly personal that it could not possibly be captured by a theoretical account. Not wishing to adopt a position that would leave us mystified, we therefore reject that process: that is, the process whereby we continue to search for theoretical formulations that are continually improved. That process is adequate for socio-functional pragmatics. It keeps society going. But now, we are looking here for a position wherefrom to view our social selves as enantiomorphs: because that is the objective position, the position that We Werself can and must validate. Adopting that position is the process we are looking for. It is the process of self-actualization. Of redemption of aloneness and separateness. Or, more simply, the most adequate position we can now formulate. This is the limit of our authenticity and of our understanding.
EPILOGUE ONE: REX'S WISDOM
7.9. Now we can only repeat what
we have already understood. We will do so because we believe that understanding
often needs several waves of assault. Now that we have this relationship, as
affected by the preceding pages We have read, we are committed to its full enactment.
Can you reflect upon the phases of this relationship? Can you remember some of the ways you've felt, towards me, towards my topics, towards my assertions, towards my style of presentation? All of that and all of the parts that you no longer remember just right now, and all of the parts that you weren't aware about but were still happening to you, and all of the parts you've postponed for later examination, and all the momentary short-term memory pictures you get that you couldn't hold in your mind long enough to make it stick. All of that and other things not even mentioned. All of that is our relationship. It is the process we are talking about.
Can you see, yet? Can you discern the interstitial structure? Even some glimmers? Let's go on.
7.10. Rex is almost seven. He is my son.
|I asked him on the phone,
"Rex, tell me something. What do you know about the world?"
He replied easily: "There is only one world, and it will go on forever."
I asked him if he liked that.
He said: "I should because if there is only one world, I have nowhere else to go."
I was surprised. His impregnable logic felt challenging. I argued: "How do We know?"
He wisely said, again: "There is only one world and we are inside it."
Ha, I saw a chance: "But, Rex, if we are inside, what's outside?"
"There is nothing outside."
Now I felt I had him: "Ah, but isn't there space there? Couldn't We go there?"
Well, if there is another world, I am glad.
I wasn't going to let him go even after this brilliant answer! "Why?"
The answer was devastating: "Because if there is another world, and this one I'm in should blow up, then there will be another place for me to go."
I felt humbled. And elated. Process in relationship is self-actualizing.
7.11. Since the sequential record we are each of us personally and uniquely producing is not available to our ordinary scanning habits, it is literally true that we have to make ourselves up. We don't remember all of the things that we did, felt, thought, in connection with this very relationship between you and me, and certainly it is the case that you don't know all the implications it might have for you in the future. Therefore, if I ask you what this relationship is, or if you think about it on your own, you then have to make up an account or formulation. But we already know that the account must be incomplete. We already know that however much you improve it, it will remain incompletely satisfying. Therefore, you do not remain in this position. Instead, you reflect the process of relationship. We do this by adopting a new position: we adopt that position which views the relationship, all that it must represent but which we cannot remember, as the enantiomorph. From that position, we switch places with the enantiomorph. What you do, now appears to you as I--Enantiomorph in objectively reflected dialectics. You see things in symmetrical opposition. That process of viewing is practiced as the radicalist register. That is why you feel that this article is not in the same register as that which you are familiar with.
Well, how does it fit, my friend?
You have many questions. You are containing your excitement. You wish I was there so you could ask me questions. You can always use the e-mail button below...
7.12. Consider the process of witnessing. It is not the same as observing. When we observe something happening, say people walking around in a department store, we are doing a reporting job. We report what we've observed, from one moment to the next. Of course, we observe and report within a limited field. Our view, as well as our topical exposition of it, is contained within the pragmatic bounds of interactions. We always feel that the report is never whole or complete, that it leaves out other things that could have been put in. But we dont have these feelings when we witness something that's happening. We are in the happening, part of it. We have a defined or definite relationship to the event. Thus, the process of witnessing integrates the part/whole fragmentation. It is actual, personal, and unique. Hence, reconstructing witnessing accounts of your life episodes is the process of self-actualization, of actualizing the record you are producing.
I call this process of reconstruction, an enactment.
The enactment mode of as-if behavior is the antidote to social captivity. Not changes in personality. Not changes in the world. Only changes in as-if pretenses. Constitutive positions must be altered by constitutive means: if we are awake but we hallucinate that we are dreaming, there is only the antidote of counter-hallucination. The funny thing about all this is that it appears to work. This whole crazy show appears to work! So, let us quickly go to this new hopeful conception. The end, or one ending, is nearly upon us.
The insight pleased me and I felt strong
excitement. It leads me to all sorts of agreeable fantasies about my social standing
I then felt I should stop these
fantasies and occupy my time more productively in the light of my intentions relating to
the experiment. A few minutes later, I again interrupted my exercise and made the
following note, being concerned that I might forget it.
EPILOGUE TWO: THE MODE OF ENACTMENT IN THE RADICALIST REGISTER
There is no culmination in action. Everything always becomes the framing for what happens next, so long as things continue to happen. Since there is no culmination in action, therefore, there is no fulfillment in personal seeking. Each next step is framed by all the previous steps. There is never a last step. Therefore, anticipated goals are as if motivators: we act as if we are motivated by the goals; that is, we forget or avoid the view whereby we can see that the goals are not actual or authentic motivators.
We engage in this avoidance because it has been made contingently pragmatic by the socio-function of group membership and standing. As long as we are functioning in any sort of relationship, we have no choice but to express this function through the register of interaction, which is the register of socialized captivity. We witness this as process in relationship. We witness the reification of our collective standardized imaginings about each other. We contract our socialized register. We spend less time being involved in seeking, while we maintain our daily schedule. The appearances remain unchanged. Everyone thinks we're still the same, basically. But in fact, we are now basically different and in appearance the same. Everyone is fooled. We're now in the mode of enactment of the radicalist register.
We can say anything, believe anything. We can assert this and deny that. We can now make wise cracks about the gurus. We're taking to the habit of winking and laughing out very loudly. We become amused when we see others' sincerity and their airs. Once in a while we begin to doubt and puzzle once again. We are very clever. But somehow we just can't get it together again as we used to: We just can't muster that much energy any more for all our should's and shouldn'ts. We are wise now. We have nice satisfying answers for whatever our doubts can throw against us. We are humbled by how little we have anything to do with the whole that we can witness. We act, and feel, and think and we observe our acts, feelings, thoughts. Then we witness that relationship. We feel we have nothing to do with it. It runs by itself just in case we should try to interfere, and if we do, then there is that to observe, and to witness that relationship. Meanwhile it goes on by itself -- just in case anyone might try to interfere
It's been 25 years since I've written and last read this essay. There is a lot of it that's interesting in terms of my self-witnessing observations, especially the mechanism of sudden memory and standardized imaginings, two topics you'll find in several other reports from that period. There is a poignant absence of spiritual vision in this report, reflecting my total captivity within the natural mind. I was unable to extirpate myself from this corporeal perspective on the inner person. I remained a natural man--for another 5 years. And then the universe within exploded. The veil was torn and my eyes could see the human race's Redeemer. At last. That story continues here. I hope you can persuade yourself to follow me there.
Quotations From the Works of Leon James
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