Sunday, July 1, 2012

"The mirror and the Wand" an essay

Obviously in my criticisms of religions and sects, I see our beliefs in need of correction; yet at the level of the all, a mindset I aspire to ascend to more often, I see the interrelation of perspectives, how they anticipate, create, and react to each other. With a vision of the all I beat my brains out trying to formulate its workings into a logic. Essays like this are approximations, they do not represent my final formulation, but they show the process by which I am getting there, at comprehending and expressing the all-logic.






The Mirror and the Wand



            Allism is not the terms used to describe it. It is not such a thing you could say characterizes one system and not another. It is already part of each individual system is in all systems in dynamic relationship, and is the all over all systems. Allism is not something we could choose to practice or not to practice, as it characterizes each practice in relation to all practices. The terms representing Allism are not arbitrary but they are replaceable, as Allism is the apotheosis of every system, the logic of the systematic itself. And the idea of the all, the absolute, the universe, the divine, all these words that denote the most comprehensive importance mean the same ultimate reality; and since we quarrel endlessly on the charges that they don’t, then we must conclude that the allistic relationship is something that is in each system while also being above them, something, in other words, that depends on endless disputes, harmonized with agreements, collusions, schisms, unifications, revivals, and extinctions -- in other words, just things have always been -- but its overall unity need not be consciously experienced by any one participant.

            The language of Allism is Language: it is the structure of the laws of the universe that evolved the structure of our brains to create a society based on a structure of competing ideologies and the production of the individual cultures with their interlacing languages. The entire universe participates in our language, and through us, it thinks.

            Since all truths and all subjects are already the incidental and particular aspects of the all, any deep thought is already a practice of Allism. We only consciously regard it as so as we as individuals serve as the double mirror of the life we are (the self) and the universe we inhabit (the world).

            What philosophy does abstractly, day to day relationships do concretely; they manifest the conversation of ideas, the plays of logic that are thickly embedded in all our actions and conversation. Just as the book-read librarian may be a fool and the art connoisseur unappreciative of life itself, we succeed not merely by excelling at one thing, but in applying it by analogy to all else. Each to all honors each and all. The mirror and the wand are our emblems.

            Two mental characteristics reveal themselves in any discipline, when it reflects back on itself. First, the nature of reflection is made prominent, as a matter of course, and also the matter of analogy, to be able to adapt the experience of one thing and put it in terms another thing is the basis of all thought, all truth, which is meant to stand for itself and also realities outside itself. Reflection and representation are the basic operations of Allism, Allism not as the implicit practice in each manner of thinking, but in the self-conscious and deliberate practice of the Students of Life -- the part reflecting on its allness and its subordinate relation to the over-all.

            “Individuality outruns all classification,” said William James, in a curious classification of individuality, given in a lecture meant for the general public, put in terms that to an unreflective mind seem straightforward and simple, but to the reflective mind are the opposite of the “simple thinking” that James in the same essay praises. This essay on the generic nature of philosophy begins these series of lectures regarding the nature of the Universe; he calls the universe the pluralverse or multiverse. A run of a mirror reveals hidden complications in the otherwise  easy and simple formulas.

            “No philosophy can ever be anything but a summary sketch, a picture of the world in abridgment, a foreshortened bird’s-eye view of the perspective of events.” From what perch do we spy "the bird’s eye view"  itself? Is this said from any given perspective? If this characterizing of all philosophies is itself a truth of every individual philosophy, could we not just as well say that it is also true for each individual philosophy, that no philosophy could deny it, or should deny it? And if it is not true for each philosophy individually – clearly some at least think they are the only valid game in town – then how can it be true of all of them together? A summary sketch about summary sketches is confusing enough. A summary sketch claiming to be definitive of all sketches is incredible.

            “All philosophers, accordingly, have conceived of the whole world after the analogy of some particular feature of it which has particularly captured their attention. Thus, the theists take their cue from manufacturing, the pantheists from growth….All follow one analogy or another, and all the analogies are with some one or other of the universe’s subdivisions…They are all the while, at bottom, accidentally more or less of personal vision which had for better be avowed as such.” But it is unclear by what universal sense of justice any private view has to answer for itself, why it would be "better." The view given is merely another analogy. If we care to make more of a picture of it than James does, we could say that the Universe is like an uncharted map, and every analogy we have of it is a given path through it. What the universe is in itself is not so much unknown but unknowable … but James will spend the rest of the articles flirting with various systems till he gives the sense that there is no big picture, no all-form, no common ground shared by all.

            “Different men find their minds more at home in very different fragments of the world,” but can psychologizing why people get into philosophy really annul any truth claims that one philosopher might be accurate and the other inaccurate? Can we undermind ontology with psychology? After all, even if this were successful, we would still necessarily be making ultimate absolute statements about ontology, namely: that the universe is such a thing that we need to relate to, but that the human mind can only relate to through analogy. This is hardly something to pass over without comment. If the universe is in some sense unknowable – can’t we bring the allegations against agnosticism against this mysterious ontology, that agnosticism cheats? That rather than claiming something about an individual self, “I don’t happen to know something,” one is saying two other things: “the something we are referring to is itself unknowable,” and also “we know that anybody claiming that the something is knowable is either lying or mistaken.” If the French philosopher was able to prove an entire universe from the dictum “I think, therefore I am,” what universe could we generate with these universal truths?

            James does project a unity, a shared project, amidst these various perspectives which he characterizes as the poles of the field. Our unity is that we all seek the same thing … “we are all parts of the universe and share the same one deep concern in its destinies” – again, a psychological basis for ontology – but tipping us towards the centering center of reflective Allism: needs. It may be too much to say “we are all parts of the universe,” if, like James, we do not define the universe as a whole, but surely the psychological project behind every system represents self-evident facts that in themselves show us the sort of thing a system can be and why.

            James tosses all arguments out the door in this first essay, giving us the psychological root for the compulsion to seek reasons. Great men have a vision, that vision is the most important part about him and his philosophy, and the arguments exist only to somehow inspire another in sampling that vision. Whether he ultimately accepts those arguments depends on his temperament, if it’s the sort of thing that vision would speak to. James in his pragmatic basis of truth is willing to argue for and affirm any system that satisfies certain human needs, the needs of love and importance, which have well been fed by the idea of spontaneity of thought and intimacy with the universe -- freedom and God. Ontology must give us love and freedom – so naturally enough, he freezes out “cynical materialism” from the get go. German jargon also won’t do. Instead, “A man’s vision is the great fact about him,” even behind the infamous inscrutability of Hegel’s prose. “A philosophy is the expression of a man’s intimate character."

            And so James gives us a vision about visions. They must all be man-centered and man-focused. In his subsequent sections, in which James will express his talents as a summarizer and a writer of digests he will play different systems against each other – in an overall shape parallel with his universe of the mixed universe -- but with a curious logic. Fechner, who identifies both the layer of each-forms and the ultimate all-form, will be accepted all the way up, but excluding the all form, which James can see only in terms of a Hegelian or Spinozian monolith –not the sort of thing a man can be intimate with. The idea that it could be different than yet guessed by continental philosophy is not something James will face head on.

            “The philosophical attempt to define so that no one’s business is left out, so that no one lies outside the door saying, ‘Where do I come in?’ is sure in advance to fail.” – This bit of relativism fails the mirror test, for the very conclusion that philosophy always leaves somebody out would assuredly be a universal philosophical fact that all systems could share and build upon. A few basic thickeners could take any of these strands of absolute truth and make a foundation from them, a universal philosophy.


“But when as absolutism thinks that the said substance become fully divine only in the form of totality, and is not its real self in any form but the all form, the pluralistic view which I prefer to adopt is willing to believe that there may ultimately never have been an all-form at all, that the substance of reality may never get totally collected, that some of it may remain outside the largest combination of it ever made, and that a distributive form of reality, the each-form, is logically as acceptable and empirically as probable as the all-form, commonly acquiesced in as so obviously the self-evident thing.”


            It is the smugness of that "self-evident" assertion which most deeply offends James, that we must be monists, and his goal in all these lectures amounts to the rather modest conclusion that "it may not be self-evident after all." The confusion of imagining an aggregates without totality defies the imagination: we can imagine any assortment of things with a circle around it. Will we really deny ourselves the natural satisfaction of an all-form merely because certain Germans made it monstrous?

            “A philosopher may be a supreme reaction of the universe upon itself by which it rises to self-comprehension. It may handle itself differently in consequences of this event” – but surely the universe doesn’t consider just one conclusion, or the many other disputants would be silenced. The theists, the monists, the pluralists –such men must all contribute to some view that combines the views into a rich all form?

            “When we speak of the absolute, we take the one universal known material collectively or integrally; when we speak of objects of our finite selves, etc. we take that some identical material distributively and separately. But what is the use of a thing’s being any only once if it can be taken twice over, and if being taken in different ways makes different things true of it?” If ever we should take a rhetorical question ironically, at face value, it is now. Indeed, James, and why not let a thing experience itself as a whole different than it does in each part? Surely we could imagine each of our own human cells living a happy existence, with their own thoughts and feelings, that both differ from the unified consciousness of our brain, and yet are somehow related to it as well. A thing can indeed be taken two ways, and why not?

            “…The absolute knows me and my suffering but it doesn’t itself suffer,” he complains, taking Spinoza as the final word. “…We humans are incurably rooted in the temporal point of view. The eternal’s ways are utterly unlike our own” --how we ourselves could ever know such a thing is never explained. There is nothing stopping us from taking the universe as a whole as a limited, learning, growing entity similar to ourselves: after all, aren't all things that way? Only the Universe is not a part, but a whole, with us within it; parts of its growth are dependent on our growth as individuals, and parts are independent of anything we do. It seems James was faced with such a strict and insistent bit of Hegelian dogma that he could only think in terms of it, if only to oppose it. He seems to miss the clues from his own Fechner quotes about layers of consciousness as being parts of the all form.

            But with a bit of reflection and analogy, we can easily confound an either / or with many options, some which can even be taken in combination. Reality is thick, reality is layered, and every unit is conscious of itself as a unit; and the larger units built on the smaller units are conscious of themselves as larger units, in part through the smaller units, and in part aside from them. We see this all the time. A government, a State, is filled with human beings who act from individual perspectives, not seeing the big picture, but believing they do, having some theory about what it’s about, and doing a lot of good with that theory though the whole has another theory, good for it, bad for the smaller units, so that all the theories come down to various guides for the action each part is called for – and the unity of a thing is a whole that is filled with things it is not even conscious of, such as the government not knowing, never being able to know, what all goes on in the heads of its constituents.

            Getting this final image in our head, this eidolon of the all, is the basic aim of Allism as a philosophy; this one image, this one philosophical shape expresses every other idea.

            And as we said, it exists already in every system, one can start anywhere; one can be a good atheist or a good Christian, a good Muslim or a good Hindu, a good Buddhist or a good Taoist; and though these systems are intentionally structured to freeze each other out, purposely making what the others believe to be sinful or off limits for themselves, yet those blind spots in the individuals are not felt at the level of the all-mind, a level each of us to some degree can participate in. Ignorance characterizes each man, and it characterizes the all's mind; our minds can know things the all doesn't, and it can know things ours don't; though the all has for its body and nerves everything existing, unlike you or me, though we too are wholes. All that is known in the universe is never known by any one individual -- and blindness is part of what makes the engine run. We each strive in this game to make our values universal, and by honestly believing they can be, they instead fall in to what they need to be, the absolute convictions of a minority of people.  Only in a system of parts that each aspire to be universal, and in that aspiration balance each other out, is the law of compensation and the nature of the self-correcting circle able to spiral to higher and higher greatness – the apotheosis of each and all.



\~ @M@ ~/


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