Two Extracts from the Final Chapter of 'Structures of Meaning'

 

(1) ON N-LOGUE

The Framework

The 'experimental' character of N-logue needs to be emphasised. This implies a consciousness capable of observation. Here, observation is more than passive recording: it changes the parameters of the situation. Curiously enough, very little attention has been paid to the requirements of the observer, or of the act of observation. In general, we adopt the view that observation of something entails more than what is observed.

A connected but independent consideration is that, whatever we might engage in, we are what we are. Whether we are skilful or not, whether we are conscious or not, something remains the same. It is the same human who throws the bomb, vegetates in front of the TV or works on himself. The genius, the perversity, the mediocrity of humans stems from a common realm. Why is this? All that we can say is that it is the mark of the transfinite human essence. Even when we might argue that choice is a false delusion; in the concrete situation of a human being, there is choice. The people we might dismiss as understanding and experiencing next to nothing are 'just the same' as us. We need to say this, even though the majority might never 'wake up' to the fact.

That is why the realm of the human essence verges on the abstract. Every actual human is human in possibility always. Possibility continues to haunt us. Because of this, we need to say that something like 'initiative' remains open to us: that whatever the form of the situation in which we are engaged, we remain 'free'. This freedom, however, is transfinite in its essence and can never be exhausted by any set of alternatives.

The interval between the finitude of specifiable roles and the transfinitude of the play of initiative can be regarded as immense or infinitesimal. It is the step from quantity to quality. When the two realms 'collapse' into one, we have the 'ordinary state' of discourse. We call this state 'degenerate' in the technical sense of reducing multivalue to either/or choices. In Bennett's psychology, he speaks of this in terms of the collapse of consciousness into sensitivity, where 'consciousness' refers to the transfinite ( or 'cosmic') and 'sensitivity' to the finite (or vital) aspects of our awareness.

Our framework has to be elaborated to take into account the phenomenal basis of discourse, which requires us to actualise words in time. The linearity of the form of speech is a constraint that requires of us a selection of the actualisation process out of many alternatives. People produce words one after the other and, more or less, have to speak one at a time. In N-logue, therefore, we have to specify a procedure. In the case of trialogue, for example, we prescribe the sequence A-B-C-A, etc. This is an independent constraint from that of the roles, though the two are interconnected in the design of the form.

On the qualitative side, we also have to take into account that the play of initiative is not gratuitous but arises in response to something, which something is already implicit in the formation of the group of people speaking together. We may begin by thinking of this in the form of the question: Why are we here together? The idea is that the people so engaged do not simply 'invent' the meaning of their meeting, but discover it as they speak together. In Bohm's terminology, we may refer to an 'information field' that is already present, even though implicate, as soon as the people gather; or even as soon as they decide to meet together.

Putting together what we have discussed so far, we have the following scheme:

 

 

This four-fold or tetradic model enables us to designate three distinct areas of experience and practice, relating to our research.

 

ILM concerns the region of universal pre-verbal non-channelled communication; N-logue is the region in which initiative and role are undertaken independently, and experiment the region in which we can prescribe behaviour. In Bennett's terminology, the first belongs to the category of Will, the second to Being and the third to Function.

The dotted line we had in the first diagram emphasises the cross-over between the upper and the lower regions. Again, in Bennett's terminology, this is the cross-over as between 'existential' (finite) and 'essential' (transfinite) acts. As we go from bottom to top, we move more and more deeply into ignorance or the unknown. As we go from top to bottom, we move and more into the realm of the known. The two directions intertwine. What may be discovered through experiment may liberate the unknown. What may manifest from the unknown may take shape in the known. For example, the discovery and articulation of new forms of N-logue experiment brings the two sides together.

We have labelled the linkage between 'initiative' and 'roles' as the realm of combinations. This signifies the nature of this mutuality as concerned with the operation of sets and combinations of elements that, although diverse, fall into certain recurrent patterns. In contrast, the linkage extending into the regions beyond 'field' and 'procedure' is designated as the realm of uniqueness.

The upper and lower bounds of the model are not closed. This is most important. Procedure, as we said, arises from the linear form of speech. But, the action of speaking can reveal - in an apparently contingent way - significant insights, though this may be lost to consciousness as mere detail. Attention to the detail of actualisation can lead to discovery. The upper bound of the field is not closed either. That which is made possible by the meeting of the people engaged together is open to higher-order fields of meaning, even to the extent of unfolding profound levels of cultural evolution, or the course of events on a global scale.

As Simon Weightman has pointed out in his masterly paper on 'Religion as a Universe: the Analogy with Language' we can think of various 'domains of realisation', the more profound of which encompass concrete detail equally with universal forms. This view is quite contrary to the usual perspective in which we proceed from the particular to the general, leaving detail behind. As Marie von Franz has pointed out, western science works by the exclusion of the unique and irreproducible, neutralising such events through statistical techniques. This approach a priori excludes the phenomena of synchronicity.

The implications of the view based on domains of realisation are far beyond the scope of this paper to discuss. Suffice it to say, that they include the understanding that universal patterns can only enter into experience through unique events on the very small scale. In informal conversations, Anthony Judge had proposed a view of dia-logue mastery in which the 'master' influences the whole course of events through the slightest of acts; an idea echoed in the speculations of Wolfgang Pauli on the workings of evolution.

This leads us to re-form the model:

We can imagine a series of concentric circles with their centre at the cross-over point, representing various degrees of integration. These are labelled 1-state, 2-state, etc. to indicate the different degrees. The 2-state is impossible without some degree of self-observation. (See 'Dialogue and Consciousness' below) The 3-state requires something more than self-observation, an 'empathic resonance' or ability to enter into the experience of others, when these cease to be 'other'. The unlabelled 4-state requires an 'objective consciousness' sometimes remarked as the experience of 'the beginning and end of things'.


(2) ON TIME-PERCEPTION

 

The Space, Time and Will of Consensus

We have a close parallel between the issue of consensus in dia-logue and the search for an objective space of perception. The usual assumption is that visual perception, for example, takes place in an objective space of objects and their arrangements - being subjectively registered in a complex and changing and partial way by a variety of subjects. Because of this assumption, hardly anyone investigates how they see. If one even begins to notice the phenomenology of visual perception, it appears as far more rich and changing and varied than any representation. The work of the Impressionists, the Cubists and other artists have enriched our appreciation of the phenomenology of perception. Similar work has been done in the worlds of music and literature. It usually requires considerable exercise and application to register and express the actualities of perception. It is not that we do not have these phenomena taking place in and through us, but that they are covered up almost instantaneously by conceptual forms, associated with language.

In place of the banality of the 'sense-impressions' supposed by earlier philosophers such as Locke , the root phenomena of perception are dynamic, rich and subtle. What I actually see is not a street with perspective but a multitude of changing aspects of place and movement. Distant objects are not 'more separated' from me than near ones, only they appear differently.

Our common consensual space is one based on separation. The space I experience is a multi-valent connectivity. It seems that I have to forget the concreteness and variety of my actual spatial experience in order to engage with others. We agree to deal in an impoverished space. If we then feel that something is missing, we will ascribe it to mysterious occult forces and influences acting 'outside of space'. Because we have the belief in being separate personalities, some of us are forced to invent the idea of an invisible 'telepathy'. This state of affairs is debilitating and gets nowhere.

The intensities, colours, dynamics of our visual perception is a good analogue for the multi-valued flux of our judgements of meaning. We find that we 'have to agree' in order to do something together. Just about all of us have gone towards this agreement (with its complement of disagreement) and have abandoned what is going on in us in the moment. This largely unconscious sacrifice has made us less than human. We also find that, politically, systems of operating by consensus are easily subverted by authorities. These authorities may be of any kind. For example, the authority of natural science claims objective space and time for itself and treats the experience of the artists as deviant and fictional. When a quantum mechanics appears, there is the 'scandal' of introducing consciousness to make something definite, in the possibility that knowing itself is an act in the physical universe.

Bringing into physical science the differentiations that distinguish our perceptions, instead of reducing them to a uniform base (as in Newton's 'absolute time') can be approached in many ways. In Bennett's approach, the method adopted is to think of sets of 'skew-parallels', or multiple alternative directions or vectors that are at 'null-angles' to any specified direction in time and space. This means that there are multiple ways of connecting any two points, this multiplicity expressing the inner intensity of 'being'.

The idea that our experience is composed of 'pencils' or of 'bundles' of threads or vectors is to be found in other places. In the writings of Charlotte Bach, there is reference to 'bundles of nervous impulses', which William Pensinger refers to as 'Cantor dust' or 'star-dust'. In Bach's scheme, the basic direction is that of (multi-valent) time, rather than space. We are called upon to imagine that what is at stake is a 'coinciding' of our various time-vectors, something that cannot be realised causally, only in 'a-causal synchronicity'.

These few remarks are only indicative of a line of research that has joined artists, philosophers, mathematicians and scientists in a variety of ways. The common thrust is that mere consensus does not help us understand anything: it only helps us get on with the job, whatever someone has decided is the job! When we draw back from this consensus, we are driven into new considerations of time and space; because these have been the frame of consensus. Cartography and the clock have produced a tyranny of immense proportions.

To refer to Pensinger again, he has advocated the development of a new technology called Musculpt. This is, as the word suggests, a combination of music and sculpture; only, it incorporates an evolving system of representation. Having music as the base is most important, for music is 'the language of time', par excellence. One of the 'uses' of music in a community is to bring them into the same time. Traditional societies tend, nearly always, to employ music for this function. It amounts to a kind of 'tuning' in which it is possible for the members of the community to explore the 'harmonies' that are possible between them. This process has hardly been acknowledged; largely for the reason that our western culture has become split between the 'mind of space' that dominates and the 'mind of time' that acts almost subversively. Those parts of the population which follow music into time-synchronicity are regarded as alien and threatening by the authorities. Thus, for example, the 'rave' culture is depicted as 'de(p)raved', immoral, drug-ridden and dangerous.

The time-mind seems, from the perspective of the space-mind, to be wild and subjective. People 'escape' from their spatially-formed prisons into time-freedom. The moment cannot be confined in a box.

The themes of music and time suggest a completely new meaning of 'consensus' to that which ordinarily seems to apply. In time, people can synchronise without losing their divergencies. In space, the divergencies seem to call for another spatial world of representation where all the divergent elements can be displayed in common view. If sex is the dominant metaphor for time-consciousness, then war is the dominant one for space-consciousness. In place of 'sex, drugs and rock-and-roll' we have 'war, money and monuments'.

This leads us to our overall theme of 'trusting in the process', for this trust is a trust in coming together in time. Time is not merely the pessimistic 'perpetual perishing' of Locke but the energy of creation (if we can be forgiven such a phrase). It is true that we find, during dia-logue, that themes appear to be forgotten and promising lines of development waylaid by irrelevancies. It is true that the very process appears to be constantly covering itself over. It is true that only one thing can be said at any one time. For all that, right in the heart of the movement in the moment is a richness beyond the imagination. The more we enter into the present action, just as it is, the more we unite in a newly discovered intensity. This requires that, at every step, we move beyond our sphere of competence. The very meaning of 'active' and 'passive' changes in the moment and, by this very change, creative action is released.

The 'consensus' involved is of the will. The condition of an act of will is ignorance. This is quite contrary to the usual view that acts of will stem from the known and are directed towards what we desire. This is because the ordinary view of will is that it consists of 'will-power'. This is not will, in our understanding, at all. It is simply habitual function supplied with energy.

When we gather in a common act of will, our standpoint is not that of the past but the future. This is not a future that we project, because the conditions of our coming together precludes any expectation. In front of this future we are empty. Maybe, for the first time for a long time, we stand only in the moment with what it brings. We do not know whether it is 'there' already or we make it up as we go along. This very undecidability is a crucial condition, also.

It is often asked: 'What is it that results from all this indulgence in the present moment? What does it do for our lives? How does it serve the needs of humanity?' Even in the time-trance of dia-logue we sometimes ask ourselves similar questions. The only answer that can be offered is that the answers are working in the time-vectors that 'come out of' the dia-logue. We can express this by saying that 'we are changed' and what we do henceforth is informed by this change. This is a change in reality that can be understood. It informs our acts, our gestures. It may or may not enable us to explain what we do.

One of the things that we have found resulting from dia-logue is very much this 'trusting the process'. The process is not confined to the special circumstances of a dia-logue, but can enter anywhere, under any conditions, at any time. In our private thoughts, in our involvement with seemingly sterile meetings, in our families, in our work of whatever kind, the process continues unabated. Even, simply, just to know that this is true has an effect. The process is always there because here is the moment.

"Quick, now, here, now, always -

Ridiculous the waste sad time

Stretching before and after."



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