Tag Archives: anthropology

Homo Non Intelligit

Aquinas Triumphant

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Triumphant

I.

I forget when the following happen, yet it happened sometime during the time I was an elementary school student. This event occurred at some point during third, fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. Although both my twin brother also went to the same school, we rarely walked together. He much enjoyed taking shortcuts and running to school. Whereas I preferred to take the sidewalk to the light, turn left, and make my way the third of a mile to the school itself. As it turns out one day I could have used his protection.

Everyday, coming in the opposite direction and headed toward the large Catholic school located three quarters of a mile in the opposite direction, were its denizens. One day, walking alone to school, I was jumped by two boys, tackled to the ground, and roughed up a bit. I ended up with one of the boys sitting on my chest, with my upper arms pinned to the ground. He looked into my face, spat in my eyes, and told me,

You know you’re going to hell!?

It was shouted in a combination of mockery, exhortation, and, at the same time, it retained its questioning facet. I have no idea if I answered, and tend to think almost fifty years after the fact that I likely did not answer affirmatively. I didn’t understood what my brusque antagonist was even speaking about.

Although my family wasn’t the least bit religious, I do recall asking my parents about what the question meant. Most of the time, questions like that caused both my dad and mom to send me back to the 1960 World Book Encyclopedia, (whose many volumes served as my closest early confidant, in a autodidactiv sense–ever since I had skimmed/read my way through each volume.) I read about the Catholic Religion, the Holy Roman Church, The Bible; who knows–maybe this is why religion came to interest me so much.

Scroll ahead thirty years or so and its the nineties and I’m in my forties. By this time I have a fairly modest, and nevertheless, informed, grasp of the situation of Christianity as a world religion. My principal fascination was with religious experience and, what I came to term, artifactual religion. My curiosity was fulfilled by my learning a bit about how the different religions came to be constituted into their multi-various forms from, as-it-were, scratch.

 

As a matter of my own arm chair interests, this anthropological frame is for me the central primary feature of religion in historical context. Religions arise from their historical-sociological antecedents. So, for example, if one scrolls backward in time from the arrival of the Summa Theologica (1274 CE) of Saint Thomas Aquinas in the overall scheme of worldly time, one scrolls back before the time of the eventuation of the Old Testament, and, soon enough one scrolls back through those antecedents. Up to a point such antecedents would be specific to the historical development of the Abrahamic religions in a particular location and at a specific time, and then past this point, older antecedents would seem to a knowledgeable traveler (gone back in time, or, simply competent with the evidence,) to become more primitive and increasingly unhinged from what are the recognizable domains of (what strike we contemporaries,) to civilized religions and sophisticated religiosity.

Then, around (very roughly) 500,000 years ago BC, the evidence, so far, for anything resembling symbolic behavior disappears. However, 4.5 billion years of planetary history, prior to this disappearance, remain unscathed by symbolic or religious behavior.

Stephen Calhoun artist

II.

Related to the anthropological perspective is religion’s manifestation as a consequence of human behavior, cognition and experience, for which the frame expands to encompass psychology and sociology. Although I became interested in the work of the psychologists William James and Carl Jung for reasons unrelated to my interest in religion, each in their distinctive ways came to deeply influence my working through to a modest extent the constitution of religion as an intentional individual and social phenomena.

Then, moving to the next viewpoint, the historical, the careful investigator inspects the timeline for religiosity as it unfolds locally over thousands of years in manifestations so brilliantly diverse that it would be ridiculous to then groan that the constituent religions are ‘at odds with one another.’

The fact of the usefulness of first and second order religious behavior is apparent, and at the same time, the investigator’s  second order framing and third order analysis is off the side, removed from the local social phenomena. However, to note that a social behavior with a religious motive or objective constitues a “ritual,” “tradition,” or, going farther, reflects the structuring of human purpose in accordance with a priori “propositions, “principles,” or “laws,” is to choose from some menu given by a third order framework.

This is crucial to teasing out the differentiation between the local phenomena of pragmatic mythologizing, and, the properties of “Mythology” as a category of human culture and its intentional artifactual life.

The blunt ramification is simply derived from the basic understanding: as one goes back in time, very soon, the idea and representation of God, or of Gods, of of the sacred, or of the divine, goes “poof!”

 

 

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Nora Bateson: Between generations: gaps, links and learning

Università degli Studi di Milano – Bicocca

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Sam Harris Solves the Problem of Islamic Faith

Shortly after viewing the intensely puerile tag team tussle betwixt Affleck/Kristof/Steele and Maher/Harris (on Real Time With Bill Maher, October 3rd,) I knew it would take a little while, but that I would soon get an email sent from the ramparts of the Integral Empire pointing out that the Real Time combatants just don’t get religion like the Wilberians in actuality do get it.

Sure enough, on the 18th, Dustin DiPerna weighed in on The Daily Evolver (email newsletter) with Bridging the Chasm: Sam Harris, Ben Affleck, and a Needed Dose of Integral Theory. In turn, although the link back is not available in the newsletter, Mr. DiPerna contributed a longer article to Integral World, the safehouse for heterodox views of the integral. Finally, at The Daily Evolver itself is Jeff Salzman’s article/podcast Dog and God.

Predictably, came the appeal to the integral framework’s notion of levels in the flux of person and religious system.

DiPerna: Islam, like all of our world’s great religious traditions, is enacted according to the specific levels of development of the actors involved. To be sure, Islam has a particular shape and flavor that has consistency throughout all interpretations. Folks like Harris tend to emphasize the consistent dimensions of faith, often intentionally highlighting the aspects that many consider the most challenging to stomach, as a methodology to provoke or even dismiss entire traditions as “bad ideas”. But just as each tradition has a flavor and shape itself, it is equally true that every human being has a lens and worldview that brings forth particular elements of the tradition according to the world that he or she can see. There is not one version of Islam that is either “Good” or “Bad” but there are at least five versions of Islam, all dependent upon specific levels of interpretation. Each of these levels is not arbitrary. The levels are consistent across traditions and can be correlated with very specific stages of psychological development.

Whether we use the work of Harvard researcher James Fowler’s Stages of Faith or the early models of developmental progression found in the works of Jean Gebser, we see a very similar metric that can be used to explore five basic levels of development. These levels can be referred to using the shorthand terms: magic (Stage 1), mythic (Stage 2), rational (Stage 3), pluralistic (Stage 4), and integral (Stage 5). Each level has particular characteristics and hallmarks of how it shows up in the world. Furthermore, each level has both moderate and extremist orientations.

If an interpretation is dependent, and decisively dependent upon the lens and worldview discoverable at the scale of the individual–and this is implied by religion enacted according to the specific levels of development of the actors involved–then there are as many versions of a religion at such a scale as there are actors.

This follows from DiPerna’s organic analysis that uses the blunt conceptions, via Jean Gebser, of integral analysis. A reader such as myself then can anticipate the arrival of the prescriptions.

DiPerna. Integral orientations (as with all later stages) sees the entire spectrum of growth and development. In doing so, this stage of religious orientation seeks to build bridges connecting various levels of interpretation. Understanding that everyone starts the developmental process at stage 1, this level sees the importance of building conveyor belts of potential growth and development in each tradition. Rather than merely sitting in a circle in dialogue (as the Pluralistic level might do) the integral stage combines discernment and compassion acknowledging that some views are broader, more compassionate and more inclusive than others.

In his podcast, Dog and God, Integral insider Jeff Salzman will get to this same Stage 5. (His discussion of religion in the context of stage of development begins at 11m into the podcast. download )

A reader such as myself, (having followed along with the Integral framework since 1979,) can anticipate the arrival of the prescription.

DiPerna. Rather, what is needed is the critical comprehension that individuals, with different levels of development, are enacting Islam (and all other religious traditions) according to their own worldviews and levels of development. And even more importantly, we must come to the understanding that there are paths that can be highlighted that can help individuals move along that developmental spectrum from magic, to mythic, to rational, to pluralistic, to integral versions of each tradition. As development unfolds, interpretations of faith move from being more restrictive, ego-centric and ethno-centric in view to orientations that more compassionate, open, and world-centric.

Sam Harris, transcript of the clip: 

There are hundreds of millions of Muslim, who are nominal Muslims, who don’t take the faith seriously, who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS, and we need to defend these people, prop them up, and let them reform Islam.

Harris’s view is obviously crude and unreal, and, for someone who spins dimes into bullion on the anti-mythic religion trail, his prescription is shockingly and shamelessly a product of his being deeply ignorant about what religions generally are about, and how religions come to change–let alone, be reformed.

Salzman’s cop from DiPerna is less crude but is no better:

Integral teacher and scholar Dustin DiPerna, also inspired by the Maher/Harris/Affleck flap, wrote a terrific essay for Integral Life on how development trumps religion.

Were Salzman, DiPerna, and Harris deep critics of their own biases, I’d have some hope for the development of better prescriptions with regard to the problem of religiosity and its variable contexts. Although, I don’t know of anybody in the post-conventional community who is so devoted to such radical solutions that he or she is willing to evangelize for free, directly to the target audience. As far as I can tell, Harris mostly preaches his degenerate prescriptions for religion to people who already have ejected themselves from religion’s clutches, or, have little experience with religion.

It would be quite remarkable for it to someday be demonstrated to be the true case that religions actually are driven to evolve in the direction promoted by the Integral idealization, an idealization itself rooted in the nowadays diffuse and defused transpersonal and noetic counter-culture of the late sixtes and early seventies. Wilber’s own philosophy soon enough came to be reactionary, constitute a logo-therapeutics, realize a messianic brand and industry, and engage a magnificently one-sided, touchy but no feely, developmental track today termed the Super Human Operating System. Could this be the inkling of the first world post-religion?

This is to suggest that those higher Integral stages are themselves geared to enlighten, but, at the same time, in the shadow of those later, higher stages, are currents strong enough to evoke the clearly promethean demiurge that supposes the point of a human life is superior development, and, this is given so as to, among many effects, trump religion, blind the religious as it were by the light of higher consciousness, bend the lower stage aspirational wills by contact with consciousness liberated from its worldly objects.

This leads to the chicken/egg problem that can bias investigation of religion. This problem is in extremis in the Integral milieu. The problem clearly comes to the surface when, for example, Harris offers a potential for reform of Islam to be caused in the crucible of ambivalence. I take this lightly to be a person speaking about changing something he is innocent of. Do we understand what the amiable endpoint of Islam will be, from being able to conjure a Fifth Stage?

I consider the Integral view on religion to be largely incapable as a hermeneutical tool. Still, it would be a remarkable coincidence if it turns out Ken Wilber has in fact discovered the optimal stages of human development, and these, as DiPerna states, have come to trump religion!

Harris? Salzman? DiPerna? Wilber? Does such a person carry close to them a criticism of their own prescription? After all, at least with all the starry-eyed advocates for centauric development, it can be presumed he or she has developed powerful tools with which to deconstruct and parse via the AQAL, and further analyze, and, process via the ironic turn, the beneficial and costly ramifications of their own prescription, and such prescriptions would be born from their own experience, biases, expertise, and ignorance.

The complexity of human and social phenomena was long ago subsumed by the abject claim, given here by DiPerna, “Integral orientations (as with all later stages) sees the entire spectrum of growth and development.”  Certainly, as a social cyberneticist and Batesonian, the analytic operating methodologies for systematically evaluating spectrums of growth and development as expressed in Wilber’s own body of work is amusingly and ironically reductive, naively one-sided, rarely counter-factually argued in a very spotty literature, and, is shamelessly innocent of the apparently dull details of, to name two gigantic fields of study, psychology and religion.  So, you say “entire” and I hear: gigantic.

There was a time around the turn of the century when Ken Wilber’s vision for the Integral Theory was that it needed adherents to go into the academy and become better schooled and eventually some exchange and synergy and informed evolution on both ‘sides’ might result. But, then stuff happened, and Wilber didn’t ever lead this charge. Instead, he built with help, the Integral Technologies, technologies just recently termed the Super Human OS.

Install this OS and trump really old stuff?

schuon_esoteric_exoteric

Meanwhile, neo-traditionalist, ‘not-of-the-world,’ radical Takfiri Salafism, can’t be understood to center Islam, but, those particular jihadi offshooters are on an intensely devotional mission to convert the unbeliever everywhere, or be martyred making the attempt.

I doubt a unitarian-like revolt from the fringes could make a difference, Mr. Harris.

My own prescription only has to do with what anybody might decide to do in taking initial steps for the purpose of understanding any complex human matter, such as religion, or a religion.

First, how do you identify what your tool set will be?

What are the given problems and opportunities given by where you start your investigation from?

What are the nature of your biases ?

What frameworks and tools for knowledge/sense-making are congenial or seem to carry a prospect for intrinsic motivation?

What do you need to know firstly?

Where will you start, and why start there?

How will you gather up resources and mentors?

What will be the qualitative measure of your inevitable partial understanding?

What will you not understand if you are unwilling to “do” or experience the religion?

Second, speaking very broadly, there are fields for investigation of religion, and religions. For the anthropologist, religions are largely in the local context of historical and present-day development and concrete practice at the small scale where individual, family, community practices, beliefs, representations, imperatives and prohibitions are able to be studied. How is this all to be understood to be a driver and sustainer of, or otherwise support, individual and group actions, practices, beliefs, knowledge?

For sociologist, religions are largely in the larger scale context given by how institutions and relationships between social groups come to bear upon both local practice and the organization of local practices, beliefs, representations, imperatives and prohibitions into the larger social scales, and, organizational practices and routines, of a society or well-defined group. How is this all to be understood as a driver and sustainer of institutions and their practices?

For modern historians, the development of a religion asserts how a religion came to center or otherwise instantiate crucial social impacts and changes at the scale of community or tribe or group or nation or region or continent or planet, and, at all of those scales altogether.

Psychologically or social-psychologically, the nature of religion refers to its aiding cognitive cum psychological organization of individual and intrapsychic and intersubjective and group: identity, meaningfulness, symbolic systems, inheritable interpretation of history, ethics, birth/life/death, family, theories of mind (or consciousness,) development, aspiration, and relations to the profound objects and possibilities larger than one’s own single mortal self. In a psycho-anthropology, how is this all to be understood to be a driver and sustainer of, or otherwise support, individual and group actions, practices, beliefs, knowledge?

There are also many other fields and disciplines, like philosophy of religion, plus, all the various fields possess lots of disciplinary subsets.

My gloss here is intended to sketch lots of choices, showcase complexity. Also, this gloss supposes all sorts of tacit relations and subject matters between the disciplinary fields. Obviously, I recognize my own investigations are at the level of what is called the ‘folk,’ and so I also recognize whatever I do happen to know is more lightly disciplined and more subject to error than that of most masterful experts.

As far as I know, most of the thrust of Integral investigators is inexpert too. There is to my knowledge not a single deeply informed integral treatment on the subject of religion, (or on any other subject for that matter!)

I sense the deep irony unintentionally embedded in the various Integral prescriptions.

It is clear to me that even if the post-religion implicit in the higher stages of Integral development drives the good will of those who urge upon Islam reform for the sake of Islam evolving to become trumped by the Integral (!), the various Integral self-proclaimed scholars do not yet seem to me to be at all conversant with religion as a social scientific object of study, let alone conversant with Islam proper.

As for Bill Maher, I enjoy his New Rules, but he is, in the main, an asshat and charlatan.

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The Precarity of the Estimate

Free Play Aug 4

This week, with the game on the line in the top of the last inning, the visiting team smartly aimed their offense at a weak spot in the infield and ended up with one single, one runner on base by error, and three successfully fielded ground balls. Outlier!

Then, needing a run to win with two outs in the bottom of the last inning, and bases loaded, this same fielder came up with his bust-to-boom hitting approach and pumped a pitch 300 feet for the walk-off win.

One run  game. Ideal obtained!

FreePlayRoster-Aug4

A simple example will show the nature of this difficulty. Consider some ball game played by a few people of approximately equal skill. If we knew a few particular facts in addition to our general knowledge of the ability of the individual players, such as their state of attention, their perceptions and the state of their hearts, lungs, muscles etc. at each moment of the game, we could probably predict the outcome. Indeed, if we were familiar both with the game and the teams we should probably have a fairly shrewd idea on what the outcome will depend. But we shall of course not be able to ascertain those facts and in consequence the result of the game will be outside the range of the scientifically predictable, however well we may know what effects particular events would have on the result of the game. This does not mean that we can make no predictions at all about the course of such a game. If we know the rules of the different games we shall, in watching one, very soon know which game is being played and what kinds of actions we can expect and what kind not. But our capacity to predict will be confined to such general characteristics of the events to be expected and not include the capacity of predicting particular individual events. Friedrich August Von Hayek

As the Free Play Softball handicapper for ten years, social systems/human cybernetic theories provide me with critical perspectives, none of which impact my ability to obtain the ideal of handicapping: a close game. Such perspectives are meta-related (second order in a cybernetic sense,) to the game at-hand. They allow me to not only be a participant/observer, but also to be informal analyst/ethnographer. Crucially, at least for my peace of mind, I can step back and consider the interplay of domains in the game but not of the game. Another consequence of how I view my role is: I make out line-ups knowing beforehand that any line-up possesses characteristics of some kinds,and, doesn’t possess characteristics of other kinds.

For example, line-ups do not possess the characteristic of embedding the eventual outcome of the game within their flux of estimations and generalizations.

They do reflect an on-the-spot generalization of a quick reconnaissance of performative variables. However, I know going into the exercise that the actual dynamic interplay of many player’s regression-to-the-Mean with the outlying performances of a handful of players is enough to falsify any hope for a close game, and realization of a game that objectifies actual parity. I make a very informed effort to design a close game and yet close games, decided by three or fewer runs, are comparatively rare.

(I have had occasion to point out to a few of the several players who monitor my handicapping track record that outlying negative performance of the better players and exceptional performances of the mediocre players tends to be more decisive than the mean performance of mediocre players.)

Other players theorize the line-ups. Player’s folk theorizing doesn’t bother me because I understand the double framework of the performative system: the Meta-system is focused by its norms and heuristics–a line-up is a heuristic–while the phenomenal system instantiates the precarity of performance. The latter system cannot ratify idealized estimations. Idealized estimations are heuristic; what players actually do to implement the five skills (hit, catch, throw, run, remember where they bat in the lineup,) is part of the phenomenal–enacted by experience–system.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Free Play Softball League for me, the inveterate researcher, is that I assume most players think meta-thoughts about the game and these in turn refer at least loosely to their cognition within their own contextualizing of their individual Free Play experience. I don’t know anybody else’s detailed specific system-making, but I do know how I contextualize the game. Players may regard the heuristics, regard their phenomenal experience of the game, and reflect upon and make connections between the two fields in completely different ways. There is something of the black box in this, but also, the line-up–which after all is a quasi-economic object too–is established to be the main totem of anticipation of outcome.

The line-up is a charismatic object, and along with this come, at times, a projection onto the handicapper which holds that in some direct way the result of the game is embedded by me (!) in the line-up. No, most times my estimations and generalizations, aimed to achieve parity, are falsified.

What allows me to put up with line-up related guff is my understanding something about the math of precarity in human systems.

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As A Kite (or Plane) Flies

Slices

“There is an ecology of bad ideas, just as there is an ecology of weeds, and it is characteristic of the system that basic error propagates itself.” -Gregory Bateson

Suggestion

Incarnate in a human body paradoxically aware of itself as a sign of the body–self-conscious as one body and will, thing represented and representation–the originary human person comes into being. I am a body, totally incarnate; but incarnation means that I must be ironically aware of my spirit and will as things separate from my body. Originary Human Personhood, Andrew Bartlett, Anthropoetics, v16.2

Humor

This [second] ++stage begins at the moment when the child receives from outside the example of codified rules, that is to say, some time between the ages of two and five. But though the child imitates this example, he continues to play either by himself without bothering to find play-fellows, or with others, but without trying to win, and therefore without attempting to unify the different ways of playing. In other words, children of this stage, even when they are playing together, play each one “on his own ” (everyone can win at once) and without regard for any codification of rules. This dual character, combining imitation of others with a purely individual use of the examples received, we have designated by the term Egocentrism. – Jean Piaget

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Teaching Cartoon: Secret of a Long Life

short life

In fact, it is only recently that most people survive long enough to encounter the unique maladies that “show up” in the territory of the long-lived.

Lomgevity

The Evolution of Human Longevity from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages: An Analysis Based on Skeletal Data
by Jesper L. Boldsen & Richard R. Paine

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Ideological Nonsense – a Coin of Willard’s Realm; and Recycling ‘Austrian’ Inanities

Romney Pure 1%

Culture Does Matter
By Mitt Romney
July 31, 2012 National Review

During my recent trip to Israel, I had suggested that the choices a society makes about its culture play a role in creating prosperity, and that the significant disparity between Israeli and Palestinian living standards was powerfully influenced by it. In some quarters, that comment became the subject of controversy.

But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.

The Founding Fathers wrote that we are endowed by our Creator with the freedom to pursue happiness. In the America they designed, we would have economic freedom, just as we would have political and religious freedom. Here, we would not be limited by the circumstance of birth nor directed by the supposedly informed hand of government. We would be free to pursue happiness as we wish. Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. It is the only principle that has ever created sustained prosperity. It is why our economy rose to rival those of the world’s leading powers — and has long since surpassed them all.

The linkage between freedom and economic development has a universal applicability. One only has to look at the contrast between East and West Germany, and between North and South Korea for the starkest demonstrations of the meaning of freedom and the absence of freedom.

Excerpt, and more than enough of a chunk to suppose a venue for further discussion: an introductory anthropology class. Hand this out and call it “fuel” for the final oral exam.

Class, discuss.

Romney’s sentimental clap trap-and his analysis is ludicrous from the perspective of how anthropology sorts out economic causality at the scale of societies–is obviously falsifiable even in its own silly terms.

Does he not get the fact that his homage here is fit to the context of his exemplar society stuck in the fourth year of an economic downturn, and stuck right now with both the worst increase in poverty, and, a widening gulf between the 99.9% and the super rich? Has Willard realized, currently, in the year of a presidential election, there is a bold attempt being made by a handful of billionaires to purchase a favorable election outcome?

But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture?

This is like stating: but what exactly accounts for home runs if not swinging the bat? So, Romney is begging the question. One question begged is, what accounts for prosperity in specific instances, and, also, what accounts for the lack of prosperity in other instances.

Willard's big ego


American economy is fueled by freedom.
I suppose Romney here is meaning to state that a factor or feature termed “freedom” is the principle ingredient of the American economy.

The idea is so under-determined in Romney’s editorial that I would need to know much more, such as what does he mean by freedom and what does he mean by fuel, and, I have little doubt that this would lead to needing to know what he means by economy.

But it would hardly matter because there really isn’t any way to rehabilitate his argument so that it matches up with the actualities that address the fundamental question, in a society, what features of the society are understood to account in some specifiable degree for the likelihood of a citizen of the society being prosperous, or not prosperous?

A person who inherits $100,000,000 earns an account, just as the person who loses their livelihood and home due to cancer, earns an account. The prosperous person in China, the world’s fastest growing economy, earns an account, and, the fifty-five year old unemployed engineer in the U.S. earns an account.

(The “macro” is constituted by the aggregate of micro outcomes. Generalities at the scale of society or nation are required to be applicable to all micro outcomes, (say) at the level of the household. Features and factors given by the macro context would be part of the structure of micro economic outcomes, and, crucially, are knowable particulars given in the structure of micro economic histories and outcomes.)

Willard Romney’s approach to helping us get to know who he is, is his willingness to pose two contradictory “take-aways” simultaneously: on one hand we are supposed to come to know that he is very smart and has tremendous capabilities, and, on the other hand, he speaks of or publishes his really “stupid-on-arrival” understandings about important subjects. For me, the latter undermines the former; granted, I’m biased too.

Romney's Taxes

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Hard Drives, History

Early hard drive

The very first production hard disk was the IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control), introduced on September 13, 1956. This beastie stored 5 million characters (approximately five megabytes, but a “character” in those days was only seven bits, not eight) on a whopping 50 disks, each 24 inches in diameter! Its areal density was about 2,000 bits per square inch; in comparison, today’s drives have areal densities measured in billions of bits per square inch. The data transfer rate of this first drive was an impressive 8,800 bytes per second. (source)

I just checked: 64GB SATA III MLC Internal Solid State Drive costs $95.00. Ha! I’m waiting for the cost to come down a bit.

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Teaching Cartoon: Dishes

Mr Natural Does the Dishes

Standing at the sink on the first evening of being the cabin owner’s guest, the owner stood next to me at the sink, observing the fruits of my having offered to do the dishes, and, after a few minutes, told me,

“That is not how we do dishes here.”

…a local norm.

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New Family

Sediba Hand

“Australopithecus sediba, a 1.98 million year old relative of humans, otherwise known as a hominin.” full article:The Verge of Human; Carl Zimmer. The Loom (blog) Discover Magazine

See also Science Magazine, September 9, 2011

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“I Talked My Way Into It”

Anthropologist-Nicholas Conard- Werner-Herzog

Anthropologist Nicholas Conard (left) and filmmaker Werner Herzog examine artifacts from the Chauvet caves in southern France

Werner Herzog’s new film, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, joins my favorite filmmaker to a subject that has fascinated me since I was a kid. Herzog, as he puts it, “talked his way into the Chauvet Cave” in France. With a three man crew and a lightweight 3D camera, the documentarian, shot his film about the beginning of human graphical artistry. Trailer at bottom of page for film on Herzog’s web site. For a Herzog film, significant buzz.

Interview at Scientific American
Podcast and article at NPR
Review by Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian.OK

Another documentary has just gone into very limited release, and I guess I’m going to have to be patient. An Ecology of the Mind is about the great systems thinker, anthropologist, and, multi-disciplinary investigator Gregory Bateson. He was, and his thinking is, second-to-none as a main source of my own outlook and ingredient for my own undisciplined poking around, and, research. His daughter Nora is the filmmaker…and it’s about time.

Nora and Gregory Bateson

From the same page where I purloined this photo is a review and the trailer.

The hardest saying in the Bible is that of St. Paul, addressing the Galatians: “God is not mocked,” and this saying applies to the relationship between man and his ecology. It is of no use to plead that a particular sin of pollution or exploitation was only a little one or that it was unintentional or that it was committed with the best intentions. Or that “If I didn’t, somebody else would have.” The processes of ecology are not mocked.

On the other hand, surely the mountain lion when he kills the deer is not acting to protect the grass from overgrazing.

In fact, the problem of how to transmit our ecological reasoning to those whom we wish to influence in what seems to us to be an ecologically “good” direction is itself an ecological problem. We are not outside the ecology for which we plan—we are always and inevitably a part of it.

Herein lies the charm and the terror of ecology—that the ideas of this science are irreversibly becoming a part of our own ecosocial system.

We live then in a world different from that of the mountain lion—he is neither bothered nor blessed by having ideas about ecology. We are.

I believe that these ideas are not evil and that our greatest (ecological) need is the propagation of these ideas as they develop—and as they are developed by the (ecological) process of their propagation.

If this estimate is correct, then the ecological ideas implicit in our plans are more important than the plans them-selves, and it would be foolish to sacrifice these ideas on the altar of pragmatism. It will not in the long run pay to “sell” the plans by superficial ad hominem arguments which will conceal or contradict the deeper insight.

The closing page from Bateson’s Steps to An Ecology of the Mind; my emphasis.

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The Untamed Monad in the Happy World

Scholem-Corbin-VirginiaStreet

extremely rare photo of Gershom Scholem & Henry Corbin loving time on Virginia Street, Lakewood, Ohio

But if the “root” and possibility of Declaration always goes back to the topology of Being itself, what fundamentally Declaration “sees” that authorizes its hazarding concrete steps toward the possibility field it originates and seeks to get underway, is in every case Being itself. The topological feature of Being that is relevant here, would be its propensity to take on appearances. …one can profess neither Thomism, Scotism, nor Augustinianism, and yet ‘valorize’ these theological universes positively, and, without taking up one’s abode in them, keep an abode for them in oneself…

The more perceptions and representations of the universe each monad integrates, the more it unfolds its own perfection and differs from every other. (Chuck Stein – Parimenides Project; Notes on some passages from Henry Corbin’s Avicenna and the Visionary Recital)

Sacrament of Heresy
The Sacrament of Heresy

The Village has set sail for the future, like all of unanchored America, set sail or set adrift, take your choice. A visit to the Village always provokes a crisis of nostalgia in those who have moved on but do not want the Village to move on. (Herbert Gold The Age of Happy Problems)

KW sends my way a deep feed. Miller hails from that great Wood shed of outsider genius. What Herbert Gold did for the outsider in the Wood with Birth of a Hero in 1951 Miller is doing now with Atrocity Parade. Michael A. Miller describes his work:

Atrocity Parade amplifies the sadistic trivia of day-to-day existence. It’s the hymnal and prayer book of society’s heretics. In its angst-riddled pages, post-goths, thrashing bohos, crumbly artqueens, liberal-arts grad students, and all other phyla of overly-ripe, choleric day-job hostages will find asylum.

Commentary. An iconoclastic notion of an active, and interactive urban anthropology could propose that the most determined modes of inquiry would both tease and dig out, first, the overt story, and, second, the covert story. Thirdly, in driving this inquiry beyond and beneath these promotional tales the goal, to borrow from Stein, would be to appear in the possibility field. So: the investigator arrives, body and soul, in the field where the possibilities, say–creative kinds, are unfolding in real time.

This is really to invoke anthropological inquiry as praxis, yet without carrying into the act of enjoining the field, any pretense of objectivity. Another way to put this is to suggest the observer is landed in the poetic Topos; is faced with the fleshy, pulsing, ‘outerward’ cast manifestation of the inner dealing. Asylum here is hideaway, shelter, and possesses both outer and inner wards.

To play with this forming projection would be to sit in a window seat, or on a public bench, or at the park’s picnic table, and intently watch the scurrying about of patients and personnel–as if sidewalk and street were hallway. Them you could ask, as Miller has done.

The, a, City’s deep creative life, in someway, always implicates a daring observer willing to participate. The Sacrament of Heresy seems to me to surface an inevitability, a necessary fluid–moist in the archetypal sense–turning of the conscious citizen.


hat tip to Ken Warren for the pointer to Herbert Gold. I sense with Gold a northcoast Lafcadio Hearn type.) I discovered, evidently, Gold is still alive and has turned or will turn eighty-seven this year. At the bottom of the brief Wikipedia article are links to recent writing on the web.

I love this:

“So I guess you haven’t read one of my actual texts.”

“Not personally. Like I explained, I’ve got a lot on my plate these days.”

That was okay with me; or at least okay enough while, like the gathering clouds of the thunderstorms of my Midwestern boyhood, rage accumulated in my vengeful heart—this is the typical inept poetic strophe of a confirmed author who doesn’t need precision anymore because he has already arrived in the marketplace. Bewitched, Bothered, Begoogled; November 2004; News From the Republic of Letters.

Gold is onto, here, one of the primary rationales for seeking stories in the hideaways.

The excerpt from Stein comes from an email Ken offered, January 5, 2006, about visionary knowledge platforms.

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Minding the Mind

My favorite (Gregory) Batesonian teaching story, reconfigured and originally via Idries Shah.

A frenchman is teaching another french rudimentary english.

“So, the word for froid crème glacée is ‘cold ice cream.’ “

“What’s the word for chaude crème glacée?”

“Oh, they have no need for it, so there’s no word for it.”

Although I have an acute memory, I can’t recall which friend of mine did me the favor of bringing the work of Gregory Bateson to my attention. It was a long time ago. (Maybe it was Chris Irion? Pilcher?) I dug into Bateson’s Mind and Nature thirty years ago, when it was published. In another sense, it only matters as a fuzzy starting point. It was definitely in 1996 that I returned to his opus in a re-doubled effort to make some further connections. This was due to meeting my mentor and squareONE partner Judith Buerkel in 1995. During this first meeting it turned out Bateson was our mutual touchstone. Bingo!

It was only then, after a more mature effort to really deal-in, that Bateson’s understanding came to deeply inform my outlook, and to comprise a large facet in my favorite lens. The interesting nexus for this was a weird insight evoked by my trying to make coherent the weaving together of three things, the Sufi teaching story, my new (at the time) fascination with others’ theorizing about experiential learning (this via Mezirow and Kolb,) and, my revisiting Bateson (via his last book, Where Angels Fear. Toward An Epistemology of the Sacred.) About this last visitation, the bookmark stuck a third of the way through the book–when I picked it up again–marked where I had left off nine years earlier.

Judith basically told me to woodshed! Ultimately, we grappled with how to underpin our applications–what was to become the tool kit for squareONE. We spend a lot of time discussing the practical import for our work of our different Batesonian outlooks. We both thought Bateson was an adept designer; (although this is a novel sense about Bateson, who overtly was an anthropologist, psychologist, philosopher, and naturalist.)

Anyway, my insight at the time, excitedly delivered at our weekly meeting at Arabica, was this: it was apparent to me that something like Batesonian metalogues were embedded, even secreted in the structural folds of many Middle Eastern teaching stories. Judith responded: “They’re folded in everything.”

I’ve been revisiting Bateson once again over the last month. This, however, comes long after I added my experience and understanding of his understanding, (well, some of it,) to be, basically, the fundamental facet of my favored lens. By which I mean: some synergy of dynamic ideas-in-interplay make up the essential background frame for my intentional observations. Funny how lens and frame come together!

I use a ‘reduced set’ roughly taken from Bateson. Perhaps it would better to say appropriated from Bateson. I’m not a Batesonian because I’m eclectic, disorganized, not masterly, and, an ol’ hippie. Yet, in another sense, I often turn the world around to experience its different sides using my idiosyncratic (sort of) Batesonian lens.

If I assert that I’m dedicated to being a student of my environment, then in the background of this claim is this lens. You should know this to know where I’m coming from. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

I’ve recently had reason to woodshed some more and revisit the work of Gregory Bateson. I was invited to participate in a seminar at the local grad school. Stephen Nachmanovitch, author of the terrific book Free Play, musician, and student, friend, colleague of Gregory Bateson, is to give a lecture on something to do with experiential learning and play.

Getting back to one of my main people has been fantastic. The Explorations Blog is going to go on a Bateson trip for a spell. Stay tuned. I’ll wrap with a review of resources I’ve discovered out in the shed.

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Young and Infinite

A long, long time ago, in a distant universe…

Sometime around about 200,000 it “all” drops away. The current recorded evidence for the powers of creative artifice–that of homo sapiens sapiens–shows the story of adaptation and innovation to reflect a process of accrual. I don’t tire of reminding people who assert different using (usually magical) developmental facts, that their dodgy form of psychology, theology, or philosophy, or what-have-you, makes no account of the bare facts on the ground several hundred thousand years ago.

For example, the most ancient evidence serves as a powerful empirical rejoinder to the any theory of intelligent design. Why would a designer build the highest form of sentient life to be so primitive? Moreover, where is any account to be found in any theism or traditionalism or foundationalism able to make an actual account? No, in fact every bright idea can be seen to arise, to be evoked as-it-were, from a point of aroused curiosity or pressurized necessity. But, then, as one tracks backward, each and every bright idea literally disappears.


(video:quicktime:takes 5 minutes to load)

Video: Stephen Calhoun, using photographs taken from the Hubble orbital observtaory.
Music: Kamelmauz


Lucy’s Species May Have Used Stone Tools 3.4 Million Years Ago

Evidence for the survival of the oldest terrestrial mantle reservoir

Study: 650-Million-Year-Old Sponges May Be World’s Oldest Animals

50,000 Years of Dreamtime

The settlement of Australia is a breakthrough in the “human story.” Very soon after anatomically modern humans began to replace (and to some extent assimilate) other lineages of our genus in Eurasia we pushed beyond the previous outer limits of the domains of humankind. The ancestors of Australian Aboriginals swept past the Wallace Line, and quickly settled the Ice Age continent of Sahul, consisting of Australia and Papua New Guinea. The biogeography of Australia is well known. Aside from bats and some endemic rodents the continent was free of placental mammals before modern humans arrived.

As for when these humans made landfall, there is some debate as to that particular issue. The oldest remains from Australia, Mungo Man, has been dated to anywhere between 70,000, and 30,000, years before the present. If we took the older date then Australia would have been settled almost immediately after the expansion of non-African modern humanity. If we accepted the younger date, then the settlement of Australia would have been concurrent with the final replacement of Neandertals by modern humans in Europe. The current consensus seems to be that Mungo Man dates to approximately 46,000 years before the present. As the first dating of a particular individual from a species in a region is liable to miss earlier individuals who were not fossilized it seems likely that Australia was settled by anatomically modern humans on the order of 46,000 years before the present, but somewhat earlier than that date. That would imply that Australia was populated by anatomically modern humans at least 10,000 years before Europe. One should probably not be too surprised by this. Out-of-Africa humans were probably initially tropically adapted so lateral migration would have been easier, but also, there were no hominin competitors in Australia.

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Mining Under the Common Ground

Separate truths
It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom [excerpt Boston.com April 25, 2010] Of course, those who claim that the world’s religions are different paths up the same mountain do not deny the undeniable fact that they differ in some particulars. Obviously, Christians do not go on pilgrimage to Mecca, and Muslims do not practice baptism. Religious paths do diverge in dogma, rites, and institutions. To claim that all religions are basically the same, therefore, is not to deny the differences between a Buddhist who believes in no god, a Jew who believes in one God, and a Hindu who believes in many gods. It is to deny that those differences matter, however. From this perspective, whether God has a body (yes, say Mormons; no, say Muslims) or whether human beings have souls (yes, say Hindus; no, say Buddhists) is of no account because, as Hindu teacher Swami Sivananda writes, “The fundamentals or essentials of all religions are the same. There is difference only in the nonessentials.”

This is a lovely sentiment but it is untrue, disrespectful, and dangerous.

The gods of Hinduism are not the same as the orishas of Yoruba religion or the immortals of Daoism. To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously the beliefs and practices of ordinary religious folk who for centuries have had no problem distinguishing the Nicene Creed of Christianity from the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism from the Shahadah of Islam. It is also to lose sight of the unique beauty of each of the world’s religions. Stephen Prothero is a religion professor at Boston University. This article is adapted from his new book, ”God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter.”

This essay of Professor Prothero is amazing in a bad way. My criticism is simple: there’s a substantial and subtle literature concerned with the claim he’s arguing against, yet none of it enters into his argument. This huge hole swallows the glib attack he issues in this essay, an attack careless in its presentation of categories and domains, and, an attack launched against more than a few straw men.

It’s as if Prothero feels he can fool the discerning reader. Normally I would dig some and see if the author is through-and-through a charlatan. Here my guess is that he isn’t, but not from anything found in his intentionally misdirected essay.

He writes here about very intriguing questions. In comparing religions with one another, in what ways does this show similarities? What are those similarities about? Should the evidence show that some, or all, religions overlap in particular ways, are there, then, valid generalizations to be inferred from the specifics of any overlap?

Furthermore, such an inquiry about common features is itself framed by a variety of disciplines, and each brings different interpretive and discipline-bound practices to bear on the question. Outside of this there is also a worthy literature brought forth by non-academic experts, and, as well, there is also a long history of this very inquiry. One aspect of this history is that it evolved from the point where specific religions come into contact with each other, and thus was evoked by the curiosity of some religious persons about the possibility of commonality. This comes about long before the frameworks of modern academic disciplines existed.

It is also obvious: there is a fundamental issue begged by any theism, no matter how particularized a theism is in practice or by a its founding assumptions. This is simple to articulate: if there is a God of “All” is not this God then a God of all spirituality, irrespective of whether a particular spirituality is granted primacy or is heretical? In other words, if God of this sort does in fact exist, this God would ultimately be the God of religionist, heretic, and atheist alike. From this, if this is true, one would expect commonalities.

There are four modern perspectives, among many, which frame different possibilities for important, maybe crucial, inquiries into commonality. One is the Analytic Psychology, given by Carl Jung. Here spirituality is viewed as a phenomena of introspective consciousness. From this, (largely) personal religious experience and development is the nexus for an inquiry into, as-it-were, possibly like-minded objectives of self-realization. There is in this, a prospect that human consciousness, as a matter of its psychological constitution, in specific keys lights upon objectives that are similar or identical, yet only does this in the precise domains where this phenomena may exist, and this is located within these precise domains in specific religious traditions.

Two is the integral perspective on human development, given its most detailed elaboration by Ken Wilber; (and Wilber’s elaboration following mostly from the thoughtful work of Jean Gebser.) Integral thought expands the nexus of inquiry along a spectrum of developmental lines. Similar to Analytic Psychology, it is encumbered by fundamental assumptions about the universal nature of human aspiration. Taken as an outlook, (and “in-look,”) the Integral perspective provides a loose framework for investigating procedures for self-realization–procedures embedded in particular instrumentalities found in different spiritual and religious practices.

Third is anthropology, a modern discipline geared toward differentiation of human phenomena. Commonalities would be rigorously qualified and vigorously contested as a matter of methodology, yet, the idea that commonalities could be universal would remain a worthwhile anthropological hypothesis. This is especially so if such a hypothesis is unfolded in the context of evolutionary anthropology. Here the framing starts from the idea that religions may be dramatically different, but that human nature is not also wholly different.

Fourth, and is the argument posed by Frithhof Schuon, and echoed by a specific ilk of traditionalists and (somewhat) outsider experts, such as Mercea Eliade, Joseph Campbell, Jacob Needleman, Rudolph Steiner, and others. Schuon described the over-arching aspect (and nexus for inquiry,) in the title of his book, The Transcendent Unity of Religion. I going to gloss the deep subtlety of Schuon’s argument and suggest his philosophical perspective basically holds this: where there is religion, there is also found a domain of aspirational practice where experience of the deep relationship between man and divine cosmos necessarily abides the idea that the cosmos is set up to evoke this relationship. It could be said the nexus of inquiry that necessarily follows from there being a God of All, is such–that a universality of religion in this aspirational domain is necessarily entailed by this primary assumption. Thus, given that there is a God of All and everything, we might expect to find similarities ordinated by God’s, if you will, “set up.”

(Schuon is superior to Karen Armstrong, with respect to being a source for beginning an inquiry at the abode of this nexus.)

***

Prothero doesn’t introduce any of these four vectors for inquiry into his didactic essay. For me, in not doing so, his argument is damaged out of the gate. If we break down the entire spectrum of human religious behavior, it could be incumbent upon an investigator to account for the behaviors oriented around the idea of the unity–in precise domains–of some/most/all religions.

But Prothero is mostly disingenuous in employing straw men and his attempt to wrangle an argument out of several category errors, the most grotesque of which is found in his silly statement, “To pretend that they are is to refuse to take seriously” (yada yada.) Since the point of finding similarity is to differentiate similarity from that which is dissimilar, there isn’t any ground to be gained by pretending that subtle arguments for similarity revolve around thinking different Gods (or theisms,) are said to be the same. This isn’t to say that there aren’t people who think this, its just that this is a definitive straw man.

(To the side of all this there is a contest of theisms. The ripe question for proponents of a distinctive theism within the context of the various Ambrahamic religions is simply enough, for example, ‘do you, as a Christian mystic pray to a different God than the God the Muslim prays to?’ In this the possibility of a negative answer holds another variation on the prime question about sameness and similarity. On the other hand, this is another way of wondering to what extent God owns a home team!)

The meta-inquiry is one concerned with a description, differentiation, and conceptualization of domains of human religious behavior and phenomena. This would work to tightly qualify the domains and then sort out apparent similarities. For me, anthropology, especially given the lens of an evolutionary framing, is the least inflicted by confirmation bias and tautological precepts. Still, Schuon and Dr. Jung opus, at a minimum, are worthwhile for their sophistication and depth, even if there is (for me) no slam dunk.

As it clearly appears when considering the fundamental question of the Divine Will as with other major instances of metaphysical exposition and spiritual expression, Schuon’s esoteric perspective can be best characterized as a science and discipline of objectivity that situates each reality at its own adequate ontological level and within its overarching metaphysical or cosmological context. In doctrinal as in methodical matters, Schuon’s thrust lies in a lucid perception of realities that considers both their metaphysical and archetypical meaning as well as the specificity of their plane of manifestation. Thus, in pure metaphysics, the esoterist avoids the pitfalls of confessional, anthropomorphic, and moralist expediency and sublimity by focusing on the dimensions, modes, and degrees of the theophanic unfolding of the Real. He does not confuse metaphysical realities with their partial or distorted contours as envisaged through human biases, nor does he project the limitations of human moral categories onto the Divine Order. At the same time, he perceives the roots of all spiritual, aesthetic, and moral phenomena in the Supreme, and he accounts for their meaning on the basis of the Divine, thereby describing the multileveled and multifaceted Unity of Being. In spiritual matters alike, esoterism reaches to the essential through the veil of superimpositions and accretions, while elucidating the partial legitimacy of mystical emphases, excesses, and subjective or collective detours. As such, esoterism is nothing less than the most direct and comprehensive language of the Self. jean-Baptiste Aymard-Patrick Laude, Frithof Schuon, life and Teaching; 2004 SUNY Press)

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Is Bubba Really Gone?

I’ve been feeling my way around vampires because the Jung-Fire group has also been doing so.

Whilst descriptions of vampires varied widely, certain traits now accepted as universal were created by the film industry. Where did vampires originate? Well, nearly every culture has its own undead cretures which feed off of the life essence of the living but ancient Persian pottery shards specifically depict creatures drinking blood from the living in what may be the earliest representations of vampires. In the 1100s English historians and chroniclers Walter Map and William of Newburgh recorded accounts of various undead fauna. By the 1700s, an era often known as the Age of Enlightenment, fear of vampires reached it’s apex following a spate of vampire attacks in East Prussia in 1721 and the Hapsburg Monarchy from 1725 to 1734. Government positions were created for vampire hunters to once-and-for-all rid man of this unholy scourge.

Even Enlightenment writer Voltaire wrote about the vampire plague in his Philosophical Dictionary, “These vampires were corpses, who went out of their graves at night to suck the blood of the living, either at their throats or stomachs, after which they returned to their cemeteries. The persons so sucked waned, grew pale, and fell into consumption; while the sucking corpses grew fat, got rosy, and enjoyed an excellent appetite. It was in Poland, Hungary, Silesia, Moravia, Austria, and Lorraine, that the dead made this good cheer.” Movie Myths 101 – Vampires (Amoeblog)

Vampires occupy a class of folkloric beings termed revenant. In this class are all the varieties of beings believed to have returned from being dead. (Ghosts are revenants.) Revenants, as mythologem, have ancient origins. Their genealogy, (given by anthropology and literary history,) is woven in the folklore of almost every culture.

***

I was moved to do a little digging, in the phenomenological moonlight.

The vampire is one of the representatives of a phenomena part-and-parcel with any ‘folk’ skepticism a person would have when is believed the soul persists beyond bodily death. In Christian terms, a revenant is a work-around. The piper is paid, yet the rules are different than the normative rules for succession into the next life. Revenants are outliers in relation to the normal redemptive scheme. It’s important to understand the revenant is not a formalization, is not part of the strict cast of characters. The revenant–as work-around–is a strain of necessary superstition, is in a sense an archaic adjunct in the folk scheme of life and death.

A vampire lives forever under particular conditions, but our human night is their day. This inversion suggests also an inversion of the christological mythologem.

Yet, this can go beyond a Christian antithesis. It is possible, maybe likely, that wonderment over the finality of death. goes back beyond paganism, penetrates beyond proto-religion, goes back even before the organization of a spirit world. And, maybe even is among the most primitive of all social-existential phenomena; expressing as it does the base quandry, “Is Bubba really dead?”

I take this up in this way to highlight the archaic of a (kind of) archetype. Buried in this quasi-archetype is a very primitive, primeval layer.

From this, I wonder about the brute opposition in these same primal terms: here today, gone tomorrow, yet gone where? I can imagine how mysterious both would be if we, with modest imagination, consider how death was dealt with intrapsychically, long before the mystery was organized and concretized by proto-pagan artifice.

This development would suppose the development of a chain of being as a response to the mystery of mortality. Moreover, this would be a response given by skepticism: ‘is Bubba gone-where did Bubba go?’ This is all prior to the conceptions of salvation, purgatorial penance, damnation. Also, in supposing that the dead could manifest a near semblance of ‘the living,’ or otherwise manifest a phantasmal form, the particulars of types of revenants fit in culturally distinct ways into Preternatural–worlds behind worlds–cosmic, vertical schemes.


Edvard Munch – Vampire

The pagan layer is persistent. Belief in the work-around of the revenant is inflected with the revenant’s mercurial nature, and this seems to be an important aspect of their alternative myth of resurrection. Vampires are worrisome, unpredictable, and, the vampire’s activities could be glossed as: bugging, tormenting, fooling, tricking, gaming, messing around with, the living. After all, vampire and ghost and spectral phantasm, are also kin.

The revenant provides a kind of gnawing reminder: the ‘vertical’ world itself isn’t in the thrall of the light-bearing beings, ‘the angels.’ Revenants are profane. They exemplify in different ways, negative models.

Archetype is darkened, manifest in human enactment of a particular feeling tone, in precise ways, from specific contexts. Vampire, in the imagination, is an archetype of evil, but only from specific perspectives. The Benedictine Calmet sharpened his axe in antipathy to revenant denizens in accordance with his Catholic perspective. Three centuries earlier, the infections of plague, came to be understood in terms committed to explain the spread of death to be a damnation. At that time, the idea was: the dead were able to cause havoc even though ‘they appeared dead.’ Again, in the context of communities dealing with vast contagion, this response is in accordance with the timely intrapsychic ground. The contagion’s agents of punishment were the ubiquitous dead.

Archaic prototypes may infuse attempts at explaining what had befallen the community. Calmet leaned on, railed against(!) the archaic precedent.

So, why the fascination with vampires today? I don’t know anything about the cultural details. I enjoy the tv serial, True Blood, but this isn’t because I get a charge from vampires. I can’t analyze the trend in any Jungian way because I’m not a proponent of Jung’s collective unconscious.

I do note several rough features of today’s, in effect, multi-media vampire. One, he or she is often a very energized erotic figure. Two, often vampires are sorted out into good vampires, bad vampires, and ‘tweener’ vampires. Taking True Blood as an example, it seems to offer ambiguous morality tales. These take place within a decidedly supernatural cosmos, but much of the primitive vampire is not appropriated.

However, the focal point of the ongoing narrative seems to be how living and undead refract one another’s light and dark. Supernatural conceits don’t matter. In this drama, human and vampire are much closer to being two sides of the same coin. There is then, in at least this example, a humanization of the vampire. This would stand against demonization. Humanity inflects profanity.

The contemporary vampire may even be–all too human. This vampire is often a libertine, with sex* subsuming blood lust. Sometimes, as is the case with Bill from True Blood, he is ambivalent, conflicted, a tweener vampire between worlds, yet not able to transcend the vampire rules. Here is the post-modern turn: vampire as loose, identity mashup, This vamp reflects the chancy play of cosmopolitan identity. And, he or she may be more at home in the intoxicating nights’ cape, than in the tightening days’ cape.

Short of any fascination with vampires, the most common way the idea is entertained is when people speak of having their energy glommed onto and sucked by vampire-like pests. In this what’s left of either the token of the irredeemably fallen or the magical explanation for contagion, is: energy-sapping neediness.

The mercurial-work around able to defeat bodily death and enlightened eternal being is a more subtle layer of the undead.

Dr. Jung wrotes in the chapter Paracelsus as a Spiritual Phenomenon, (in Alchemical Studies.)

Paracelsus, like many others, was unable to make use of Christian symbolism because the Christian formula inevitably suggested the Christian solution and would have conduced to the very thing that had to be avoided. It was nature and her particular “light” that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

(Jung earlier in the chapter speaks of the limits of the adept’s “daymind.”)

Archetype possesses the mechanics of refraction in the splitting of dominants and subordinate into further aspects. I’m going to recombine my rough intuitions and suggest the vampire is a subaltern figure–so the contemporary vampire imago stands “outside,” even when the currency of our day’s edgy, camp Vamp, is more the lip-sucking idol, is more sensitive, is more bourgeois. Remember, the contrast between primitive instrumentality and modern character is as stark as that between night and day.

As a practical matter, the attraction to the vampire at least seems to be a worthwhile anecdote to religious neuroticism; does not, as Jung put it, ‘conduce to the very thing that has to be avoided.’

It was nature and her particular NIGHT that had to be acknowledged and lived with in the face of an attitude that assiduously avoided them.

*Most psychoanalytic criticism related to vampires focuses on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Maurice Richardson, in “The Psychoanalysis of Ghost Stories,” says: “From a Freudian standpoint—and from no other does the story really make any sense—it is seen as a kind of incestuous, necrophilous, oral-anal-sadistic all-in wrestling match”. Phyllis A. Roth finds Bram Stoker’s neurotic fear of sex and women to be the clue to his novel’s popularity; it allows readers “to act out” their own “essentially threatening, even horrifying wishes,” based in the “lustful anticipation of an oral fusion with the mother”. Judith Weissman concurs: “The vampire, an ancient figure of horror in folk tales, undoubtedly represents in any story some kind of sexual terror . . .”. Others, like Christopher Craft and Andrew Schopp, regard vampire literature as a disguised opportunity, as Schopp says, “for acting out socially prohibited roles, and for reconfiguring desire”. p54:Vampire God. The Allure of the Undead in Western Culture, Mary Y. Hallab, SUNY Press 2009 Amazon

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Transformative Anthropology – More Grey Swans

C. Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like opportunity. They are rare, much rarer than you think. Remember that positive Black Swans have a necessary first step: you need to be exposed to them. Many people do not realize that they are getting a lucky break in life when they get it. If a big publisher (or a big art dealer or a movie executive or a hotshot banker or a big thinker) suggests an appointment, cancel anything you have planned: you may never see such a window open up again. I am sometimes shocked at how little people realize that these opportunities do not grow on trees. Collect as many free nonlottery tickets (those with open-ended payoffs) as you can, and, once they start paying off, do not discard them. Work hard, not in grunt work, but in chasing such opportunities and maximizing exposure to them. This makes living in big cities invaluable because you increase the odds of serendipitous encounters—you gain exposure to the envelope of serendipity. The idea of settling in a rural area on grounds that one has good communications “in the age of the Internet” tunnels out of such sources of positive uncertainty. Diplomats understand that very well: casual chance discussions at cocktail parties usually lead to big breakthroughs—not dry correspondence or telephone conver­ sations. Go to parties! If you’re a scientist, you will chance upon a remark that might spark new research. And if you are autistic, send your associates to these events. Nassim Nicholas Taleb – p208-209 – The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable

“They are rare, much rarer than you think.”

Hypothesis central to Transformative Anthropology (my term): people’s development with respect to their crucial relationships, work life, interests, and, location, much more often than not present necessary developmental events that are happenstance, serendipitous, random.

Such events, I term strategic serendipity.

They’re rare in the sense that a person may identify several key events in their life story. but, they’re common were it overwhelmingly true that almost all persons are advantaged by strategic serendipity.

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Burning Man


*

In the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico, the archaeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery have gained a remarkable insight into the origin of religion.

Universal Religion has been found in societies at every stage of development. Catholic Bishops as they filed into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 2008, and at a temple in South Korea, Buddhist monks paid homage to the Buddha.

During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. – The Evolution of the God Gene, Nicholas Wade, New York Times, Nov.18,2009

Of the several biases I’m happily locked into, this one is second to no other: as the one steps back through time and its human events and facts, eventually, each and every event and fact falls away. In effect, it “all” disappears.

The brightest ideas go poof! Religion? Poof!

I came to this bias when I—one day— realized that the sophist’s stock response to the foundationalist of any kind, was true. To whit:

What came before your first principle?

The downside to comprehending the slow stripping away of the accretion of all things human is having to expend effort to suppress my urge to remind any and every holder of a-historic and universalist and foundationalist and natural law fundamentalism that if you walk back far enough not even a single prototype for any of it exists.

(How far back? Probably 75,000 years is more than enough.)

“The replacement model of Christopher Stringer and Peter Andrews proposes that modern humans evolved from archaic humans 200,000-150,000 years ago only in Africa and then some of them migrated into the rest of the Old World replacing all of the Neandertals and other late archaic humans beginning around 60,000-40,000 years ago. If this interpretation of the fossil record is correct, all people today share a relatively modern African ancestry. All other lines of humans that had descended from Homo erectus presumably became extinct. From this view, the regional anatomical differences that we see among humans today are recent developments–evolving mostly in the last 40,000 years.” Evolution of Modern Humans – See also C.D.Kreger, Homo Sapiens

Questions about what early humans believed, are encumbered at such point when the mental functions having to do with the human organization of human experience can’t certainly be spoken of as including—what we understand to be—belief itself.

The general problem is knotty. Although it could be a concern of regular philosophy to consider what is the historical prototype for a specific attribution of mental function that is itself the prerequisite for an actual philosophical concept, in fact this lies almost entirely in the portfolio of philosophical anthropology, or, meta-anthropology. In other words, what was ‘belief’ before it was ‘belief’ is a practical question, is a question about human practice.

For very roughly 245,000 years, NO philosophers. However, it’s rather difficult to extract, using cultural forensics, cogent knowledge about both what was the epistemic repertoire of early humans, and, what were the milestones in the available (so-to-speak,) terms via which those same humans came to conceptualize this repertoire.

Still, it cannot be the case that one day, somebody said, in effect, “Oh, what we’re doing is religion!”

John Hart’s B.C. (and Wizard of Id,) are essential.

This is an ontological problem too. What exists as a description of human function, and when did it come into existence? When did religion-as-a-function fade to black?

Nicholas Wade, who authored the short news piece excerpted above, also wrote The Faith Instinct.

The Faith Instinct presents a novel approach to religion. It explores the evolutionary origins of religious behavior in early humans, and traces the cultural development of religion from its origins up until to the present day.

The book does not challenge the central belief of either atheists or people of faith, since it offers no opinion as to whether or not God exists. It’s about religious behavior and its value to the first human societies and their successors.

Based on evidence from anthropologists’ studies of religion, and new findings from genetics and archaeology, The Faith Instinct concludes that religious behavior was favored by natural selection because of the survival advantage it conferred on early human groups.

The religion of early peoples, who lived as hunters and gatherers, underwent a profound cultural transformation as the hunter gatherers formed the first settled societies. The form of religious observance shifted from all-night communal dances, to the spring and harvest festivals of early agricultural societies, to the forms of religion more familiar today. The Faith Instinct retraces the historical context in which Judaism, Christianity and Islam arose, and analyzes how religion has retained many of its ancient roles even in modern secular societies.

I haven’t read Wade’s book. I will; it’s on the short list. But, this description showcases the basic problem of employing modern conceptions retrospectively. We will not ever know what conceptions would have been contemporaneous with proto-religious behavior. It was case that the most primitive social organization elicited as a consequence of human ‘being’ came about prior to language, thus came about prior to the ability to name and articulate what was ‘coming about.’ In light of this, it is, I feel, an error to speak of gestural, danced, rhythmic expression as “religious observance.” Better: ecstatic communion?

It may turn out to be the case that evolutionary advantage accrues only to communal music, movement, and other communal behaviors, and, that religion may be an inessential overlay–kind of the evolutionary ‘psychological’ equivalent to epiphenomena.

But, all this is something more than proto-structures, something more, and enough upon which, to hang later behavioral (and adaptive,) artifactual acquisitions.


* Originally God Moved, collage S.Calhoun 11-2009

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Transformative Anthropology – Strategic Serendipity

After a little “mind wringing” I’ve decided to refashion the coinage, Chance Strategic Contingency, into:

STRATEGIC SERENDIPITY.

My thinking about terminology, having passed through the former term, has come, next, through the keep it simple stupid phase, and arrived at Strategic Serendipity.

Strategic Serendipity: in the context of individual human development, a chance event that comes to completely alter the course of a person’s development. Among the many kinds of change such an event impacts, the common kinds result in changes in: key relationships; career; location; interests.

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The Bottom Petal


Claude Lévi-Strauss at Machado in Brazil.

While purging my active RSS opml, I noted a feed from the Mind & Culture blog (@Mind&Culture.Net.) “This is a blog for students who are taking the course in Mind and Culture at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, in the University of Oxford.” From there, it’s a skip via the link roll to Cognition & Culture Net. On the blog there is a memory of Claude Lévi-Strauss by Scott Atran. Lévi-Strauss passed away October 30, a month short of birthday 101. The brief memory is diamond-like. Read the whole piece.

In 1974, when I was a graduate student in anthropology at Columbia University, I wanted to organize a discussion of universals with people whose ideas I wished to know more about than I thought I could get from their writings. At the time, I was working for Margaret Mead as one of her assistants at the American Museum of Natural History, so I asked her how I might go about getting my wish. She said “talk to these people and see if they’ll meet.” So I went to see Noam Chomsky in Cambridge, Jean Piaget in Geneva, and Jacques Monod in Paris, and they agreed; but I wondered if Levi-Strauss would because he seemed so aloof . Margaret licked her lips and laughed: “Well, that’s his look, aloof and frail, but he’s more playful than he lets on and he’ll outlive me by thirty years if a day. Just tell him I sent you.” Scott Atran: A memory of Lévi-Strauss (Cognition & Culture Net)

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