HomeUncategorizedCommunicating the Occult with Gregory Desilet:part2

Communicating the Occult with Gregory Desilet:part2

Gregory Desilet in red. Adam Pogioli in white:

As for “my” ideas about the occult, they are not really my ideas. It is a definition I derive from the work of Wittgenstein. And I think it has merit with regard to explaining why so many people (scientists in particular) are not persuaded by many accounts of occult phenomena or experiences. If these accounts are of phenomena observed or experienced by only one person, then they qualify as of the same order of events as dreams, hallucinations, and revelations, which are experienced by only one person.

If, for example, 10 people were on a camping trip together and woke up in the morning and discovered, through reports to each other, they had all had the same exact dream, then that would be an event transcending the Wittgenstein criteria for an occult experience. And it would be easier to investigate the significance of the dream in relation to this community of 10 people, for whom the dream is highly relevant because each of them experienced it on the same night. In this sense the dream event gains some community traction for the 10 involved because they have a shared experience to refer to. Now substitute for “dream” any other paranormal experience. In this respect, the Skinwalker Ranch phenomena become more socially interesting and researchable than reports of other such phenomena. The ranch itself becomes a replication center. 


Any paranormal event that is witnessed by more than one person has greater potential for arousing public interest because of its shared nature. What I am talking about here does not include “similar” experiences had by various people at different times. It must be the same event shared by more than one person at the same time. 


Similarly, if the event can be reproduced at will by anyone, then it gains even more social traction. As when someone creates fire by rubbing two sticks together and then shows someone else how to do the same thing. Such events then gain social currency. But if the event is of the nature of a dream experienced by one person and unreproducible for anyone else, then it has no strong social currency. Other people are very limited in what they can do with it for themselves because the dream has no phenomenal address to which they can refer. They must take the dreamer’s word for everything that occurred in the dream—and the dreamer may not have recalled the dream accurately or may have forgotten essential details in the dream. This is the sense in which dreams have no strong social currency. Aside from the dreamer, there is no way to verify or access its contents. And even the dreamer may be unreliable in doing this. 


This defines the problem of experiences had by only one person and accessible to only one person—and this is Wittgenstein’s problem with the occult, which he sometimes calls the “metaphysical.” Similarly, words like “spirit” and “soul” have no physical address but only a metaphysical address—insofar as each person must form his or her own understanding of what these terms mean independently of any shared physical address. Thus, their communal usefulness is limited and subject to wide variation (more so than terms for physical objects). When I say “spirit” or even “occult” I don’t have as clear an idea of what the word may mean or evoke for you as I do when I say “apple.” 


Wittgenstein’s point is that it is difficult to talk sensibly about things when we don’t have any clear idea what it is we are talking about or whether someone else can access the address I may be giving to particular “metaphysical” terms. 
Derrida’s point is that to the extent words may have accessible addresses at all, they nevertheless necessarily have MORE THAN ONE such address. And these double addresses can potentially change to new doublings with every passing moment in time and context. Thus, the meanings of words are always questionable and always debatable, but not, for that reason, indeterminate or incoherent or as you please. Derrida adds that this problem remains the case for words Wittgenstein would call “metaphysical” as well as for words for physical objects. Part of the reason for this is the metaphorical use of words. And Derrida essentially argues that the use of every word is essentially metaphorical. There is and can be no “literal” use of a word except insofar as the word “literal” is itself a metaphor. 


Thus, the study of language reveals the problem of the occult where the problem consists of a lack of shared determinate meanings (even though these meanings manifest the feature of duplexity). To the extent meanings cannot be reliably shared and replicated (even in their doublings), then to that extent such meanings remain in the realm of a cult, where everyone defers to the leadership of “the one” or “the elect” who know, because they have had some personal experience others are not privy to. In this sense, the occult leads to authoritarianism and facilitates charlatanism. Contrast this with what may be called “culture,” which has very broad social traction because it contains meanings (understandings) that can be demonstrably shared and replicated at will by anyone—such as rubbing two sticks together to make fire. 
The survival of human community depends much more on replication than on ritual, which is why what is called “science” now dominates what is called “religion.” 


While science creates predictability, that does not, as Derrida would remind us, mean that it creates knowledge. Just because we can predict an event does not necessarily mean that we have the correct theory for why that is the case. It only means that we have arrived at a theory that enables a certain level of prediction. Think here of the difference between Newton’s explanation of gravity and Einstein’s explanation. And Einstein would be the first to admit that his theory is not necessarily the “true” explanation of gravity. It’s simply an explanation that provides better predictability of certain subtle features of gravity than Newton’s theory. 


Nevertheless, he who can successfully demonstrate a track record of accurate predictions will have broader collective influence than he who does not. That is what I mean by social traction. That is also why science leads to what has been called “progress” whereas religion does not. Keeping in mind that this “progress” and its technology may very well lead to the destruction of the planet precisely because of its “success.” But this may be the case only because what humans can do far exceeds their maturity in control, much like children given guns to play with. Planet of the apes where humans are the true “apes.” Hope that isn’t the case, but that remains to be demonstrated!

I feel like maybe we are talking past each other, and this miscommunication may be a good example of the very slipperiness of abstract terminology you mention.  Then again, maybe it is a consequence of dialectic, of trying to separate out the real meaning from the false instead of finding value in the divergence.  Or maybe in reading you correctly and finding its value I can find my own.  I will try here to do both.  To recognize the truth you are expressing, and misread you a little to  express my own thought.  


To start with I do recognize that the democratization of knowledge which has been part of philosophy since Socrates and which really took off in Modern times with science is mostly a good thing.  But with it goes the reduction of culture to the lowest common denominator of mass culture and repetition which you seem to be saying is culture.  That really surprises me coming from someone who writes defending the cultural standards that tend to only come through education in reflexive academic discipline; though I do agree that simple repetition tends to play the biggest role, even in education, even when we try to teach creative thinking.  And there are good reasons why philosophy defined itself against the mystical and inspirational aspects of culture to make way for science.  Though I think in science and philosophy, as Deleuze and complexity theory exemplify them, we are seeing a return of the “analogos” as against the dominance of logos; which is part of a general desire in our times to integrate the digital and analog, the creative with the repeatable, the mysterious with the understandable, the wetware and the hardware. 


Deconstruction opens up a path to the analogos that we see in Deleuze which I don’t think Derrida fully takes because of a residual uncertainty and idealism.  I agree with Jason Rez Jorjani that given Derrida’s deconstruction of logocentrism, the philosophical tradition’s prioritization over mysticism is oddly characterized, given Derrida’s project.  He retains in its place a structure of hope and a kind of Theology.  In Derrida’s defense it seems like mostly the authoritative pronouncements of mystic intuition that he understandingly critiques, but he seems to still long for certainty.  You seem to go much further into criticizing metaphysics in a way suggestive of logical positivism. It seems to me that the bankruptcy of positivism led to the very return to theological language even in analytic theory.  


I am not a fan of the overuse of theological language, but I see it as exactly a vicious cycle inherent in idealism and nominalism, the dyadic discrete structure of what Deely, following Pierce, calls “the way of ideas”.  As Peirce points out, when you start with doubt as Modern philosophy did, the mysterious unknown is always part of the structure.  But, Pierce says, we really have no concept of the absolutely incognizable.  Rocco Gangle rightly connects Pierce, Spinoza and Deleuze with a semiotic logic that I would equate with the fractal.  Like a piece of a hologram, some language use gives a murky image of the greater network, but the path into meaning is always there in the relation.  Tying the relation to the concrete and repeatable is always the decadent phase of culture which can no longer grow the network and instead tries to fix its meaning.  The old guard doubles down and the dreamers look for pseudo transcendence. The dogmatic element returns in every era, as the mind reaches out towards the semiotic void and desperately tries to fill in the space, or recoils back to protect itself from the abyss.  But the abyss is always a failure of context, an oblique relation begging for broader praxis.


So you have said that all language is more or less metaphorical and metaphysics is more or less inevitable, so why the literalist attitude towards spirituality? Why connect the justifiable critique of dogma and authoritarianism—why reduce a critique of what is essentially the inability to tolerate contingency, ambiguity, metaphoricity, relativity, etc—to the desire to be more concrete and literal?  It may seem to make the common man in his natural literalism more appropriately dogmatic when his dogma is grounded in mundane facts that are seemingly mostly literal and concrete anyway.  But I think those conservative German critics of Modernity were right in seeing a great loss and decline in this movement, or as Spengler put it, as the very loss of culture into this repetition, which you identify with culture.  You open up so many issues and this is already a long though interesting dialog… so perhaps we will just have to read each other’s books when they come out.  Even so I feel “compelled” to go into this minefield a little further.  Your comments in red:


“Okay, I was just curious about the extent to which you find the information relating to the Nimitz event to be compelling and unusual given the number of Pentagon and Navy personnel who have been willing to talk about it and confirm the info in the video.”

I went ahead and watched a few episodes(see separate post on the Nimitz incident).  But first, this word “compelling” reminds me of a word you have used before in a similar way, “convincing”.  You used that word in your work somewhere for deciding a claim in terms of evidence in a persuasive context.  This kind of rhetorical framing, I remember thinking at the time, was an odd note within the deconstructive frame you were using that put it more in line with positivism than with poststructural, post “correspondence” theories of truth, but the rhetorical framing left the issue open.  Now it seems you followed up on that thread more fully.  I know you use both words as merely tentative evaluations, but they show a certain commitment to accepting meaning as unproblematically discrete.  Hence your concern with “belief”. 

Now I don’t nitpick words, I say “I believe…” sometimes, but the certainty/uncertainty divide is overemphasized to our detriment in Modernity and haunts some forms of postmodernity.  It has distorted quantum physics into idealism and it has negatively affected popular culture as well.  It bothers me to no end when hippies read Robert Anton Wilson and think we need a “maybe” logic and eliminate “is” from speech.  To me this is exactly the wrong interpretation of the whole thrust of the Romantic/Nietzchean/ hermeneutic/ postmodern assault on truth. We don’t want to relativize it into uncertainty, but make the truth of being creative and divergent, and known to be unavoidably so, as well as capable of kinds of isomorphic repetition and representation.  But in some sense, to be is precisely to differ, to be singular and not repeatable or a repetition of a model of the true and real.

“As for “my” ideas about the occult, they are not really my ideas. It is a definition I derive from the work of Wittgenstein. And I think it has merit with regard to explaining why so many people (scientists in particular) are not persuaded by many accounts of occult phenomena or experiences. If these accounts are of phenomena observed or experienced by only one person, then they qualify as of the same order of events as dreams, hallucinations, and revelations, which are experienced by only one person. If, for example, 10 people were on a camping trip together and woke up in the morning and discovered, through reports to each other, they had all had the same exact dream, then that would be an event transcending the Wittgenstein criteria for an occult experience. And it would be easier to investigate the significance of the dream in relation to this community of 10 people, for whom the dream is highly relevant because each of them experienced it on the same night. In this sense the dream event gains some community traction for the 10 involved because they have a shared experience to refer to. Now substitute for “dream” any other paranormal experience. In this respect, the Skinwalker Ranch phenomena become more socially interesting and researchable than reports of other such phenomena. The ranch itself becomes a replication center.” 


You are concerned with the verification of paranormal claims and you are conflating that with metaphysics and the occult—which are the very heart of culture, the “made up” part that then gets repeated.  Scientists don’t so much as dismiss religion, art and metaphysics to the extent they serve a useful human function; they just tend to not put them in the same category of truth.  But anyone aware of the role of metaphor in truth construction would not make such a trenchant distinction.  But even scientists aren’t concerned with verifying the truth of a poem; it either means something to us or it doesn’t.  Whereas that queen of occult arts, astrology, does make predictions that are increasingly accurate as the nascent science develops (in fields like financial astrology).  More predictions than almost all of mainstream social science.  So accordingly, is astrology real culture and music and art just somebody’s fantasies they make up to win attention? Artists… what a bunch of charlatans.  They make shit up and everyone parrots the patterns without looking into the actual truth value of the art.  Occult inspired art critics have actually attacked much modern and contemporary art on precisely these grounds, as Plato probably would.  They have a better ground than the idea that the occult has some essential meaninglessness that people can only parrot and real culture is authentic repetition.  


I know Wittgenstein liked poetry.  I half remember a book I read 15 years ago called Wittgenstein’s Poker where all the positivists would come over to talk about clarity and truth and he would just ignore them and read Tagore(one of my favorite poets too) loudly right over them.  Poets are more or less occultists focused on the higher centers.  The explicit occultist just tries to formalize the process of inspiration and builds tools to aid the development and stabilization of visionary/poetic awareness.  And of course many of the greatest poets were explicit occultists.  As one of the few academic philosophers openly into the occult, Peter Sloterdijk points out how in secular culture “inspiration” is the one mystical word that still gets a pass in the academy.  Is it the idea of formalizing inspiration that you and or Wittgenstein dislike?  Or is it just the tendency of the occult to claim metaphysical truth and court belief as opposed to the more explicitly metaphorical nature of poetry, metaphysical, inspired, or not?  Because again, most of that is due to the very rise of mass culture and the popularization of the occult that has come with the increasingly sense bound rationality of modern consciousness, and with it a whole shift in the meaning of the word “literal” as I wrote about in my essay on the virtual.


Was Wittgenstein cool with poetry even though it has ambiguous meaning because it is just a language game not attempting clear communication of a set meaning?  Is his famous quip about passing over mystery in silence, a sign of respect or dismissal of the mysterious? You seem to be suggesting culture be reduced to what can be verified as true.  Even Plato wouldn’t go that far; he just wanted the poets to speak the truth and not merely abuse rhetoric and art.  Deleuze’s point is that there is truth in the divergence from the model, in the simulacrum of art in its mode of internal difference from the model, so it shouldn’t be about deciding either/or, p or not p, but affirming, critiquing and exploring differences. 

But even with the paranormal, there is plenty of research and science on occult phenomenon.  The brain science stuff on meditation is mainstream.  The paranormal is harder to study because few people are at that level, but it is done frequently in Russian and Chinese science and a few labs here(Bill Tiller, Puthoff).  Most scientists don’t pay attention to it or dismiss it because it violates their worldview.  There are skeptics that come up with all kinds of excuses for the Nimitz incident for example, which to me are much more ridiculous than just admitting the obvious fact that there were advanced craft flying around that day that defy mainstream physics.  

“Any paranormal event that is witnessed by more than one person has greater potential for arousing public interest because of its shared nature. What I am talking about here does not include “similar” experiences had by various people at different times. It must be the same event shared by more than one person at the same time”. 


When it comes to verifying strange events this makes sense.  But very little of the occult is concerned with these kinds of events.  The ones studied in labs are the effects a meditator or master can have on measuring devices.  Even this is mostly a side show from what most occultists are concerned with: training people in the liberal and occult arts, not showing off to win believers which is what science does.  Technoscience is the black magic tradition in some sense.  It departed from the traditional occult stream to master matter and win over culture with predictions. 


“Similarly, if the event can be reproduced at will by anyone, then it gains even more social traction. As when someone creates fire by rubbing two sticks together and then shows someone else how to do the same thing. Such events then gain social currency. But if the event is of the nature of a dream experienced by one person and unreproducible for anyone else, then it has no strong social currency. Other people are very limited in what they can do with it for themselves because the dream has no phenomenal address to which they can refer. They must take the dreamer’s word for everything that occurred in the dream—and the dreamer may not have recalled the dream accurately or may have forgotten essential details in the dream. This is the sense in which dreams have no strong social currency. Aside from the dreamer, there is no way to verify or access its contents. And even the dreamer may be unreliable in doing this.” 


All true culture starts with the imagination.  Very little of it progresses far from it into any sort of claim on truth.  What gets traction is dreams that have meaning for people.  This tends to be repeated in a mechanical way and becomes popular culture, but true genius or creation can never be repeated in the same foundational way.  Even theoretical science I would characterize, as Einstein did, as being an imaginative production.  To the extent that it explains practical problems and mysteries we don’t understand, then it gains much traction.  It’s the same with all culture and dreams.  If a dream/visionary representation proves to be of value to others in making sense of or improving life, then it becomes our literature and art.


The big difference is not between authoritative nonsense and verifiable sense, both of which are a scientistic myth, but between varying levels of sense.  Dreams become knowledge when they make sense to people.  All knowledge is coherent imagination.  Nothing is ever verified or falsified, just coherent or incoherent within a certain context.  True knowledge illuminates, making everything a potential source of knowledge by rendering each thing precisely more than it appears.  This defines the problem of experiences had by only one person and accessible to only one person—and this is Wittgenstein’s problem with the occult, which he sometimes calls the “metaphysical.” Similarly, words like “spirit” and “soul” have no physical address but only a metaphysical address—insofar as each person must form his or her own understanding of what these terms mean independently of any shared physical address. Thus, their communal usefulness is limited and subject to wide variation (more so than terms for physical objects). When I say “spirit” or even “occult” I don’t have as clear an idea of what the word may mean or evoke for you as I do when I say “apple.” 


As well as most ideas and most of what we call culture and all that is good in life.  It is creative and relational, not a matter of fact to verified.  Words become more specific within communities where they have more established networks of meaning.  Here in Eugene Oregon we discuss the astrological weather as easily as the physical weather.  Across wide cultural divides even the most simple concrete nouns/concepts can lose their seeming absolute coherence.


“Wittgenstein’s point is that it is difficult to talk sensibly about things when we don’t have any clear idea what it is we are talking about or whether someone else can access the address I may be giving to particular “metaphysical” terms”.

Isn’t that just common sense? Complete tautology? If I don’t know what I am talking about or know whether you know what I am talking about then yeah, communication is going to be tough.  I mean the conclusion is in the premise here. But communicating a completely predetermined meaning is the least interesting part of life; it is the animal basis of language, and hardly qualifies under the meaning of the word “clarity”; maybe certainty, the doubt ridden search for which Pierce thinks is the blunder of Modern philosophy.  If clarity is defined as having to do with a physical address and communication is held as the only point of talking, we would be little more than animals.  Deely points out how Wittgenstein confuses language with communication.  In semiotics they use language as the word for the uniquely human mode which goes beyond communication into metaphysics/culture.  You made a similar point in “Cult of the Kill”, did you not? ( I haven’t read it in 10 years and I leant my copy to a friend): that Heidegger’s emphasis on communication over rhetoric was problematic and was it in your afterword to Macksound’s book that you discuss how we talk not just to communicate but to produce new information and relations?  I always loved that; it really changed my world.


Even Heidegger, however, has some great points about critiques over his intelligibility.  I do appreciate plain language thinkers like yourself as well and often find myself reading literary critique rather than real poetry, but I would never for that reason claim that a difficult poet is a bad writer.  In fact as Harold Bloom puts it, all bad poetry is sincere; I would add that all dumb culture can be reduced to a literal meaning.  Some philosophers are bad writers indeed, but mostly because they are trying to simply communicate and failing; with the more poetic ones, one can’t make the same accusation.  

“Derrida’s point is that to the extent words may have accessible addresses at all, they nevertheless necessarily have MORE THAN ONE such address. And these double addresses can potentially change to new doublings with every passing moment in time and context. Thus, the meanings of words are always questionable and always debatable, but not, for that reason, indeterminate or incoherent or as you please. Derrida adds that this problem remains the case for words Wittgenstein would call “metaphysical” as well as for words for physical objects. Part of the reason for this is the metaphorical use of words. And Derrida essentially argues that the use of every word is essentially metaphorical. There is and can be no “literal” use of a word except insofar as the word “literal” is itself a metaphor. “


I agree more or less.  But from here you backtrack from deconstruction into essentialism:


“Thus, the study of language reveals the problem of the occult where the problem consists of a lack of shared determinate meanings (even though these meanings manifest the feature of duplexity). To the extent meanings cannot be reliably shared and replicated (even in their doublings), then to that extent such meanings remain in the realm of a cult, where everyone defers to the leadership of “the one” or “the elect” who know, because they have had some personal experience others are not privy to. In this sense, the occult leads to authoritarianism and facilitates charlatanism.  Contrast this with what may be called “culture,” which has very broad social traction because it contains meanings (understandings) that can be demonstrably shared and replicated at will by anyone—such as rubbing two sticks together to make fire”.


Reliably shared meaning, you had just pointed out, is contingent and mediated.  Now a lack of exactly replicable meaning is essentially a cult?  One could perhaps characterize a dogmatic cult as a sustained or fixed asymmetry between amount of access to meaning between the creator and consumer of meanings.  But meaning asymmetry is the structure of all acts of communication and learning, which is “addressed” through the process of communication and learning.  Defining the occult as the epistemology of cults I think is very wrong, but even if that is your definition, then it does not follow that any asymmetry is a cult unless you say that the cult is part of the structure of every act, that is, that the metaphysical is essentially a cult, so every act of communication begins as metaphysical because of the meaning asymmetry, and may become physical, though how would you know for sure?  If you mean by cult that the asymmetry is central to the culture, than you are just talking about authoritarianism. If you mean perhaps the more specifically religious, the occult as authoritarian religious groups based on mystical experiences, maybe you mean that communication is false, that the people aren’t really experiencing what they think they are.  But how would you know?  How do we know people dragging themselves to the symphony, the opera or modern art museums aren’t just forcing an appreciation because of cultural authority?


The kinds of culture that fix the asymmetry are those with a pedagogy of mere repetition, exactly the opposite of the occult pedagogy from which the liberal arts education descended from—which is all about learning for one’s self.  You associate the occult with dogmatic religious priesthood but that is not the occult.  Rarely have occultists held worldly power.  Perhaps in prehistory.  Perhaps again. That was the dream of Hebrew occultists, the Grail cycle and Freemasonry.  In some sense they may have partially succeeded in America for a while but if there is any occultists in power now as conspiracy research suspects, they aren’t wielding power through belief in their authority, but through hiding their control(and making their stooges they control through blackmail take all the blame and credit for worldly power).


In any case, the occult is all about training people to have knowledge and knowledge that was always adapted to the language and symbolism of the people learning.  Whenever there was an “elect”, they held their knowledge in secret precisely because most people are only ready for repetition, and people would abuse it.  Those that do the work to any moderate degree have no interest in wielding it as priestly authority over people.  The occult was repressed first by the Church and then by Modern philosophy and Science and its priests who do claim to know, and demand authority, while denying the reality of anything other to it or anyone not initiated into their specialized language and knowledge “game”.

There have certainly been authoritarian cults throughout history but they gain traction and so often become the dominant mass culture precisely because they are imitations that lean more on mindless repetition as against the occult emphasis on inner gnosis.  It is precisely the shifts in emphasis from knowledge and ritual to belief and repetition in Catholicism, then especially Protestantism and then to secular work in Capitalism that made for a vast increase in effective authoritarianism .  Likewise the shift from disciplinary societies to our contemporary society, called “control” society by Foucault and Deleuze, allows further entrenchment of power through belief sanctifying repetition, this time not in just the proven truth of mechanized efficiency but now in the creative freedom of a cultural capitalism, where even the imagination has been colonized; our private interior spaces have been transformed into repeatable and consumable commodities, guaranteeing that any divergent meanings become the protocols of network control.  If a truly uncapturable truth emerges, it is “unreal” unless marketable.  Foucault saw the real conflict as between spirituality and theology, not spirituality and science, and consequently saw as unfortunate the replacement of the practices of spiritual training(occultism) with mere intellectual method. 


In short, the distinction you are using is putting the occult and metaphysics on one side of some essentialized and hierarchical opposition with science and culture that doesn’t hold up to deconstruction.  No one really likes authoritarianism, but the proof game and the freedom game have “proven” far more effective traps than Religious dogma, and dogma was just the early game that repressed true spirituality which is occult techne.  If instead of an essential type of thing called “occult” you instead talked of an historical thing “occultism” you would be on firmer ground. 

But even if the name refers to an essence of a singular historical process, this can cover up the true “essence” of something: that concrete universal aspect called a multiplicity, Deleuze’s replacement of essence; which points us towards something’s possible meanings and elborations.  The essence of the occult, the problem of metaphysics, is in that every process has a pole in the virtual, in the unseen, and the problematic.  Every thing is more than a thing, more than it appears.

“The survival of human community depends much more on replication than on ritual, which is why what is called “science” now dominates what is called “religion.”
While science creates predictability, that does not, as Derrida would remind us, mean that it creates knowledge. Just because we can predict an event does not necessarily mean that we have the correct theory for why that is the case. It only means that we have arrived at a theory that enables a certain level of prediction. Think here of the difference between Newton’s explanation of gravity and Einstein’s explanation. And Einstein would be the first to admit that his theory is not necessarily the “true” explanation of gravity. It’s simply an explanation that provides better predictability of certain subtle features of gravity than Newton’s theory. “


This view of truth as correspondence conflates repetition and conformity with some privileged objectivity, even if is qualified as “not knowledge”. This hedge is needed to hide the implicit appeal to authority.  If someone dazzles with predictions they are given a special essential position as concrete and verified, even if you hedge with partial constructivism.  This kind of debate played out between Lakatos and Feyerabend.  Feyerabend puts everything back on the same playing field.  Unlike their mentor Popper, they both agreed all theories are born partially falsified, but Lakatos tried to use contingent consensus to prop up scientific objectivity.  Feyerabend gets down into the way all ideas are forms of knowledge, not in the sense of correspondence as Derrida rightly critiques, but as concrete universals, as constructs that makes sense, either in regressive or radical ways—still, all sense is virtual, relational, metaphysical, not just doubled or multiplied, but essentially problematic and therefore more or less productive and ultimately irreducible to any actual reference or solution.

I would agree that objectivity denotes something intersubjective, but in semiotics an object is just an object of a sign, it doesn’t follow that that object is also a real thing, or “more likely” real, just because a certain number of people believe in it or claim to have experienced it, or can tie its existence to something repeatable or predictable.  Much of the important advances in science were theoretical with very little difference in prediction.  What better theories do is make more sense of phenomenon.  Often this takes the form of a cult around the new idea long before many people recognize the value enough to recognize its potential and invest in any “verification” beyond the more important task of making sense out of data already available (especially now that we are awash in data with little understanding).  It is always the consensus that prevents the progress of the cult to new paradigm.  Even if you hedge that this consensus is just fallible and provisional, as a standard it totally sides with the collective side of the opposition and we know how that goes. 

Though I don’t think, following Deleuze, that the issue of whether that “object” is a “real” thing or not should be the focus.  I am more interested in the value of the object.  I am interested in truth, but to me, following Feyerabend, I look for possible connections between truths and truth claims, to judge what is most valuable and most true in the sense of making the most sense out of a given phenomenon.     

   
“Nevertheless, he who can successfully demonstrate a track record of accurate predictions will have broader collective influence than he who does not. That is what I mean by social traction. That is also why science leads to what has been called “progress” whereas religion does not. Keeping in mind that this “progress” and its technology may very well lead to the destruction of the planet precisely because of its “success.” But this may be the case only because what humans can do far exceeds their maturity in control, much like children given guns to play with. Planet of the apes where humans are the true “apes.” Hope that isn’t the case, but that remains to be demonstrated!”


This isn’t abstract to me.  I am constantly debating nutritional and health research with my friends where we work giving health advice to people.  The stakes are high in my mind because so many people are getting sick and dying younger and they don’t know why, and the truth isn’t easy to see without a lot of context.  It takes an occult/metaphysical ability to “see” the hidden relationships signified by traces in the people and the research.  We need visionary/intuitive thinkers now more than ever to form more socially valuable consensus than the industry funded con we are getting.  Scientific consensus is no less a cult just because it is more popular and gives lip service to contingency. 


To sum up, there is nothing essentially different about the occult from any other cultural phenomenon.  One can have authoritative leaders in any cultural mode when people don’t take the leaders as inspiration but instead just repeat or recycle their productions.  Hell most universities are little more than machines of reproduction of old cultural forms.  Little is done to reproduce the creativity in a person that would allow them to become their own Beethoven or Shelley, let alone Einstein.  It is becoming worse every day.  Very little science is actually reproduced.  No one funds the repetition of a study.  “Progress” is made where people can be exploited.  Real progress happens in the margins with the thinkers and tinkerers who think the new but who are getting increasingly marginalized by scientism.  We won’t get another Einstein with these conditions.  We have had them and they are ignored.
So yes there are religious leaders that claim to have the sole truth but so are there science leaders that do the same.  The culture as a whole is becoming more pluralist and so both the religious leaders and scientists that have gotten the most traction lately have been less dogmatic.  Science has gotten the most traction however, not because of this humility, but because of the opposite, because the certainty that people look for in their authority, with science is being justified with an appeal to the few useful and fancy gadgets and whole lot of dangerous and otherwise useless crap technoscience has produced. 


There is a lot of good science out there too but it is producing models of systems, not anything with a concrete address.  The abstract models are precisely what makes sense out of the mass of useless data we have now.  The concrete technology of most science in medicine, biotech, chemistry and physics is garbage.  But they have run a successful marketing campaign, the thrust of which is the idea of “science” as some special mode that is true because some ideas that we also call “science” helped build a few things.  To me the most impressive technology came out of Newton the mystic and the genius developments of those abstract dreamers, the mathematicians whose development of differential equations opened up a world of engineering for humanity.  I marvel at our engineering, our bridges our architecture, our ability to blend art, science, and philosophy into building communities the way we imagine.  Progress is possible if we keep dreaming and investing in our dreamers.


I am sorry if we keep talking past each other, but this is interesting.  I feel there is a deep irony here I find fascinating.  I am tempted to think you are just messing with me! You introduced me to deconstruction which has motivated me to use it to help include marginalized discourse into philosophy.  And now you seem to tell me that it all deserves to be on the margins not because of contingent historical reasons, or even definitional relations (the occult as marginal phenomenon), but because it is a kind of thing that has an essential nature to be tainted with authoritarianism and charlatanism. But maybe you just mean to say that the occult is a kind of culture that is difficult to tell the real deal from the phonies and so maybe they are all just phonies.  There are certainly ambiguities judging greatness in art, but maybe it is a little different in that many people get into the occult not because of the ideas but because of some promise of power or transcendence.  But like in art, most of the people enamored with perceived greatness or projected power or fame fall into cults and never achieve it for themselves because they do not love what they practice, they only desire an end that is difficult to achieve without the right motivation.  The true artist and lover of wisdom just enjoys the journey and discovery.  The trick is always how to handle people looking for the answer or the method.  They tend to fall for the exploiters in every field and learn little even from a decent teacher.  But trust me, some of us practice the art and are not searching for anything but the unfoldment and clarification of what is inherent within.


Or maybe you are just making the simple point that people are easily dazzled, confused and exploited by rhetoric that has no need to prove itself.  Metaphysics is definitely meaningful to people for all kinds of reasons, some of them having more to do with belief and false hope than anything resembling understanding.  I would even agree that that is probably the majority of the cases nowadays and for most of history.  But I would argue that this will persist until people are willing to put the time in to think for themselves and see for themselves.  Proof and concrete reference are another con game.  The only way to not get fooled is to aufheben the doubt/hope game into the emotional independence of joyful and endless discovery.  That is the path of any true lover of wisdom, esoteric or not.  In any case, it has been interesting as usual even if we aren’t going to see eye to eye.  Thank you for your time.

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