Here are some issues extracted from a conversation embedded in the previous letters:
Greg in red and Adam in white:
On Deleuze’s concept of the body without organs:
“Bodies without organs, without emotions, without desires, without any reactive and potentially disturbing physical buttons others might push, and, most especially, without any plausible reason to live. No? “
It is a positive concept in Deleuze precisely because it expresses the heightening of affective experience; he is referring to, quite contrary to your understanding, the far from equilibrium condition of systems, which increases their sensitivity to other stimuli once they move beyond their habitual triggers.
To get to that sensitivity one must undo all habitual response. One can debate the limitations of this metaphor all you want, but it is commonly used for a reason. The proper meaning is difficult to explain without a lot more science or deeper esotericism. Obviously there are limits and levels of deconditioning. It is common to think that without our habitual responses we would have no personality. But the main idea in mysticism, despite what a few ascetic schools in the East lead people to believe, is the expansion of the personality to a greater range of expression.
This is explicitly modeled and emphasized in the Western occult tradition, as Gurdjieff has popularized with the Enneagram. Most people are prevented from accessing their full range of emotion and expression by their attachment to a false persona. It is just a more advanced extrapolation of basic psychology.
“…what are your methods of testing? How do you test your “personal meanings”? What kind of tests? “
It is all in the intent to see what kinds of experiences, both inner and outer each idea creates. Spiritual science is about taking that attitude towards testing and making it personal. Rather than testing each “belief” against consensus expert opinion, we make it a non stop test of every thought in every situation, always listening to the feedback the world and others are giving all the time, but most importantly learning to listen in the right way, with the whole body as an instrument.
I entertain things that are far out and inspiring but don’t conform to much testing protocols of the normal kind . Again, I don’t hold them as beliefs. They are just a repertoire of models for structuring experience. The far out stuff is more for structuring the experience that arise in deep concentration.. Much of Theosophy is a map for deciphering feeling/intuition in meditation. The map is of value not as an accurate representation but a rough outline to find your way as the world of feelings opens out from the handful of emotions we settled into as adults into the wider universe of infinite time and possibility. Without a map, it is easy to get lost or possessed.
“What I’m suggesting is that your philosophical “position” appears to lead to some version of tribalism. As when you say that you do not want to convince anyone of anything via words. If everyone thinks as you do, then there is no basis for community by way of words or reasons. That leaves blood or race relation, random circumstance, shared necessity, or force (oppression) as prime candidates for the foundation of community, i.e., tribalism. “
This whole dialog I have been talking about coherence and connections between differences. Not just nice pleasant differences but incompatible differences. That is why these distinctions are crucial. Persuasion doesn’t cut it when the goal is maintaining the potency that comes from polarity. It is the key idea in tantra and Deleuze’s empiricism. In fact he makes fun of debate and downplays philosophy as conversation.
Here he uses strong language to not only distance himself from normal debate and dialectic but clearly renounce the interpretation you are confusing my words with:
“There are certainly many dangers in invoking pure differences which have become independent of the negative and liberated from the identical. The greatest danger is that of lapsing into the representations of a beautiful soul: there are only reconcilable and federative differences, far removed from bloody struggles. The beautiful soul says: we are different, but not opposed… . The notion of a problem, which we see linked to that of difference, also seems to nurture the sentiments of the beautiful soul: only problems and questions matter …. Nevertheless, we believe that when these problems attain their proper degree of positivity, and when difference becomes the object of a corresponding affirmation, they release a power of aggression and selection which destroys the beautiful soul by depriving it of its very identity and breaking its good will. The problematic and the differential determine struggles or destructions in relation to which those of the negative are only appearances, and the wishes of the beautiful soul are so many mystifications trapped in appearances. The simulacrum is not just a copy, but that which overturns all copies by also overturning the models: every thought becomes an aggression.” (my emphasis)
If you still don’t understand how my will to power makes sense with my critique of persuasion, then ask me. I mean, what am I doing in this dialog if not trying to persuade you according to your broad definition? I made an issue of that word partly because it is part of understanding why enlightenment goes so wrong without a critique of power. My point is to underscore different motivations and tactics for the exercise of will and power, not dismiss them. I equate persuasion with a tactic in magic where the person is brought under the spell of a belief but does not actually understand the ideas it involves. I think Socrates does too.
One can talk about the value of the Sophist position and the extremes of Platonism’s rejection of the passions in grasping truth, but please don’t equate what was, I thought, an obvious rhetorical experiment, into some kind of reactionary libertarianism. Though I admit I probably have more patience for things like Nationalism for some of the reasons we misunderstand each other. In any case, I think nuance is called for, not nazi references. Personally, I like talking to people that disagree with me that are open to dialog and trying to understand differences, not just arguing a point they have decided on. I appreciate that you are trying to understand me for the most part. For my part, I tend to always appreciate your perspectives and try to see what their truth is.
“This (previous letter reference to building connections not negating falsehood) sounds like Wilber’s schtick! And Wilber likely got it from Aurobindo. But critique! Wilber does not like that. That counts as progress by negation. But I’m still a fan of critique because it’s likely true that every possible metaphysical slant on life and living has already been expressed in one tome or another—leaving very little room for originality. That just leaves critique. So I call myself a critic! “
You misunderstand. Wilber doesn’t like people critiquing him because he is a child, but he thinks of himself as a critic and says so proudly. He negates plenty, just as everyone does. He just thinks he can say his negations are only partial and universal because he tries to fit people into his system by partially preserving them. This is pretty standard dialectic thinking that negates and then negates the negation.
Transcend and include as Wilber loves saying. Stolen right from Hegel. At least Hegel saw the contradictions and conceived of development as a process of explication that is always in motion. Wilber just sees everything in one way. Each level just stacks on the preferred form of the previous level without any critical changes. I agree he is not critical enough.
Aurobindo on the other hand, in true tantric style, follows all lines (by all I mean a lot of lines; it makes him very verbose) of reasoning and shows how they go wrong and then he explains thing from his integral point of view. He doesn’t try to preserve them in some peaceful way, like they all have a piece of some preformed truth. He shows why they are wrong and shows a better way through the problem.
Deleuze does something similar. He just makes a point of reframing negation as a problem itself, formalizing the shift in the construction of the negative from dialectic to its alternative that Nietzsche and Aurobindo gesture towards in their respective visions of the superman. The point is not to negate something for being simply untrue (normal discrete logic), or true but partial (Wilber’s excuse to take what he likes from others without having think through all the implications and contradictions), but to show how it doesn’t properly understand the problem in the first place. This is Deleuze’s schtick and it inspires me as well: to reframe everything so that the important problems are seen more clearly. As for critique… Everybody’s a critic.
(in reference to literal being just an agreement):
“The problematic part comes when we realize that when we have made the abstract and the vague concrete and literal, most of the time we have no idea what we have actually agreed on. But these “agreements” stand like concrete anyway. Think Christianity—transubstantiation, immaculate conception, the trinity, “son” of God, etc—who the heck knows what any of that stuff means? “
They may mean nothing to you, but how do you know they meant nothing to anyone else? I admit most people these days are far from the world where these things were meaningful. But all meaning is interrelational; all definitions are circular. Literal is just one end of the metaphorical spectrum where meaning is rooted in definitions.
To Aquinas literal was a reference to the things a word signifies even if those things are not self evident or completely debateable. He distinguishes literal meaning which from spiritual meaning, which is what those things literally signified, in turn signify. So it is all metaphor, but the metaphor works by way of a literal meaning into a spiritual meaning. We think of words as being grounded in literal meanings that by way of those can point to more complex relationships, often a “spiritual” or “metaphysical” meaning that as to do with the way things “really” are. It’s the same process.
As Barfield concludes from his study of Medieval linguistic history however, the average Medieval person experienced physical reality in a way that was more conscious than us of “concrete” things as representations themselves which point to a metaphysical reality, whereas we often confuse our definitions as being grounded in concrete physical facts. It is this nominalism that then lead to an idealism that doubts any access to the things signified, as if those things were ever some kind of singular non relational object.
Hegel tried to get us back on track. Unlike all this nominalist confusion, he realized abstractions and ambiguities are clarified through process and relation. Dismissing metaphysics only enslaves one to unexamined abstractions. He may have overvalued that process as leading to an objective level of concreteness. For there is always more levels to explore and ways to unpack the implications of our ideas and their world.
(and in response to my use of the word “immortal truth in the last letter):
“Immortal truth”?? Wouldn’t such a thing be an “IMMORAL truth”? Do not time and change lie at the heart of being? Laws, truths are possibly “mere habits” as you suggest. In which case wouldn’t even truth need to change in order not to generate a death beyond death itself?—Creating a cold freeze in which no movement takes place? And consequently life-negating? Being negating? What could be more immoral than that? —my thought on all things “immortal.”
I used that rather extreme phrase on purpose to balance the rest of the point in order to give a feel for the paradox. I don’t think your terms signify the paradox I am referring to. Hardly anyone gets the idea nowadays because our language isn’t built for reciprocal relation, especially the reciprocal essence of all change, which is a ratio of the fixed to the moving, time to space.
The opening line of the Tao Te Ching is a good example. One can translate it as “The way that can be told is not the eternal way”. Or less commonly and more interestingly as “The way can be told. There is no eternal way.” In either case the timeless wisdom seems very abstract and vague to us, which is why I like Deleuze who makes these things more explicit. His central concept is multiplicity, a concrete universal, to be carefully distinguished from the timeless “perennial truths” of the New Age, which are abstract universals… or the cliched linear change of most liberal thinkers, which define their affirmation of progress against the conservative element their measure depends on and which they so often waste their time arguing with.
Though concrete universal is rather jargony. The Seth books make the same idea very simple and clear of jargon without losing much profundity, especially in the more technical “Unknown Reality”. To attempt a short explanation at the risk of further misunderstandings I will say it like this: change presupposes a background of simultaneity. There is no universal time, only relative times with similar reference frames. Everything that ever happens is accessible with the proper precursors but one always approaches it within a different horizon. There are rhythms to the way things can revisit similar themes and reanimate formerly backgrounded constructs.
Everything is immortal, everything changes; changes presuppose something that stays the same through change. Sameness cannot be recognized without change, without difference. So laws are a bad metaphor. Truth is alive, it is a being and it is immortal. It is always being revised but it is not just a mechanical or arbitrarily changing habit. It conserves its relations even as they are redistributed and creatively redeployed in new contexts. Nothing is lost. Things are pruned and forgotten in order to make room for the new but they return in new forms and are rediscovered in new ways, new lives, new universes, anything we can imagine.