(in conversation with Peter Wilberg)
Peter: the term ‘hyperagentism’ or ‘hyperagencyism’ is an excellent one in deconstructing crude conspirary theorising – like the search for the ultimate spider of ‘agent’ of evil at the centre of David Icke’s nefarious ‘web’. On the other hand, perhaps the term has a truth value of a different sort too, particularly in relation to what is called ‘the ego’ as understood by Seth, i.e. that part of the self that does indeed believes it can initiate action without itself being a part of Action, and as if from some Archimedean point apart from it. In this sense, hyperagency ‘creates’ its own reality as a self-actualising hypertrophy of the ego’s delusional sense of agency on the part of the well known ‘super-egos’ that Icke vents his ire on. And the Zeitgeisst or World Spirit does seem to seek and act through its own historic superegos. I remain intrigued here also by the parallel paradox of what I call Subjectivity without a Subject – being that alone which can count as a Supreme Subject or ‘God’ in the traditional sense. A conjunction of monism with monotheism?
When you say “hyper-agency, I assume you are referring to my use of it in the phrase “hyper-agency detection”, which I have seen used to critique conspiracy culture, where they imply these people are seeing agency where none exists. I alter this by asking: where does agency exist? Indeed conspircists wield the concept of agency in melodramatic fashion. But so do most people. What is the alternative? You are right to link this question with your attempts at transcending phenomenology and ego subjectivity. My work has been influenced greatly by Gregory Desilet who uses Derrida’s postructural concepts to critique the melodramatic framing of media narratives. Melodrama thrives off of naive concepts of agency.
Derrida launched the poststructural movement by critiquing the opposition between phenomenology and structuralism that was running through French thought in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Structuralists had critiqued phenomenology for positing an origin to experience without taking into account the structure that transcends experience, but Derrida pointed out that that structure also had an origin and a history, not a transcendent one outside experience, but neither is it a completely present and simple one given to immediate experience. Postructural thought I tend to summarize in a similar way, just by saying that all origins are complex and distributed.
I think Seth discusses all of this as much as he can with the simple terms he was using when discussing origins and our notion of time.
What is important when discussing agency is not so much overcoming the problems of paranoia, where people attribute agency to mere structural forces. Rather we should understand this point about complex origins. “Force” is a concept just as much capable of melodramatic scapegoating as “agent”. Both concepts are helpful in themselves, and Aurobindo made the occultist view explicit when he said that every “force” is simultaneously a “being”, that the personal and impersonal are two sides of reality that he connects with different strains of spiritual thought. But he created the concept of supermind to deal with the fact that traditional thought did not have a good way of talking about complex origins.
In any case, as Seth points out, everything is a being/consciousness, and all have freedom/agency, but that agency operates within a complex web of relations with no absolute origin or final catalog of effects. It is not so much a question of determining who or what has agency in any absolute sense, but rather creatively contextualizing every situation as to illuminate the best possibilities for the agency of all.
Yes, “hyper-agency detection”. Knew I had got your phrase wrong. The question relates also to who is the ‘you’ in Seth’s YCYOR – a question that has been there for Andrew and I right from the start and since Mike introduced us to Seth in the mid 70′. My approach to it, however, far from seeking to “transcend” phenemonology has been and remains consistently phenomenological in my own view, i.e. takes as its starting point the lived experience of ego agency and not ‘only’ the concept of it, or abstract hyper-conceptual critiques of that concept….
My starting point is the human being’s everyday experience of agency, choice, decision-taking etc. If phenomenoligically explored, this experience, though valid in its own right, does not actually confirm the existence of a doer of ‘our’ deeds, a chooser of our choices or a maker of our decisions. In a nutshell, we are conduits of action and not causal agents of it. Instead all that we experience as ‘our’ actions, choices, decisions, deeds or “will impulses” (Steiner) take shape and arise from and within fields or awareness, interrelatedness and probability. Rupert Spira’s simple example of the “Tea or coffee?” question already begins to deconsruct the everyday experience and understanding of free will, choice and agency ets. since the answer ‘pops up’ in the individual’s awareness – albeit from out of a lesser or greater degree of bodily feeling awareness and resonance of feeling awareness of their own desires – but not, if asked further, ‘Who or what just chose?’, with an accompanying awareness of a pre-givsn ‘chooser’ who chose between the choices of tea or coffee. The example appears trivial. But phenemologically I believe it applies to the deepest life decisions and will impulses, which likewise take shape and emerge, with greater or less awareness of doing so, from out of a trans-agential field of contextual awareness and interrelateness.
For Gendlin, “bodily felt sense” was itself an immediate bodily awareness of context. Castaneda too: “The body IS an awareness. But my phenomenology of choice, free will etc. is also rooted a fundamental distinction between the experiencING self, which I understand as nothing more or less than awareness as such, and and every or any experiencED self. To me the very experience of agency itself, however real or strongly motivated, always belongs, paradoxically to a (passively) experienced self, and not to any active or agential self or ego. As I say, in a nutshell we are conduits and embodiments of action, and its enactors, but not its agents. Freedom of choice, will etc.are therefore fundamentally a feature of our openeness to the absolutely free fields of awareness that are its source, and in Seth’s terms also (see ‘The Seth Material’) to the ‘three dilemmas’ by which he articulates a dialectics of Action and Identity. Identity is itself constituted by self-resonant and self-reinforcing patterns of action with inertial properties of change resistance to Action.
Beliefs, as patterns of thought, can and do play a strong role in shaping both Action, Identity and Experience. This, however, points to another flaw in conspiratorialism – the failure to see that the ‘hyper-agents’ are as much prisoners in the grip and enframing power of their own belief systems and their shaping affect on action as anyone else. Hence also the seemingly undiscerned and unexplicated difference in Seth and among Seth fans between the claim that ‘You’ create your own reality and a claim that Beliefs as such create(and self-validate) both our experienced reality AND any experienced identities, selves or ‘I’s’ themselves. Philosophy 101 for YCROR fanatics. Discuss the difference between the claim that ‘You’ create your own and the claim that Beliefs do – indeed in some ways constitute any experenced self, identity or ‘You’!!! Action as condensed and enacted awareness. Finally, it is interesting that in Seth’s saga of the Agony of All That Is, All That Is found release from all the potentials he was aware of in his dreams by letting go of them into their own free and autonomous actualisation, and not by a willful attempt to actualise them. And in Heidegger, any experience of authentic resolve and action comes, paradixically from the capacity for reserve or holding it back – from a letting go of the will to will. Desire itself, experienced intensely enough, brings forth the awareness and insight necessary for it to find expression in disciplined Action.
This is where Buddhism got it wrong I suspect – by seeking to discipline or transcend desire rather than by holding back will and action through a comportment of profound meditative patience and reserve. Put in other terms, as Heidegger did also, the instrumentalisation of thought for social change is a non-starter. The question is not what ‘we’ can ‘do’ with philosophy or thought but but what it itself can do with, to and for us:) Or in yet other terms, Buddhist both free and ‘right action’ is an natural and autonomous expresion of a ‘right awareness’ for which we can serve as conduits condensors and ‘enactors’. The crucial awareness:every act is essentially an act of identification – and thus one which, by its very nature, alters the very identity or ‘I’ of the actor. Yet another reason why there is no pre-given or self-same agent or cause of action.