Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Shadows of Totalization, Part IV

After my last post, I realized I may appear to be creating a symmetrically opposing position to Carl’s in his earliest posts. At that time Carl said, “Myth is totality,” and now I am saying something similar to, “rationality is totality.”

If we interpret the mythic as the irrational, and the irrational as a feature of the unconscious, while we also interpret the rational as a feature of the conscious, I am afraid our discussion will reduce to tedious and pointless questions about the conscious and unconscious such as, which is better? Which is more creative? Which provides access to reality? Which is more “effective”?

If our conversation did become polarized along the lines of these questions, no doubt it would soon enough become antagonistic—it would be based on an antagonism, the antagonism of conscious versus unconscious. But I don’t think either of us believes such an antagonism exists in reality—I know I do not. There is in fact fluidity, reciprocity, and interplay between conscious and unconscious…maybe even a “dialogue” of sorts. An eros. It is the eros I want to develop, not the antagonism.

I don’t want to crash heads, I want to go some place interesting.

However, because I do accept repression as a scientific fact, I in fact acknowledge some sort of antagonism between the conscious and the unconscious--some sort of suppressive function of the conscious over the unconscious and a subversive action of the unconscious on the conscious. These antagonisms—if such they be—greatly antedate emerging doctrines of rationality in the age of Reason or the age of Enlightenment, both very recent. Is there any particular reason to believe that rationality would sharpen the antagonism, make it deeper and more pronounced? Or, conversely, some way in which rationality could be used to harness the unconscious to reorient it to be a function of totalization? Any sense to the idea that rationality tilts to repression? Must it?


Blogger Christoffer said...

There is an interesting examination of myth and rationality in the book
"The Apotheosis of Captain Cook - European Mythmaking in the Pacific" by G. Obeysekere, a professor in Anthropology.

I used this work in central parts of my final BA project. Basically it re-tells the tale about Cook's landing on Hawaii in 1779, where he is supposedly mistaken for the native's God "Lono", or so goes the traditional telling. Thus the events that was central to the Enlightenments
selfunderstanding as historical, was in fact spinning a new Myth.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the native's mistake about Cook means that the Enlightenment's self understanding was in fact a spinning of a new myth.

I'm a close friend and associate of Captain Cook, having been born on the shores of a water body known as the Cook Inlet.


4:27 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Cook as Lono was really the european idea of the natives idea about himself. Nietzsche did not "kill" God, neither did his writings. God was long gone when Nietzsche wrote anti-krist. God died during the Enlightenment and man placed himself as the new center of the world.

From this world of mirrors and representations and ideas that represent other ideas, a sort of
singularity emerges in the meeting between Cook and the hawaiians.
The place that can "contain" european selfunderstanding, the idea of the other, and the idea of the other's idea of us etc. That place is the subject which is the same, the identical subject that is presupposed in the study of different cultures. In a sense the metaphysics of modern anthropology.

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much. That was,umm, ah, enlightening.


10:51 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

The pursuit of an image, idea, notion, or insight... (?) into eros, as opposed to antagonism, bridging or unifying or relating... (?) the unconscious and the conscious evokes in me a koan-like question.: What is love?

Phenomenologically, for me, love is an infinite-petaled flower in the heart of my true being, what and who I am above and beneith all maps and models and theories and images of self. Love is my true life unfolding--that which I seek which also I am, that which is moved and that which is moving ... and that which is also still.

The Western Enlightenment took a while to embrace the phenomenological, the experiencers "inwardness"..., poetry of this kind. Its metaphors are still not far from Descartes soul-less image of an infinite inwardness detached and removed utterly from an outward machine-world. Those metaphors are in many respects our prison, still. A butterfly caught and pinned to a board behind glass is not a butterfly. We know this, but we have a hard time imaging it. Which is fine. Really. Letting the image go we breathe. Our poetry will come alive.

1:06 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

How do I think which is not a grasping? Who frees a bird is a bird freed.
Who may lightly dancingly image and draw and paint? How does a map become a dance? How does a dancer use a map?

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't tell whether or not you will be able to copy and paste these adresses into your browser. Let me know.


4:17 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

A map does not become a dance by following a map.

Okay, so a map does not enliven your dancing by following a map-dance.

The image we're concerned here is not merely a moving image, it is the *inside* of a movement.

The inside of a movement in which inside and outside are both map and territory.

How to move? Stop sitting on our asses.

4:18 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

In a very fundamental sort of way we live inside a language-symbol-metaphor cosmos. We don't live there exclusively, but we largely live within a field of myth and metaphor: a sort of dream.

If I remember correctly, the word "cosmos" itself, etymologically, roots with (into) the concept of "the order of things".

To really be moved and really to move, to really be touched and to really touch, we have to be willing to pay homage to the "crack" which is "in everything" which "lets the light in" -- to paraphrase Leonard Cohen. That crack is everywhere, anywhere, anywhen. And any real movement, any enlivening movement, in thought and in action, is informed by the presence of this openning into an unmapped territory.

4:27 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Oh, the links work fine. Thanks.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments are fine, I guess, James. But what I would really be interested in knowing is how they pertain to the matter at hand in the post.

To briefly restate the major problem which I briefly outlined in the post: what if you don't want antagonism, therefore don't intend it, and at some underlying level (but where and how to place that underlying level seems to pose its own problem) do not believe in a physical or philosophical basis for antagonism (as in not finding a physical or philosophical basis for an antagonism between the unconscious and the conscious), and therefore don't think such an antagonism is real, and yet-- such antagonism exists, as manifested for example in repression.

The antagonism "shouldn't" be, but it is. We wish it wouldn't be, but it is. On specified planes of observation the antagonism isn't, but on others, it is. And, most importantly: the antagonism doesn't get healed through any application of rationality, or, seemingly, through application of any contrareity of rationality, "eros."


2:13 PM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

I am implacably opposed to all oppositions!

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Push the conflict underground and then paper it over with a discourse of the erotic.

I did make the terrible mistake of using the word "eros" in this little erstwhile ameliatory pseudo-gesture I posted.


7:12 PM  
Blogger Carl Sachs said...

These days my discourse is more erratic than erotic, but I still prefer dis course to dat course.

I think that the problem posed here Yusef, about what generates and maintains antagonism qua symptom is a good one.

One of the problems I've had with the ontology of difference is that it disallows any antagonism or contradiction at the ontological level, but then has trouble explaining the genesis and dynamics of antagonisms at the psychic or cultural levels.

Even if the antagonism is not "real" in some deep, ontological sense, it's still real qua symptom, and so as a feature of experience. Psychic and cultural experience is disclosed as sites of antagonisms -- us vs them, desire vs reason, left vs right, science vs religion, etc.

2:37 PM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

I've not yet made it clear, per Yusef's request, just how my previous comments here in this thread relate to the discussion at hand, and I promise to do so as soon as I am able to devote the necessary time to that task.

In the mean time, I want to dance round in a ring and suppose (the secret sits in the middle and knows). I think mandalas are a very helpful way to explore the relation of the unconscious to the conscious, etc. Who says that we have to have only antagonism or non-antagonism in these relations? Carl and Yusef can both be right, I think. What we want, I think, is a way to allow the full complexity of the territory in our mappings. Right?

The territory, our actual world, only infrequently offers up pure forms--e.g., water, stones, minerals... with no "impurities". The world is largely comprised of "messy" mixtures.

Many people conceive of the "unconscious" as strictly a repository of repressed psychic "contents", but it is also very probable that the "unconscious" is a beautiful angel, as well, and not just an ugly devil/shadow.
The best art, poetry, music... wells up from those depths. Maybe it even joins the conscious mind, sometimes, as a kiss (an eros)?

10:27 AM  
Blogger James River Martin said...

Why mandalas?

Mandalas are emblems or symbols for cosmic wholeness--fingers pointing at a moon. It's okay to put some attention on a pointing finger, but the moon is the point.

Mandalas are like maps or models, and can be used to map and model the relation of many pairs of oppositions or opposites.

The author of "The Tao of Symbols", in that long essay, draws out a theme: the center of the mandala is "silence". Linquistically, perhaps, "silence" is the universal solvent which allows langauge to function even though it is a brittle substance. This liquid dissolves
fixity, opens up space, allows for play.... Silence is the bindu of the mandala, he says. But silence, being silence, isn't just silence. Silence is music--an essential component, the canvas and the stone.

10:34 AM  

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