Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Your Place in the Universe

When it comes to size, knowing your place in the universe is truly humbling. But when it comes to complexity, knowing your place in the universe as the most complex thing it has ever created (to the best of our knowledge), is anything but.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chakras and Spiral Dynamics

A potentially interesting way to think about Spiral Dynamics is by looking at the chakra system. The patterns map very well onto each other.

1. Root Chakra -- Beige Level (survival basics)
2. Sacral Chakra -- Purple Level (accepting others/tribal level)
3. Solar Plexus Chakra -- Red Level (confidence and control)
4. Heart Chakra -- Blue Level (Love and inner peace/authoritative)
5. Throat Chakra -- Orange Level (Communication/Science and entrepreneurship)
6. Third Eye Chakra -- Green Level (Big picture, intuition, imagination/egalitarian)
7. Crown Charka -- opening of Second Tier (Inner and outer beauty)

With the opening of the Second Tier, we return to the Root Chakra, opening it further, as Yellow is the "survival" level of the second tier and Turquoise is the "sense of abundance" level of the second tier.

 In Spiral Dynamics, one goes from individualistic (odd numbers) to communitarian (even numbers). The chakras alternate between masculine (odd numbers) to feminine (even numbers). Each needs to be balanced in a yin-yang paradoxical fashion.

I have little doubt that this is more than coincidence. Whether one believes in the kinds of energies associated with the chakra system, it is certainly not impossible that the chakra system was a kind of intuitive realization of the emergentist process psychosocial model of Spiral Dynamics. And if you do believe in the chakra system, this is a potentially powerful synthesis.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

More Wisdom About Wisdom from Frederick Turner's Book Epic

Turner, in Epic, again makes clear why I classify the arts, religion, and philosophy together in the wisdom tradition:
One good way of defining the purpose of epic is that it is to imbue wisdom. It is a wisdom that comes from an intuitive and symbolic knowledge of how we became human in the first place. [...]

It may seem that this definition of the purpose of epic begs the question, what is wisdom? The point here is that wisdom is what epic imbues. Our earliest conceptions of wisdom derive from narratives; it is no coincidence that Greek philosophers, Plato especially, referred to Homer when trying to explain some virtue of concept, that Vedic wisdom literature illustrates its ideas by means of the Mahabharata, and that Biblical wisdom theory emerges from the epic stories of Genesis and Exodus. It is a little beside the point to try to define the precise mixture of cognitive, moral, emotional, psychological, and experiential elements in wisdom, since those concepts themselves came along after the story-based category of wisdom itself, and partly sprang from it. (276)
Indeed, consider the fact that what we would consider the more "religious" elements of the Bible only come after the epic portion, in Genesis and Exodus. And the fact that both Jewish and Christian philosophy only emerge after the religious order developed.

Stories are pure wisdom, look at the big picture, see how things are interrelated and integrated. This is what makes it part of wisdom. But they create their wisdom through the particulars of the given story. We move to ever-greater abstraction with the move from stories to religion to philosophy.

What we try to do through the wisdom tradition -- both the pure and the practical (social sciences, governance, philanthropy) -- is try to understand and interact with(in) those emergent processes that are more complex than ourselves. What we try to do through the knowledge tradition (markets and science) is understand and interact with(in) those processes that are less complex than ourselves. By understanding it this way, we can understand why I place the social sciences not in the sciences, but in the wisdom tradition.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Spiral Dynamics at The Freeman

I have a new article out on Spiral Dynamics at The Freeman in which I argue that Gravesean psychology demonstrates a general tendency toward more libertarian thinking.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Sacrifice, Meaning, and the Spontaneous Orders

There is much to think through in the divisions among the spontaneous orders I have proposed -- and it helps when you find someone making similar divisions, and discussing the differences among them. For example, in Epic, Frederick Turner observes that "sacrifice is the meaning of meaning. What this implies is that the death of sacrifice is the death of meaning." From this he then goes on to observe that
Fact is bonded to theory in science by the costly and sacrificial work of experiment. Price is bonded to utility in economics by the hard knocks of the marketplace. Good intentions are welded to actions by the sacrificial submission of the donor to the real needs and wants of the recipient. Lofty artistic conceptions are realized as beauty in paint or words or stone or sound by the exacting and even agonizing ordeal of learning and exercising the craft. When the pain of the commutative process is denied, the bond is broken.

And when the bond breaks, it leads usually to some catastrophic bubble or inflationary explosion either in the realm of the signifier, or of the signified, or both. Science goes wrong when theory and data get separated—what follows is a proliferation of meaningless data-gathering or an arms-race of empty theorizing, or both. When morality goes wrong we get either brutal expediency (unprincipled action), or hypocrisy (principles not being matched by actions). When law goes wrong we get excuses for bad behavior or cruel legalism. When religion goes wrong we get idolatry or puritanical iconoclasm: too many things chasing too few few ideas, or too many ideas chasing too few things. When philosophy goes wrong we get know-nothingism or sophism. When our economy goes wrong we get hedonistic materialism or the fantastical escalation and inflation of utterly immaterial derivatives and complex but bloodless financial instruments. When art goes wrong we get a philistine welter of empty prettiness or an arid desert of conceptualism. (217-218)
 Turner mentions both the health and illness of different orders -- the health of the scientific order, the philanthropic order, and the artistic orders; the illness of the scientific order, the moral order, the legal order, the philosophical order, the economic order, and the artistic orders.Turner also observes here that our bonds -- which are necessary for spontaneous orders to exist -- are necessarily commutative. To get what one wants, one has to give up something one has. This makes even mutual exchange a kind of sacrifice. Yes, it is something of less value for something of more value, but just because something is valued less, that hardly means it is not valued. Turner observes that when this understanding breaks down, the orders they create break down. We get unhealthy versions. We need to understand spontaneous orders in their fullness, in the kinds of bonds that can emerge, and which in turn affect the kind of order which emerges.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

I am a Shaman

I am a shaman.

I have often told my wife that in another time or place, I would have been a shaman. But the fact is, I do not have to be in another time or place. I am a shaman, here and now.

In his book Epic, Frederick Turner observes that
the basic elements of shamanic practice are found everywhere---the vocation of shaman, the shaman's call, the suffering or illness of the initiate, the use of drugs from alcohol to psychedelics, the shamanic musical instrument, rhythmic chanting or drumming, rites of passage including ritual death, the trance, the spirit guide (animal, human, or divine), the shamanic journey (usually both through the air and under the ground), the conversation with the dead ancestors, the shaman's power over and acquaintance with natural spirits, the use of a talisman, the shaman's social role as diviner, seer, moral judge, storyteller, and myth archive, and the shaman's subjective experience of flight, ecstasy, and sparagmos, or fragmentation. (181)
As Wittgenstein observes, if there is a family resemblance, then you you have the same thing. Do I have to have all of these to be a shaman? No. But there does have to be enough to tip one over into the category.

I will let the reader decide if I have the vocation. But I have definitely felt the call, I have suffered (both psychologically and physically), the drug use has been minimal (but not nonexistent), I am a poet who writes in rhythmic verse (rhythmic chanting), I have experienced a ritual death and came out a different person (a poet, a shaman), I have experienced trances, I have a spirit guide (and a very strict one at that!), I have experienced the shamanic journey (to the underworld, in the ritualistic death and rebirth), I am in constant conversation with dead ancestors (Nietzsche won't leave me alone -- and neither will Goethe! -- but I talk too to Shakespeare, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Plato, Aristotle, Hayek, etc.), I am certainly acquainted with natural spirits, I perform the social roles of moral judge, storyteller, and myth archive at the very least, and I have most definitely experienced ecstasy and sparagmos.

No musical instrument. And no talisman (perhaps my clipboard, on which I have written all my poems, plays, etc.?). Their lack is hardly enough to keep me out of the club, I would think.

Now, I know that in rationalistic times like these, my claim of being a shaman is puzzling, shocking, easily dismissed. But, as Hamlet observed, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." And there will be those who do not realize that their priest or pastor is in fact a shaman -- who will dismiss my claim for entirely different reasons. But the fact is that the world remains full of shamans. We have just failed to recognize them. Was Jim Morrison, as the movie The Doors, claims, a shaman? I think so. And so was Nietzsche, I think. I am sure, given the above definition of Turner's, we could identify many more shamans. Not all are as prominent and dominant as Morrison and Nietzsche were, in their own ways. But prominence does not a shaman make. Many are perhaps not even entirely aware they are shamans.

Historically, shamans have had teachers in established shamans. Sadly, the contemporary world does not provide many opportunities to receive worldly guidance outside of theology schools. But shamans are not made in theology schools, even though they may find themselves drawn there. Shamans are born of pain and suffering, created in a voyage to the underworld, and given a gift and a mission and a guide. Your priest may be a shaman; but so, too, may your poet, your playwright, your film maker.

The shaman brings the world a gift -- a gift to the living from the world of the dead. I try to bring it in my poetry, and even here in this blog in my musings on morality and complexity.

I am a shaman.
It was pointed out to me that I left out the healing aspect of shamanism. That was my omission, not Turner's, as Turner does say that they "heal the body and restore the soul to the body" (181). This is too big a role to leave out, to be sure. Insofar as a given artist's work of art heals, that artist could be a shaman.

HT: Gus diZerega