Self As Vessel At Its Source

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Commentary On New Model Of The Observer/Observed Relationship continued—Self As Vessel

The source of everything, including Northrop's two-term relationship, lies embedded in the indeterminate aesthetic continuum.

As was pointed out above, considerable emotional currency goes into preserving the meanings that give us comfort. In an odd sort of way then, you might say the more invested we are in production and consumption (blue quadrant), the more we expand our red emotional horizon. However, a passionate desire for wealth and power has little in common with the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty and truth. The gorgeous sunset that sometimes swells our eyes to tears is not just a product of the spinning earth; it is also part of the spontaneous, pulsating, emotion that flows from the whole of the aesthetic continuum. The material of the poet, painter, and musician is not the product of Locke’s mental substance; rather, it is the empowering emotion that inspires life, imagination, and awe. The mental substance, which Locke presupposed as necessary in order to explain the existence of appearance, is no longer necessary because appearance is not just appearance, it is the real stuff of the universe. The syntactically designated, indirectly and experimentally verified, theoretic component of knowledge treats the real stuff of reality—the aesthetic component, as a mere sign. The aesthetic component of our experience is not a mere sign. The immediately grasped, emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise, beckons us to seek the impossible, express the unspeakable, and imagine the inconceivable.

Emotions, therefore, are not, as Locke believed, and many of the religiously informed persons who followed him also believed, the product of bestial urges that must be subdued. It is also unfortunate that Plato, although recognizing emotions to be an inseparable part of the human psyche, identified them with evil. For Plato, reason was the great charioteer, forever reining in the unruly emotions. It is to the credit of Northrop’s two-term relationship of the aesthetic-theoretic experience that emotion gets valued on par with reason. Indeed, reason becomes sterile without emotion and emotion without reason becomes another word for misery. The poet William Blake said it best when he said: “It is good when you are in a passion, but not when a passion is in you.” All emotion is meaningful, but that meaning gets stunted when unjustifiably restricted by Locke’s use of the three-term relationship of appearance, material object, and observer. It is high time that we catch up to the curve (instead of lagging far behind it) and give emotions and sentiments the psychological freedom they deserve. In order to do this we need to break the habit of regarding feelings, emotions, and the immediately given portion of human nature and the nature of all things as being superficial appearances,-- mere symbols for validating an out-dated worldview. It is time to regroup, to move beyond that which was once considered progressive but now inhibits, to move beyond that which has outlived its usefulness.

One aspect of this obsolete worldview, however, should be carried forward. Locke linked consciousness with the divine. He reasoned that since consciousness was the only thing not mechanistically determined, it connected human beings to God. I share that view, but for different reasons, reasons that will become apparent as I continue to describe the two-term relationship worldview. For instance, if human experience is defined by two types of experience, the aesthetic and theoretic, then what about the rest of the natural world; is it also a product of a two-term relationship? The answer to that question, I believe, will be found in the content/form interdependence of freedom and freedom’s “limiting condition,” embedded in the emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise.

Northrop's two-term relationship of knowing, as opposed to Locke’s three-term relationship, brings several philosophical dilemmas into focus, but the one that concerns us most here is that Hume's atomic sense data and their associations, are only a part of the aesthetic continuum. Experience is much richer than Hume supposed and his atomic sense data indicates. That this is the case the philosophies of William James, Alfred North Whitehead, Henry Bergson, and the Gestalt psychologists—just to name a few, affirm. Hume's sense data is determinate for only the center of our perceptive field. At the periphery of this field, sense awareness is fuzzy and indeterminate. Embedded in this indeterminate aesthetic continuum lies the source of everything, including Northrop's two-term relationship. Locke linked consciousness with the divine. I also link consciousness with the divine, but I do so through the logical connection that both binds and separates--particle/wave, life/death, self/not self, reason/feeling, observed/observer. It is this logical relationship that makes the condition of bound/separated possible. In the above diagram, the relationship that both binds and separates the blue (physical), purple (discourse), and green (life) quadrants is depicted by the bridges labeled 8 and 9. What underlies all evolution then, are these bridges that both bind and separate everything to everything else. The bridge that is missing from the above diagram is the one that binds and separates everything to God (Brahman, sunyata, the unmoved mover, etc.). If you don’t like the world God here, even though what I am talking about includes all rational, emotional, and physical possibilities, then feel free to call this bridge by its other name, the class of all classes. Here’s a little narration that, hopefully, will make the concept of bridges more plausible. I now present the following whimsical story (how whimsical is for you to decide). To be continued....

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