Friday, 29 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 6: synchronicity and the psychophysical world

Diagram from 17th century 'Chymical Wedding'
"This book is about a meeting of minds in the mid 20th century that was unique in the history of science and philosophy: the encounter of Wolfgang Pauli, one of the architects of modern quantum theory, with Carl Gustav Jung, pioneer of analytical depth psychology. Their common interest was anchored in their search for a worldview better adapted to the extended body of scientific knowledge than what philosophers had offered so far. Their joint target was the “psychophysical problem”: How is the interface between the physical and the mental to be understood, and on which idea of reality can it be grounded?"
The Pauli-Jung Conjecture and its Impact Today. Eds. Harald Atmanspacher and Christopher A. Fuchs, Exeter, 2014, Introduction.

Today's video is a discussion on Synchronicity on the Spectrum of Mind and Matter. Essential for understanding pre 17th century as well as 21st century culture as applied to quantum mechanics and the interdisciplinary approach to "cultural heritage". There are some real "giants" speaking here.

There is a bumper berry crop in the mountains near me and quite the concentration of bears, so I'm heading that way with my camera (and a friend, my coyote hybrid, and bear spray) today. There have been two grizzly bear attacks, one of them where I'm going so for any locals also heading to Canmore/Kananaskis, have a safe weekend, don't go alone, keep out of closed areas and don't forget the bear spray. Keep away from the berries and do not walk close to the banks of creeks and lakes. I'll be back (hopefully) on Monday with more in this series.

John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 5: science and psyche

(I was born in this building). Photo: gavnosis 
"The puzzle of how we reason, how we think— of how we create knowledge from already existing knowledge and how we draw conclusions that go beyond the premises— cannot be solved by logic alone. Researchers in cognitive science have applied a cross-disciplinary approach. This includes simulating the mind on a digital computer; neurophysiology; notions from philosophy applied to the mind (philosophy of mind); linguistics (how metaphors arise and how they are used); and visual imagery (how visual images are generated and manipulated in problem solving). But they fail to include physics. And despite applying so much heavy intellectual machinery to the study of how the mind operates, they also omit data from the history of science in the form of testimonies, correspondence, and other biographical details of scientists themselves."
Arthur I. Miller,  137: Jung, Pauli, and the Pursuit of a Scientific Obsession (pp. 281-282). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Arthur I. Miller is Emeritus Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at University College London. The following video is a talk he gave at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), Geneva, Switzerland where the World Wide Web was born 10,000 days ago, today.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 4: the modern barbarism (iii)

Coriosolite/Unelli staters from my collection
as an overlay on my digital map from the first
web version of my book. The later Oxford
publication version being in greyscale.
In 1994, I had just finished one of the drafts for my book: Celtic Improvisations: An Art Historical Analysis of Coriosolite Coins, British Archaeological Reports International Series 1092, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2002 and bought my very first computer. For ten years I had been in written communication with British archaeologists. All of them had been at the top of their profession; specialists in Celtic coins; or both (like Colin Haselgrove). Bob van Arsdell had written a very favourable review for Spink (who turned down the MS because of its specialized and academic nature) saying: "This is the most comprehensive and detailed typological study for a Celtic coinage I have seen. ...". Things seemed to going quite well. That is, until I joined a British web discussion group called "Arch-theory". Unbeknownst to me, I had landed in the middle of one of those academic fads. this one was claiming that there was no such thing as an ancient Celtic culture. They were using weasel-words like "unified" before "Celtic culture" but those had slipped past the perception of the lower IQ followers, one of whom (using her professor's email address to enforce her point) said to me "There were no bloody Celts!" and named various of the cult-leaders' works. This was in reply to my very first message asking if anyone would care to discuss the stylistic evolution of Celtic coins. More very rude and ignorant responses followed.

I had moved to Canada from England in 1966 and my last environment there had been quite cultured. It's funny how you take a time with you when you leave and preserve it as an impression. It was at that very moment that I realized  that I was no longer English but Canadian. Only one person came to my defence and that was Vincent Megaw. He (and his students) kept track of my efforts to get the book published and we have been been friends ever since. Eventually, he nominated me for my FSA.

Today, the No-Celts Cult gets only lip-service in academia, presumably in deference to the many academic members of it who still have a job. My method was to use evolutionary cladistics and it was the very first time that had been applied to an archaeological subject. I got no credit for that, of course, because I was independent and not an academic. There was later publication  suggesting that cladistics might be used in archaeology. You virtually never see citations to non-academics within academic publishing. Actually, biological evolutionary cladistics is far less efficient that art-historical evolutionary cladistics mainly because of certain characteristics of epigenetics such as genes being able to be switched on and off and the (sometimes) use of too few features in the construction of its "trees". I had used hundreds of design element pared down to only those which showed overlapping evolutionary features and this resulted in a virtually 100%  probability of certainty. You can get an idea of the percentage by imagining a lottery where you have to list 15 numbers out of a range of hundreds and you win the jackpot. It could not get to an accuracy of a single "generation" (die), but the greatest uncertainty was within one span of five "generations". I'm quite happy with that.

I could also "unify" Celtic culture at that time through both its religious philosophy and its artistic tenets. Now, I could also add a number of socio-economic features common to all La Tène groups. The fatal weakness in the academic attempt was to create its own, very limited, definition of  a culture and then judge the Celts by those criteria alone. You might ask "Why would anyone do such a stupid thing?" It shows a complete lack of the scientific method of inductive reasoning and uses only deductive reasoning from a suppositional base. In real science, both are used, but inductive reasoning is most essential for forming viable hypotheses as well as in later stages of the research. You switch back and forth as you work. What the No-Celts cult had done was to mimic the much weaker abductive reasoning (essentially "best guess") which is only really necessary when there just is not enough data available for the usual inductive/deductive combination. You can read a basic description of these types here.

The No-Celts cult was a British phenomenon and was designed to make the claim that the pre-Roman Britons were not Celts. While this smacks of nationalism, the main reason was to use nationalistic tendencies to support the professional advancement of those originating the ideas. The features that were picked would have been completely laughable had that nationalistic wishful thinking had not been present. There were three main cultural features employed: British houses were circular while continental houses were rectangular. Apart from this being a generality because the earliest structures at Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) were indeed rectangular and Gaulish and there do seem to be  a few circular huts within continental maritime hill forts, the whole idea breaks down completely as this preference in building styles goes back all the way to the Neolithic. The other two features had to do with farming and burial styles which also not only had a long ancestry as far as (with disposal of the dead) whether they were inhumation, cremation or excarnation: different styles being used by different groups within the culture and with farming, different techniques being used here and there. The average person would never associate these features with cultural traits unless the dead were dispose of in a most unusual way (such as being cut up and then eaten by vultures). In the high altitudes of Tibet there is not enough wood fuel to cremate and the ground is too rocky for burial and besides, It is also religiously important for the remains to cease to exist. Farming practices, too, have not only long traditions and local developments, but various environmental factors at play.

Why would a culture be defined only by those things that have little to no psychic content and are all very materialistic? The answer to that question lies within a psychological constellation: Archaeology is materialistic; and is more so because it affects a science; art-history has been seen to be completely subjective by many archaeologists who parted with the subject many decades ago and never kept up with more objective methods (such as what I used with evolutionary cladistics and what early Celtic art specialists had used with regard to various motifs across time and geography which have to be very specific or you will get Vincent Megaw on your case!).  In one recent archaeological publication the basic style was called "swirly", which is not only untrue, but at best only very vaguely describes two of many hundreds of motifs (the spiral and the "Marnian scroll"). Most importantly, though, the narrow definitions allows for an "easy to understand" and "comic book"  generalities which can attract a greater number of unthinking followers. This, in turn, creates various cliques where the students hope for advancement by going along with their professors. Being a closed shop through the use of unintelligible and affected writing combined with restrictively-priced publications which virtually no one reads anyway but are useful only in the "publish or perish" environment of academia. The illusion is fairly easily maintained. However, like any Ponzi scheme it will fracture and dissolve at some point, just as what nearly happened with the mortgage/banking scandal which was only partially saved (for the wealthy) by various other political/economic manipulations.

This sort of subterfuge also extends to the war against collectors and dealers because who knows a subject better than someone who has been doing it  for many decades and whose success depends solely on their understanding of the subject? Such people have to be demonized by academia in order to maintain their own illusions. Now this is a feature mainly restricted to the humanities and so-called "soft sciences" and it excludes the minority which are at the top of that structure and who have a true passion for their subject. It is rather sad that such people often get tarred with the same brush by those who see through the various subterfuges; it is another, and undesirable, effect of the use of generalities.

What I have been talking about in this episode is the use of "cultural heritage" as a weapon used for personal gain. The dynamics of it being used for political gain will be covered in another episode. Where the two intersect is within the diagram I included in part one. What is covered above are all of the characteristics of Box B1 (Structural Faults) and it begins to introduce the contents of Box C (Symptoms of GroupThink). I will deal with all of the features within this flow chart, and very specifically so, as the series progresses.

The barbarism is deliberate in its organization but its victims are not only the general public but its own followers whose eyes are focused a little too much on their personal advancement. Few, I think, will shed a tear for them when the system breaks down as, one day, it must do.

I will have a new part to present tomorrow. It won't take too much effort for me  as you will discover (clue: make some popcorn). The end of the week  is going to be busy for me and I will be in the mountains on Friday, but will upload that episode before I go.

John's Coydog Community page

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 4: the modern barbarism (ii)

Werner Heisenberg, creator of quantum mechanics
"For Heisenberg, reality is “the continuous fluctuation of experience as gathered by conscience. In this respect, it is never wholly identifiable to an isolated system.”...
"Heisenberg regrouped the numerous regions of reality into three distinct levels. “It is clear,” wrote Heisenberg, “that the ordering of the regions has to substitute the gross division of the world into a subjective reality and an objective one and that the world must stretch itself between these poles of subject and object in such a manner that at its inferior limit are the regions where we can completely objectify reality. ...
"The first level of Reality in the Heisenberg model corresponds to the states of things, which are objectified independently of the knowledge process. At this first level, he situates classical mechanics, electromagnetism, and the two relativity theories of Einstein; in other words, classical physics. The second level of Reality corresponds to the states of things inseparable from the knowledge process. Here he situates quantum mechanics, biology, and the consciousness sciences. Finally, the third level of Reality corresponds to the states of things created in relation to the knowledge process. On this level of Reality, he situates philosophy, art, politics, “God” metaphors, religious experience, and inspiration experience. ...
"He remarks that the Middle Ages chose religion and the seventeenth century chose science, but today any choice or criteria for values has vanished.
"Heisenberg also insists on the role of intuition: “Only intuitive thinking,” wrote Heisenberg, “can pass over the abyss that exists between the system of concepts already known and that of new concepts; the formal deduction is helpless when it comes to throwing a bridge over this abyss.”
Basarab Nicolescu, From Modernity to Cosmodernity: Science, Culture, and Spirituality (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions) Chapter 17; The Hidden Third and the Multiple Splendor of Being (in the section, "Levels of Being" ; pp. 205-207). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.
The "abyss" in Heisenberg's quote is part of what Nicolescu calls The Hidden Third. He diagrams it as a circle in which are contained two other circles: one representing the subject, the other representing the object. Within the hidden third there can be no mathematics; no process; no perceptible energy. We can get an idea of this by thinking of the "quantum jump" (an abrupt transition of an electron, atom, or molecule from one quantum state to another, with the absorption or emission of a quantum). However, this only refers to changes in the state of the object. The subject (person) has almost been removed from modern science apart from the Einsteinian "observer". The person has become just another object. Nicolescu says:
"The human person appears as an interface between the Hidden Third and the world. The erasing of the Hidden Third in knowledge signifies a one-dimensional human being who has been reduced to cells, neurons, quarks, and elementary particles". (ibid. p. 212)
Modern science is a specific belief structure that started in the seventeenth century and has not changed at all outside of quantum mechanics; all that has happened in that time is that more discoveries and data have been realized within its narrow parameters. In a sense, it has become even more solidified.

It was not just Heisenberg who was worried about this state of affairs: Wolfgang Pauli, another quantum physicist and Nobel laureate saw the cessation of the line of thinking of the seventeen century Hermetic magician Robert Fludd after Kepler's mathematics won the day (and ushered in the belief structure of modern science) as a great tragedy. Through his association and collaboration with C. G. Jung, he worked toward extending Fludd's research. Synchronicity, which everyone usually only associates with Jung owes much to Pauli, and together they started to investigate the concept of the Unus Mundus (which would encompass the Hidden Third; the Subject and the Object)

But Pauli became unhappy about the directions taken by the Jung Institut with regard to science. Remo F. Roth elaborates:

"A little more than two years after the foundation of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Wolfgang Pauli became disappointed with its development. In a letter dated August 17, 1950, he wrote to his colleague Abraham Pais:
"But it is undeniable that in Jung’s specific circle an extraordinary strong mental incest exists (as a result of a complete lack of creative minds and talents in this circle). [Translation mine]
"Two and a half years later he was forced to condemn the Institute, for the quality of research that did not match his expectations. On March 16, 1953, in a caustic letter to C.A. Meier, his friend and the first president of the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, he wrote: 
"The provincial atmosphere of the C.G. Jung Institute (in which everyone seems to consider him/herself as an unrecognized genius, causing everyone to dislike each other) is not at all favourable to the critical judgement [of scientific efforts; RFR], because for this [task], it [the atmosphere] does not have an objective measure at its disposal. [Translation mine]
"Later, Pauli—in his capacity as scientific patron of the Institute—formulated his criticism in an official letter to the Curatorium, the management of the Institute, and to C.A. Meier. Meier published this letter written in 1956 and a further one from 1957 in Atom and Archetype. In the first one Pauli writes:
"In recent years, I have noted with grave concern that the scientific approach is becoming increasingly neglected in matters relating to the C.G. Jung Institute and the activities of its members. As the scientific patron of the Institute, I thus regard it as my duty to draw attention to the standpoint of the sciences, and I must therefore officially request certain information from you as President.
"Then he continues:
"It is clear to me that in addition to the scientific aspect of psychology, there is also a humanistic one, but I do not see it as my duty to defend that. In this connection, I should like to point out that psychology always used to be counted as one of the humanistic sciences, but it was precisely C.G. Jung himself who emphasized the scientific nature of his ideas, and it was through his works that the way was paved for an integration of the psychology of the unconscious into the natural sciences. It is my opinion that the progress that has been made in this respect is being seriously jeopardized by the administration of the C.G. Jung Institute.
"Then he continues in his criticism of
"…the general intellectual level of the psychotherapeutic practice. This is where there is the greatest danger that the practice might degenerate into a completely unscientific conveyor-belt system [Massenbetrieb in German; RFR], dominated by the formal-arithmetic principle (with pecuniary factors involved), using the time available to deal with or ‘get through’ as large a number of patients as possible with as little thought input as possible."
Remo F. Roth, Return of the World Soul: Wolfgang Pauli, C.G. Jung and the Challenge of Psychophysical Reality - Part I: The Battle of the Giants (Kindle Locations 544-568). Pari Publishing. Kindle Edition. [Footnotes omitted and all translation notes in the text are Roth's. I have also changed Roth's own indents for Pauli quotes to italics]
It is at this point where we (finally) get to what I am calling "the modern barbarism", but which was inspired by Nicolescu's:
"The origin of the new barbarity seems to lie in the explosive mixture between the binary thinking of the excluded third, a pure product of the mind, and a technology without any humanist perspective." (op. cit. p. 191)
I am going back to the original meaning of "barbarian" as one who does not speak Greek. When the Greeks heard foreigners they described the sound as "bar.. bar" and hence came "barbarian". In essence, the Greeks could not understand what was being said. For the longest time, I have sensed a connection between two of my "causes": the understanding of the ancient Celtic culture and the value of the private collector of coins and antiquities. Both of these are denied as existing by many archaeologists who have embraced the modernist perspective and who imagine that archaeology is a science. I now realize that the connecting principle is to do with "barbarity": they do not understand, at all, what is being said.

For example, were I to go into the countryside, find a field with a cow in it and then explain to that cow the evolution of British Celtic art, the cow would be none the wiser. The same thing would happen if I were to do the same with an average academic archaeologist who specializes in the pre-Roman Iron Age. The only difference between the comprehension level of the cow and the archaeologist being that the cow knows it does not understand anything being said and the archaeologist thinks he or she does, but really does not, as their knowledge is framed withing various weasel-word terms that actually only have an apparency of meaning (Like Sokal's paper or those you see in the pomo-generator). We might ponder about which is more intelligent, the cow or the archaeologist in this scenario. Remember, Sokal's hoax paper was accepted for publication. I will expand upon these two causes and their reception, tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

Monday, 25 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 4: the modern barbarism (i)

Michel Foucault portrait by Paul Loboda, 2015

It was Michel Foucault who first took an archaeological seriation perspective, not to material objects but to scientific thought and its social constructs. His criticisms of Modernism revealed the forces which postmodernism tries to avoid. But postmodernist expressions are not all genuine and most often it is the fake expressions that are used to define the whole. I gave Paul Loboda's graphic a dominant place in this episode because it brilliantly expresses what Foucault did: he showed how thought can be constrained by its time-dependent social frameworks; he epitomized "thinking outside of the box"

When most people think about postmodernism, what comes to mind is unintelligible writing. This started, I think, because its concepts are not only complex but require the sort of thinking we are unaccustomed to do: we have to be outside of the box before we can even see it is box. This takes considerable mental dexterity. The instructions for doing so are going to be very specific. The genuine, though, is defined by the fact that every single sentence of these directions means something. Within an academic environment, complex philosophies can have a difficult time because, unlike mathematics, philosophy is for old men. In fact, there is a Jungian archetype commonly called "The wise old man".

After the hero returns from his quest he imparts to his people what he has learned, but forming the most populous part of the academic world are people who have yet to even embark upon their hero-quest and are still struggling with their initiation into society; their "rite of passage", a process, in tribal societies, most and best conducted by the elder who has returned form their own hero quest. However, what mostly seems to happen within academia is that the elder is one who has undergone the initiation and is instantly moved to the other side of the desk. the initiation is consciously mistaken for the hero-quest by everyone there, but the objective unconscious is not so easily fooled and in order to satiate its needs goes to adventure movies where the good guys kill the bad guys and get the girl in the end. The movies are all more toward "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" than an adaptation of the transcendent The Razor's Edge. The false hero on the other side of the desk can often become psychologically inflated and this is further reinforced by the boot-licking attention of the youth who really just wants to take his place.

The classic example of the fake in postmodernism is the Sokal affair and this inspired the "pomo-generator" where every time to refresh the page it spews out yet another fake and meaningless paper.
Basarab Nicolescu explains what really was happening with the Sokal affair:

"The Sokal affair started with a hoax. In 1994, a mathematical physicist from the New York University who was unknown outside a closed circle of physicists sent an article to the journal Social Text entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” [note: Alan D. Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Social Text 46/ 47 (1996): 336– 61.]. The text was peppered with accurate quotations by physicists such as Bohr and Heisenberg and by philosophers, sociologists, historians of science, and psychoanalysts such as Kuhn, Feyerabend, Latour, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Lyotard, Serres, and Virilio. The bibliography also listed authors such as Lupasco, the included middle being given in the text as an example of “feminist logic” … However, Sokal’s commentary made a number of absurd assertions, creating the impression that he was perfectly attuned to postmodernism and in particular to the Cultural Studies current of thinking. The journal’s editors were delighted with the apparent adhesion of a physicist to their cause and published Sokal’s text without hesitation, without even the slightest verification. Almost as soon as the article appeared in print, Sokal himself revealed the hoax in a further article published in Lingua Franca [Alan D. Sokal, “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies,” Lingua Franca 6, no. 4 (1996): 62– 64.], and, from that moment on, buoyed by the effect of the Internet, his fame was guaranteed. On a political level, Sokal wanted to show his friends in the American left wing that a revolution or social transformation could not be carried out based on the notion of reality as presented by philosophical relativism. Only physics (according to Sokal’s view of what physics is) could play such a role. ...
"Paradoxically, however, the Sokal Affair served to reveal the extent of another form of extremism: namely, scientist extremism, the mirror image of religious extremism. Indeed, Sokal’s position was supported by some notable heavyweights, including the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg, who wrote a long article about it in the New York Review of Books. [note: Steven Weinberg, “Sokal’s Hoax,” New York Review of Books 43, no. 13 (August 8, 1996)].
"For Weinberg, “The gulf of misunderstanding between scientists and other intellectuals seems to be at least as wide as when C. P. Snow worried about it three decades ago.” But what is the cause of this “gulf of misunderstanding”? According to Weinberg, one of the essential conditions for the birth of modern science was the separation of the world of physics from the world of culture. Consequently, from that moment on, any interaction between science and culture could only be seen as detrimental. In one fell swoop, with this he dismissed the philosophical considerations of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics as irrelevant."
Basarab Nicolescu, From Modernity to Cosmodernity: Science, Culture, and Spirituality (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions) in Chapter 16: Can Science be a Religion? (The Sokal Affair: Beyond Three Extremisms -- pp. 193-194). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.
More of part 4 tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

Friday, 22 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 3: the religion substitute (all of the taste but none of the calories)

Thousands of Muslims praying during the
Eid festival at a mosque in Delhi, 1942
"But once Mother Church and her motherly Eros fall into abeyance, the individual is at the mercy of any passing collectivism and the attendant mass psyche. He succumbs to social or national inflation, and the tragedy is that he does so with the same psychic attitude which had once bound him to a church. ...

"It seems as if man were destined to play a decisive role in solving this uncertainty, and to solve it moreover by virtue of his consciousness, which once started up like a light in the murk of the primeval world. Nowhere do we know for sure about these matters, but least of all where “isms” flourish, for they are only a sophisticated substitute for the lost link with psychic reality. The mass psyche that infallibly results destroys the meaning of the individual and of culture generally."

C. G. Jung, Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche: On the Nature of the Psyche (p. 221f). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

I used the image of Muslims praying to convey the idea that while Jung refers to Christianity in the above quote with his reference to "Mother Church", the mechanics involved are the same with regard to any religion, with or without a central deity. Buddha, for example, is not a god, but Buddhism is a religion. The etymology for religion is:
Middle English (originally in the sense ‘life under monastic vows’): from Old French, or from Latin religio(n-) ‘obligation, bond, reverence,’ perhaps based on Latin religare ‘to bind.’
This etymology, functionally, could also include any non-religious (in a literal meaning) bond such as a life-long adherence to a particular political belief. however, when it comes to mental energy, the mechanics are quite different because much of the (common usage) religious feelings have the unconscious as their root. Hence we have faith instead of logic as its true source. These two poles are also Mythos and Logos. Being "well balanced" would signify a mental position somewhere in the central area of these poles. Anyone at either extreme end would be considered psychotic: delusional and pathologically introverted at the Mythos end and sociopathic and pathologically extraverted at the Logos end. Various neuroses can be expressed once this central area is left. For example, the sociopathic killer does not recognize the value of any life but the person with a faith that depends on the materiality unconsciously inherent in religious historicism (the dependence on a literal meaning for anything in a religious canon) does not believe that an individual is responsible for any talent or virtue and that everything is a gift from God, or that it is God who should be thanked for good work or deeds and not the individual. This is actually contrary to orthodox Christian belief which recognizes the free will (and responsibility) of the human being.

I can think of no better support for my ideas on the necessity of being in this central area between Mythos and Logos than to use the thoughts of a Nobel laureate physicist who is also an avowed atheist, Steven Weinberg:
"...This feeling of anxiety is expressed well by Steven Weinberg (note: Weinberg, Les Trois Premières Minutes, 179.), when he writes “It is almost impossible for human beings to believe that there is no special relationship between themselves and the universe, that life is not just the grotesque result of a series of accidents that go back in the past to the very first three minutes and that we have been specifically designed from the beginning. … It is even harder to understand that this universe has evolved from such unfamiliar starting conditions that we can hardly imagine them and that it should end up by extinction, either in endless cold or infernal heat. The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more absurd it also seems.”
Basarab Nicolescu, From Modernity to Cosmodernity: Science, Culture, and Spirituality (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions) (pp. 110-111). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.
The religious fervor that Raimund Karl noted in his paper Every sherd is sacred: Compulsive Hoarding in Archaeology is not some sort of literary device but the recognition of a legitimate psychological phenomenon: the hoarding, itself reveals an overly materialistic consciousness that the unconscious attempts to balance through a religious attitude (Mythos). It is thus roughly the opposite of the "God does/is responsible everything" neurosis I mentioned above where the unconscious tries to compensate the overly non-materialistic religious outlook with the materialistic historicism.

Our current western society is unbalanced and is moving at an alarming rate toward the materialistic Logos end of the spectrum. We see this not only in the religious/moral attitudes that define "Cultural Heritage" but also in the destruction of cultural monuments By ISIS. The only difference between the two is that ISIS, being overtly religious is destroying the material and the "cultural heritage" fanatics being overtly materialistic are destroying the processes of culture, itself, which creates such monuments in the first place. The following Ngram gives an indication of how the English-speaking world is experiencing a decline of Mythos; any Ngram (if possible to create) of the ISIS outlook would reveal an opposite direction toward Mythos.

The global collective consciousness with its, as Jung says, "wretched isms" is trying in its typically unintelligent way to regain a balance by having both sides fight it out to the death. The problem of course is that death. also, is  a cessation of culture. Clearly, a saner balance needs to be established.

I will be back with more on Monday. Have a well-balanced weekend.

John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 2: the cultural evolutionary process

Religious symbols
graphic: Ratomir Wilkowski
This episode is dedicated to Julie Ginn.

"[111] These organizations or systems are “symbola” (σύμβολον = confession of faith) which enable man to set up a spiritual counterpole to his primitive instinctual nature, a cultural attitude as opposed to sheer instinctuality. This has been the function of all religions. For a long time and for the great majority of mankind the symbol of a collective religion will suffice. It is perhaps only temporarily and for relatively few individuals that the existing collective religions have become inadequate. Wherever the cultural process is moving forward, whether in single individuals or in groups, we find a shaking off of collective beliefs. Every advance in culture is, psychologically, an extension of consciousness, a coming to consciousness that can take place only through discrimination. Therefore an advance always begins with individuation, that is to say with the individual, conscious of his isolation, cutting a new path through hitherto untrodden territory. To do this he must first return to the fundamental facts of his own being, irrespective of all authority and tradition, and allow himself to become conscious of his distinctiveness. If he succeeds in giving collective validity to his widened consciousness, he creates a tension of opposites that provides the stimulation which culture needs for its further progress."

Jung, C. G., Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 8: Structure & Dynamics of the Psyche: On Psychic Energy (p. 59). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Evolution is the continuous adaptation to new conditions and societies evolve through an influx of new ideas brought by individuals or (mostly small) groups. if the arriving group is too large, there can be an "island" of an unchanging culture, or the arriving culture might replace what is already there. In such cases, any change is usually due to an individual within the society who, through various circumstances, becomes distinct. It is no coincidence that the most important scientific discoveries have been made by individuals and not groups; It is no coincidence that most religions have been started by individuals, and descending from a core religion this also applies to sects. One example of many is Christianity with Jesus Christ as its originator, and Martin Luther starting another branch much later. However, if we go back further we can see that Christianity was also a branching of Judaism that incorporated aspects of the Greek mystery religions especially Dionysianism (Dionysos in one form was "twice-born" or "resurrected" and, much earlier, the same characteristic was embodied in the Egyptian Osiris myth.

If we go back far enough, the individual starts to vanish, but this is most likely the lack of perception rather than any reality. We can get an idea of this lack of perception in the traditional founding of Taoism by Lao Tse who is credited with composing the Tao Te  Ching, It is generally believed that Lao Tse was not an actual individual and the Tao te Ching was a compilation of different Taoist texts. Taoism, itself evolved from the School of Yin Yang which was based on the most ancient of all Chinese Texts, the I Ching, which became much more than a system of divination and is also understood as a binary system of the nature of individual and societal changes. Jung, himself often used the I Ching until he found that he knew the answers before the results were delivered. Like all religions in their original state, the I Ching utilizes metaphors. It is only in relatively modern times that (mainly western) religions have absorbed historicity as not only a concept but a necessity. To unite the world views, historicity is a phenomenon of Logos as opposed to Mythos, and these equate, respectively, to Yang and Yin. We can also find a physics correlate to cultural evolutionary change within the differences between kinetic and static energy and the characteristics of the former.

Looking at various cultures through history, we can see them as a number of wheels each rotating at different speeds and the faster the wheel is rotating, the faster is its evolutionary change brought about by the influx of communications of varied ideas (kinetic energy). A culture that is unchanging is held together through static energy, the sort of energy that holds an atom together. The problem here being that society has never achieved the efficiency of a hydrogen atom and just as people are unable to evolve matter through atomic fusion, and can only currently destroy that cohesion through atomic fission, static societies always come to an end, Sometimes with a bang, sometimes with a whimper. They are "selected out" by evolution.

Individuals united by their opposite characteristics, and working together thus can achieve the most remarkable evolutionary changes in a culture. Each single individual, for this to happen, must be able to reconcile and use their own "tensions of opposites".

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Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 1: Introduction and scope

 GroupThink Model
© Irving Janis 1972.  Victims of GroupThink: A Psychological Study of Foreign-policy Decisions and Fiascoes
(click to enlarge)  
This series is inspired, in part, by Raimund Karl's Every sherd is sacred: Compulsive Hoarding in Archaeology. The link between religiosity and compulsive behaviour was first proposed by Sigmund Freud in 1907: Zwangshandlungen Und Religionsübungen (Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices). Freud does explain here, though, that there are important differences between religious practices and the compulsive behaviour of a single neurotic:
"It is one of the conditions of the illness that the person who is obeying a compulsion carries it out without understanding its meaning—or at any rate its chief meaning. It is only thanks to the efforts of psycho-analytic treatment that he becomes conscious of the meaning of his obsessive action and, with it, of the motives that are impelling him to it. We express this important fact by saying that the obsessive action serves to express unconscious motives and ideas. In this, we seem to find a further departure from religious practices; but we must remember that as a rule the ordinary pious individual, too, performs a ceremonial without concerning himself with its significance, although priests and scientific investigators may be familiar with the—mostly symbolic—meaning of the ritual."
These differences are further expanded by M. Andrew Holowchak in Freud: From Individual Psychology to Group Psychology within the context of  group neuroses (GroupThink).

I plan to expand upon these ideas but within the narrower parameter of the term "cultural heritage" and to demonstrate that, within the common usage of this term, culture is actually being impeded through appropriation and that there are two divisions of these actions: the instigation (conscious and nefarious) and the reception (unconscious and memetic). Because of the memetic factor, these divisions have become very blurred as a meme, being unconscious, propagates the same actions in an unthinking manner or without the same nefarious motives as the originator (mind control for political reasons). Thus proselytizers of the "cultural heritage" meme are carriers of this "psychic virus" while being as much victimized by it as society itself.

I will also show that culture is not a static condition but an observed fixed point in an evolutionary process and that by fixing it thus, almost like a butterfly pinned to a board, it can no longer propagate naturally and can only serve as an icon to the underlying symbols. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle "states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa" A social-evolutionary corollary to this, I propose, is that the more fixed the position of some cultural element becomes, the less momentum it can have, and vice versa.

The dead or dying manifestations of "cultural heritage" are called "cultural property" and thus the idea becomes solid, as it were. It no longer contains viability and thus becomes a fixed symbol.

Anyone with familiarity with the proponents of "cultural heritage" especially when expressed with the ideas of "cultural property" will be able to find multiple examples of their characteristics in each box of Janis' GroupThink diagram above.

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Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. Conclusion and reflections

Shaw arrives back in England from India, 1928
Blogging historical research has been an interesting experiment. There had to be a preliminary delay in order to gather up the literature that I needed and to make myself familiar with it. This was a slow process and there was no point in starting the series until it was mostly done. Once, the wrong book was sent to me and had to be replaced; another book took three attempts and about three months to get here.  I did have a lot of help along the way, though, First and foremost from  Kyriacos Kyriacos in London, who not only suggest the project in the first place, but also generously provided me the B. V. Jones documents and one of the biographies. I also got a much help and encouragement from John Howland in England complete with photos he took of Shaw's crash site. I must also thank Mrs Jenny Bartlett, librarian at the North London Collegiate School for all her research on the identity of recipient of the inscribed envelope and its enclosed receipt which was part of the Jones archive, and to everyone who helped with their comments.

This series has ended up having the word length of an average novella and in writing it I found my opinions about T. E, Shaw and his life were always in a state of flux. It was difficult, indeed, to come up with an approach that stood any chance  of containing any originality because more that a hundred biographies have been written about T. E. Lawrence (as that is the only name that appears on biographical works apart from collections of his later letters). So one approach was to try to grant him the identity he chose for himself. T. E. Lawrence is not buried in the grave with that name on its stone, T. E. Shaw is buried there. T. E, Lawrence died long before the body he inhabited died, and T. E. Shaw was officially born into that same body in India. although he had personally inhabited it for some time. After India, the only existence of T. E. Lawrence was the personal mental projections of others. This was the T. E. Lawrence myth.

My other attempt at originality was to do a study of an Introverted Intuitive for the perspective of an Introverted Intuitive. We are notoriously difficult to understand by "outsiders". T. E. Shaw and the earlier persona T. E. Lawrence were INFJ's just like me, but as all human beings are different, so too are all people who share the same personality type. The type only tells you the nature of one's thinking and acting processes, nothing more: this is the way we think; this is the way we act upon those thoughts. We can be good and bad; have vastly different interests and importances and tastes, just like anyone else and the same is true for all personality types.

The mythic content was important because the archetypal hero quest, for Shaw, took an unusual twist at its return; it was rejected by him and he set out on a different quest: one that saw little support from the public, but did have the support of some of his friends, especially those aircraftmen that he joined and with whom he had shared his day to day life. He became more like them then different from them and they liked and respected him for that.

His psychology, apart from his personality, was undoubtedly very similar to the puer aeternus, but that neurosis is identified as stemming from a mother-complex that Lawrence/Shaw did not actually have. He came about it through an actual physical cause and thus we might even question the validity of that term in his case: It only shared a few features with the neurosis: a tendency toward heroics, spartanism and a premature death (the latter being "happenstance" from multiple possible causes and something we cannot yet really understand). Where it differed, dramatically from the classic puer aeternus was that Shaw/Lawrence was neither homosexual nor a Don Juan. He was as close to asexual as it seems possible to be. It was with women, however, that he seemed to be the most personal in his communications.

There is a single mystery that I have been saving for last. It was reported in T. E Lawrence: Tormented Hero as coming from  Lyall Chapman, the cousin of Joyce Knowles, and first appeared (as by "anonymous" and only later was the identity was admitted by her) in Patrick and Joyce Knowles, A Handful with Quietness, p. 46.:
"...He was employed as a lorry driver at the time and with his ‘mate’ was working about a hundred yards east of the road where the accident took place. They were loading gear and equipment which had been used for a weekend territorial camp. 
"From where he was standing he saw the motorcycle come down the road into the camp, although at the time he was not aware that it was Shaw. Much later he heard the motorcycle again but didn’t turn away from his task. 
"Then suddenly, when he heard the engine race, the wheels spinning uselessly, he turned and saw the motorcycle on its side and a figure lying nearby. With his companion he ran across quickly, and although the injured man’s face was covered with blood, he realised from the Brough and the overalls that the man was wearing that it must be Lawrence. In surprise, he said ‘Why it’s Lawrence,’ whereupon Shaw opened his eyes and smiled and raised his hand with one finger extended— a gesture which has caused much speculation. Shaw then went into a coma without saying a word, a coma from which he never regained consciousness."
Andrew Norman, T.E.Lawrence - Tormented Hero (Kindle Locations 3282-3290). Fonthill Media. Kindle Edition.
In my opinion, Shaw knew he was about to die and was at peace with it, and this is the meaning behind the smile and the gesture. It reminds me of the the last statements of Timothy Leary I remember from visiting the website where he had decided "to die online": "yeah"and  "why not?"
I believe that the crash was an accident; that there was little room to navigate between the water tanks and the boys. I don't know what went through Shaw's mind at that moment, but I can remember driving Carrie's truck and hitting black ice on one night many years ago; We flew off the side of a hill and it could easily have been a fatal crash. Time slowed down and I was even able to lean and stop the truck from starting to roll over  by shifting my weight; I was calm and lucid and must have been thinking in microseconds. The highway was split lanes: we were on the higher level going east, and below us was the lower level going west; we were doing about 100 kmh on what I thought was a dry road. but at that hill, water running down it had changed to black ice. As we flew off into the inky blackness, I could see the lights of the cars approaching from the east. Suddenly, there was gap we were skidding through and then we were flying off another hill where we finally caught in deep snow by a barbed wire fence below. Neither of us had so much as a bruise.

Did Shaw, in those last few seconds, find the solution to the crash and chose to ignore it? We can never know. Did it solve the problems he had been having to live with at the mercy of an uncaring press; a government which saw him as only a problem; and an adoring public? Yes, it did. It was the only solution.

John's Coydog Community page

Monday, 18 July 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 24. B. V. Jones as critic (iii)

North London Collegiate School The school as
seen from within Canon's Park from the west.
Photo: I M Chengappa (
The reference to Sir Ernest M. Dowson on the last page of Jones's notes is puzzling: it is to a section in ...friends containing Dowson's first impressions of  Lawrence and covers so many different statements it is impossible to know which one (or more) is not a fact (according to Jones. The range is defined by the excerpts which not only continue to page 133, but it ends with the start of where Woolley is first mentioned but does not include any information on Woolley past that fragment. The initials that follow might be "A.L." and are certainly the same as the note about Chambers but in the earlier part of the document Jones used a rounded upper-case "A". the date 1937, however, does seem to refer to the first edition of ...friends where A. W. Lawrence writes the Preface and final entry but A.W.L. refers to neither Dowson nor any details that are within the quotes.Jones also crosses out this note and perhaps it was a half-thought idea subsequently abandoned.

Similar problems arise with the reference to Leonard H. Green's entry:

"His parents were remarkable people who trusted their sons implicitly, and as each long vacation occurred gave them a lump sum, such as they could afford, for they were not rich, and let them fend for themselves and go as far their  money would take them. The household would go to bed each night, and in the morning the servant would report that the bed of the missing boy was occupied — he would appear at breakfast just as if there had been no lacuna, and would tell his story in his own way when the mood seized him without parental pressure"

Jones gives "Pure invention no truth in this M. R. L." The initials refer to T.E.'s older brother who was a classmate of Green's and there is nothing in M. R.L.'s own entry bearing on this matter so it must have come from a different source. We also do not know if Green invented this or whether it was T.E.'s own invention that he passed on to Green. Nor do we know if all parts of it were dismissed by M.R.L. Again, it is crossed out.

The envelope notes, in Jones' hand but unsigned gives dated excerpts from Seven Pillars of Wisdom. In the 1922 Oxford text these are excerpts are also dated but only to the month and year and not to the day as they are, seemingly, only in these notes. I can only speculate on where Jones obtained  the day. Jones does use the same way of writing the dates as did Lawrence, right down to the exact positioning of the dots between the elements. This was either copied from Lawrence or was a standard format used by the Aircraftmen in India at the time Jones and Shaw served there. There is a single error in the note: "raised his eyes in a flash..."should be "raised his eyes like a flash..." which is understandable because of the commoner "in a flash" usage.

I am indebted to and most grateful to Mrs Jenny Bartlett, Librarian at the North London Collegiate School which runs the Old North Londoners Association with providing me with the details on the person to whom the envelope is addressed and whose receipt is contained within. She writes:
"...Constance H is known to us, Connie Hurran, an ex pupil (ONL) who was indeed treasurer of the ONLA for some time. She died relatively recently. ...
"...I think the H MacDonald refers to Heather MacDonald, a pupil here from 1941-48. The address on your envelope tallies with the address on her admission record. She left here to go to Westfield College to study Classics. (This was a constituent college of the University of London.) She later taught at Reeds School, Basingstoke and was Classics Mistress at Parliament Hill School. I can find no record of her death, so there may be a thread of hope you could track her down personally. Of course, she could have married and changed her surname, or the school may have not been notified of her death.
"The receipt, I imagine, would have been for her subscription fees to the ONLA. ..."
I sent an email to Parliament Hill School for further information through their website inquiry form, but got no reply at all. Such things, unfortunately, happen from time to time with certain institutions. Curiously, I have never, ever, had any response to such a query saying something like "Unfortunately we cannot provide you with this information because..."  not everyone is as helpful as Mrs. Bartlett.

Mrs. Bartlett also asked me about the mystery of the flowers that regularly appeared on his grave over some years. Following is the answer to that question from Rodney Legg, Lawrence of Arabia in Dorset, 1988,  P. 106:

"The American lady's flowers 

"T.E. Lawrence's devoted latter-day admirer was Theodora Duncan who worshipped his memory in California. In 1968 she admitted to me that she had been the mystery lady who had added another wrapping to the Lawrence enigma by arranging for flowers to be placed on his grave. Theodora Duncan wrote to me: "there is one more bit of information that might interest you. Another friend was 'doing Dorset' about four years ago, and she was on a bus that passed the Moreton graveyard where T.E.L. is buried. The bus driver was telling the passengers about various things they were seeing, and he commented that 'a mysterious lady from America' had put flowers on Lawrence's grave every year. 
"My friend knew that I was that 'mysterious lady'. My friend Commander Frampton took care of the matter for me, for about five years. 
"After that I stopped, since I felt that T.E. would rather the money went to feed some hungry person.""

Tomorrow, conclusion and reflections.

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