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Monday, November 29, 2010

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 5

(Fifth in a series of letters from Robert Anton Wilson, reprinted on the Internet for the first time since their original appearance more than 30 years ago.)

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

On the "nature" problem: Bucky Fuller suggests that "Universe" should mean everything that exists including me and "environment" should mean everything that exists excluding me. This is totally arbitrary, like all definitions, but at least is (or seems to me) clear and bereft of muddy metaphysics.

Of course, this distinction is only useful in some areas of discourse. In other areas, it becomes necessary to note that environment and me are constantly interacting, exchanging energy, etc., and that we cannot, ultimately, be disentangled. (That is, we can only be relatively disentangled for special purposes in special areas of discourse.)

This does not clarify the "nature" problem but possibly confuses it further. I'm sorry. I'm doing the best I can. Give me a few more years and maybe I'll figure it all out.

In any case, I cannot feel, imagine or conceive myself as outside of "nature." I seem, to myself, as natural as any hamster, rosebush, cockroach, bear, rock, pelican, or star anywhere. I may be peculiar, but that does not make me unnatural. Pelicans are peculiar, too. Lobsters are very peculiar.

I think my blasphemous inability to develop a sense of guilt has to do with this inability to develop a feeling of being outside nature. When a moralist (Christian, Marxist, Libertarian or whoever) tells me I should not be what I am, I am not offended; I just think they are silly-as if they were telling a lobster not to be a lobster.

Einstein got into relativity by imagining vividly what it would feel like to be a photon. I got into whatever is wrong with me by imagining vividly what it is like to be a cow. I was living on a farm and doing acid at the time and maybe the six-legged majority on this planet somehow got more real (or as the mystics say, more Real) than the domesticated primates with whom I am supposed to identify. I don't know if I'm a star imagining progressive games in which I pretend to be a cow, a lobster, domesticated primate, etc. or if I'm a domesticated primate imagining I have been a star, a lobster, a dinosaur, etc.

Ecology and ethology make perfect sense to me. So does sociobiology, that bane of the Left. But nobody makes any sense when they start telling me that I'm unnatural or that any part of domesticated primate life is unnatural. I don't know why birds sing or why Beethoven wrote Sonata 23, but, while both astonish me, neither seems un-, anti-, super- or infra-natural to me.

I have read Theodore Roszak, who argues at length that everything or most things that I like are unnatural. I concluded that Roszak does not like the same things as me, but I could find no merit in his claim that what he likes is natural and what I like is unnatural. I think that he and I are equally natural, but different, as the purple-assed baboon and the preying mantis are equally natural, but different.

And I have read you, Arthur, arguing that nature is "mundane shit" but that did not change my perceptions. I merely registered that Arthur Hlavaty has different perceptions than me--which is not astonishing to me, since it is an axiom of my neurology that everybody has different perceptions. I continue to perceive all of nature, including myself, as beautiful, mysterious, grand, and radiant with intricate intelligence.

James Joyce said he had never met a boring person; he was a Humanist. I have never had a boring perception, because I am a Universalist.

In answer to Sam Konkin, I am an agnostic about every thing, not just about "God," and for totally pragmatic and selfish reasons. I have observed that when certitude enters a human mind, mental activity then quickly ceases. Wishing to continue mental activity, I therefore avoid certitude. This is not a philosophical position (I am not a philosopher) but an empirical rule for growth, change, and mental alertness.

I'm as agnostic about Sam Konkin as I am about "God," or more so, since I have had a great many experiences with "God," or with what is alleged to be "God," and only a few experiences with Sam Konkin or what is alleged to be Sam Konkin.

I am also dubious about Sam's proposition that if you can't prove something, you should assume it has been disproven, or pretend that it has been disproven, or label yourself as one who has disproven it. (This may not be exactly what Sam meant but it is as much as I can understand of his argument against agnosticism. I am sometimes slow.) I think at once of the alleged 10th planet beyond Pluto. Nobody has found it yet, but astronomers do not for that reason assume it is not there; they go on looking. Similarly, the proposed quarks in quantum theory have not been found yet, but physicists do not assume quarks are not there; they go on looking.

To "go on looking" seems worthwhile to me, because It is good exercize for the intelligence, and also because if one goes on looking, one generally finds something, although not always exactly what one was looking for.

I suspect that "God" is a term invented by humans in certain cultures to describe experiences of contact, or seeming contact, or mind-fusion, or seeming mind fusion, with an intelligence or intelligences that are, or seem to be, inhuman or trans-human or super-human. I suspect that similar experiences in other cultures led to the invention of terms like "the Buddha-nature," "the True Self," "the World Soul," "the Atman," "the Tao," and once, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, "the Force." I also suspect that Alan Watts was a very smart man in simply calling it It. And I suspect that contact, or seeming contact, with It provoked philosophers and scientists to such terms as "Mind" (as distinct from individual mind (Plato), "orgone" (Reich), "implicate order" (Bohr), "the psychoic Level" and "synchronicity" (Jung), the "neurogenetic" and "neuro-atomic" circuits (Leary), "Life Force" (Bergson, Shaw) "synergy" (Fuller). These are suspicions, not certitudes.

1 comment:

Eric Wagner said...

Thanks for reprinting this very rich material. I have not yet grokked Bob's comments about Joyce in the first letter, and I don't feel ready to answer his Pound questions yet.