Dear Friends of the POP-UP School,
This is part two of a two-part SEEDS essay.
In part one I posit two reasons why we need a school like the POP-UP School:
The shift we need is more radical than you imagine
The malware runs deeper than you suspect.
There I discussed reason #1. Here I will discuss reason # 2
2. The malware runs deeper than you suspect
We are trapped in our own nets of knowing.
“Demi-reality” is a term coined by Roy Bhaskar which refers to “made-up realities” — the world of confusion, illusion, delusion and errors. The Demi-real is maintained by human social convention, habits of language, unexamined assumptions, institutionalized processes of reification, propaganda, advertising, mechanisms of domination and control, narratives and ideologies of all sorts, mythological thinking, wives tales, and cognitive biases of all sorts.
The capacity to critique the pre-given social and cultural structures of one’s own society emerged with post-modern consciousness. But the post-modern critique is itself entangled with the “linguistic turn” in philosophy, which construes semiotic relationships as the base level of human reality. Therefore, it could only “get at” the sorts of demi-reality that were socially constructed by language and symbols.
The post-modernists deplored the language-game called “science,” and yet, whatever might be construed as lurking deeper than the semiotic level, something like genetics or bio-toxins— they were forced to depend on scientific discourse to talk about. The post-modernists also despised the langauge-game called “religion",” and yet, whatever could be construed as an intelligence independent of human constructs— like autopoeisis in living systems and cosmological emergence— they were forced to relegate to the langauge games and religiosity of “new age” spirituality.
Ultimately, these language games masqueraded as critique, but in reality got swept up in discursive and reactionary meme wars that we see on social media today. And so this is something we have to get away from— the single use of langauge as re-presentation, as second, and third order abstraction. The move toward meta-language and meta-analysis is not helpful here.
Fortunately, we can reclaim language by putting it to other uses. Its primary function is not re-presentation, but presentation, i.e. to point to. This functions is deeply steeped in our animal nature. The dog barking at his ball by my feet, is a pointing-to-saying. The baby crying in the crib is pointing to something, too. When I am describing the soft-brilliance of the moon, I am not talking about it. Rather, I am trying to point you too, to a way of seeing.
We need a school like this where we stop talking about — a recursive process I call “compounding knowledge” and start pointing to the deeper reality of human experience. This would require the possibility of saying without naming. This would open us to the possibility of direct knowing — something we are going to point to in the upcoming 2023 course.
Of course, our native language and culture perpetuate the demi-reality we are born into. But it is not there, in the language or culture only, that the malware operates. As PERSPECTIVA’s mantra reminds us— its not only a crisis of systems and societies, its also a crisis of souls.
Let’s consider a first example. We have spoken before, in the course sessions, how all abstract language is based on metaphors derived from our embodied experience with, as and of the physical world. We say “humans are in nature” which borrows the preposition “in” from physical instantiations. But it is easy to see that we are not “in nature” the same way that candy is “in a box.” Of course this begs the question of how better to talk about the relationship between humans and nature. The point being, that the question just doesn’t merely reside in the defficiency of the language-construction. The question is actually unaswered.
Take another example. Charles Eisenstein debunks the story of separation, and is interested in creating a new story. Many of us follow his work, and totally agree that the story of separation is malware. But throwing away the story doesn’t seem to automatically rid us of the deeper sense of, deeper expression of, deeper suspicion of separation. Those who are compusively trying to re-thematize the relationship into one of a higher unity, are hopelessly trapped in a performative contradiction. They are simultaneously talking about this higher unity, while pointing out that there is separation, and we need to do something about it. This is a performative contradiction. If we are in fact not separated from nature, then we don’t need a new story to tell us so. We need a new language that can point it out to us.
Embodied pointing gestures
If instead of thinking in terms of language-games and semiotic systems, we familiarize ourselves with language as speech-acts that point to. At the highest capacity, this new EPG (embodied pointing gesture) can also orient us, collectively, toward something that is possible but not yet actualized. If you think in terms of complex potential states, this would not be mere abstraction, because potentials are here in the now, asserting their latency, not somewhere up there or out there in a not-yet “emergent” future.
We need a school like this because pedagogies usually are constrained by propositional knowing. Transformational education, on the other hand, is focused on training new procedures and skills. At the POP-UP School we consider speech acts to be both participatory and procedural, and we are training new skills around new forms of speech acts. Notice we are not working with language, nor are we working on language. We are working the activity of speaking itself, that, as procedure of the body,and as such, can be honed to a greater perfection. To that extent, we are engaged in a pedagogy we might name “Dancing with Words.”
The malware is held in deeper, pre-linguistic processes of the person.
Where is the story of separation held?
The primary function of the core self is to organize reality into self-other-world. Every experience is a moment-to-moment wave from deep interior processes of raw sentience and animal sensations, that flow through perception and pulse through imagination, seeking to satisfy the initiating arousal. If held in awareness, the continuity of the wave from world to idea, would ground the self in an indoubtable, self-evidencing, self-validating experience of the no-separation. We would experience continuity-in-process instead of segments and fragments. We would construe causal processes as unfolding wholes, not serial parts. This reality is available to us now as an understanding, in both religious, scientific, and philosophical theories based on process metaphysics. This reality is available to us now, as experientially verifyable through transformations in disposition and perception.
The story of separation is held in the illusion of perceptual experience, where inner sensation and outer perception become decoupled in our consciousness. In other words, as moderns, we have a sense-perceptual deviation which occludes the co-variance of self and other, self and world. In the POP-UP School 2022 courses we studied this. Together, we are on a journey to keep working with it, in order to restore it and reclaim it as our human nature.
What malware are we focused on?
Neither the critique of Realism in scientific reductionism, and Idealism in Buddhist scholasticism and its western counterpart, go deep enough— since they both are based in a mind-body dualism.
The Darwinian Attitude
The Darwinian attitude (which is a perversion of Darwin’s theory of evolution) pervades our discourse in all domains of life. It is responsible for epistemic closure, where everything is adpating to everything else, while simultaneously exerting more adaptive pressure into the system. In 2023 I will be serializing my chapter from the Metamodern Dispatches book, which speaks to an alternative theory of change, A Theory of Complex Potential States, which you can listen to here:
Metaphysical Primes of Modernity- Time, Change, and Causality
The SEEDS articles coming in 2023 will serilalize my chapter from the Metamodern Dispatches book where I examine the modernist assumptions of time, change and causality that underlie all our beliefs and make all our truths “partial truths.”
The Deanimation of the World
Due to deep malware, when we think in terms of systems, we always deanimate some of the actor-members. This is most fundamental at the level of perception where the perceiving subject and perceived object begins. Current cognitive science on the Ecological Approach to Perception, corrects this view. In the POP-UP School, we keep working toward being able to see in new ways— to restore a wild cognition
Complexification as a Universal Principle
We instinctively (?) have the belief that the prime imperative of the universe is to complexify. But Whitehead has shown that this is the knee-jerk impression we get because we only count “actuals”— we never include the “potentials". This is analogous to seeing the crop yield as having more value than the fertile soil; or thinking that the human brain is more intelligent than the microsome. The malware of complexification leads to all kinds of confusion around how to think— we compound knowledge rather than reveal generative principles wherein revealing generative principles is a process of insight that releases complexity.
The Production of a Cosmopolitan Subjectivity
In the 2022 course we worked directly with exposing the malware beneath the production of a cosmopolitan subjectivity, and offered the notion of a Convivial Society as an alternative. You can follow the course modules here which include the communal and core self.
One of the most pernicious forms of malware is associated with one of “our” favorite words floating around the “liminal web.” Emergentism is closely connected to complefication-ism as when we construe more complex forms “emerge” from lower forms. Why assume that this his how emergence always works? Why do we not apply the term to situations such as, for example, the bio-legacies that emerged after Mount Saint Hellens erupted? Or when we sit in collective process, do we surreptitiously expect something higher, more complex, and inclusive-convergence to emerge? rather than see the fragmentation and bifurcation, and explosiveness of the process as emergent, too?
Emergentism is also part of the mind-body dualism malware, since we tend to construct a mental model of the mind as an emergent property of the body. This is the way we construct the modern version of the perennial philosophy— that chain of entities from void to energy to matter to elements, to biotic life to animals, and then humans. The problem with emergentism is that while it purports to defend the continuity of matter and life, of nature and people, of body and mind, it actually conveys a discrete separation.
The sense of separation comes not despite the term, “Emergence” but with it. This is because “emergence” means something like “a miracle happens here” — a placeholder where no other explantory theory is possible. It is this miracle— reminiscent of the hand of god— that separates us. A divine gap that cannot be mended.
Emergentism might not point to an ontological reality, but to the contraints of language and perception on the one hand, and the “uncanny” qualities of “numinous causality.” In the first case, for example, whenever we examine the continuity of things, it is easy to see what category of entities we are talking about. Something living or something dead. But at the interfaces, between the living and the dead — such as viruses— language proves to be too coarse-grained to categorize effectively. Which is to say that the categories, well, being “categories” are short cuts that do not precisely represent the infinite diversity in the reality. Similarly, at a certain scale we cannot perceive the real interactions that are happening, or given the temporal scale of evolution, we cannot perceive the exact place and time when one species is handed over as another.
The concept of numinous causalty pertains to the ontological necessity of gaps between effects and causes, and proposes that in reality, we are always only dealing with effects, the causes of which can not be known.
This malware is in a category of its own and I want to debunk it. There is a deep, hidden belief in almost every human being, outside of intact indigenous cultures, that humans are born flawed. In Christianity we have original sin— the condition that says not that you are a sinner because you have sinned, but that you sin because you are born a sinner. It is your originary nature. Most of expect that Buddhism avoids this malfeasance. Yet there is an insidious message in Buddhism that says, if you are born at all, you are still paying off your karmic debt (if your lucky) or still accumulating it. Here the “saved ones” are no longer born. Except of course, you might claim Bodhisattva status from the start.
Creative thought does not add, it empties. ~ Jason W Brown
Hope to see you in class. New course series starts January 7th.
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This is what I call “epistemic leakage” where the model is meant to suggest one thing, but in reality, how it is drawn out and presented tells another story. For example, people vested in developmental stage theory like Spiral Dynamics and the whole lot, will take care to say “but its the health of the whole spiral that matters.” And yet, within the terms of their own model, only one direction is “higher” or “more complex” — which given the malware of compleification is tautological— it is clear that value is added in one direction only, and lost in the opposite direction.
a very practical comment that would help me, and maybe others too?
If you insert a link in the text Bonnie, - if possible - let it open in another tab? Thanks!
First, thank you for framing this in such a powerful way. You had laid the pieces over time, and now you bring together the set. Will continue to read it, read about it, follow the suggestions. So far, it has been a most rewarding journey in 2022 and I am looking forward for '23.
But... For example, if I was living in 16th century Romania, in a village, I went to church and learned about the original sin, took it seriously, wrestled with the consequences, maybe fasted, prayed, went to regular confession. At every step I visualize the immensity of God and my own unworthiness. Maybe I get to truly feel that He loves me, that I may be one of the righteous, but even then I struggle. But for the most part, I defer to the Wisdom of the Church that it got it figured out and I end up dying in peace.
Fast forward, end of 19th century, I cannot bring myself to Believe the way my 16th century alter ego did. If I am religious at all, I am truly split and compartmentalized between Faith, Philosophy and Science. My world is disenchanted but at some level I call myself enlightened. I am , most likely, more neurotic, and still look for forms of Salvation from places like Reason, Society or Science/Technology.
In 21st century I cannot Believe, and I read Bonnitta's piece on 'malware runs deep'. The fact that I just agree that there are 'temptations' in all corners and at all levels seems to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It is a cognitive relationship with a 'sort of limit of Knowledge' that seems to invariably, into an Eternal Recurrence bring us in an eschatological position.
The frame seems to be always the same: False Knowledge - New Knowledge - Salvation or Not.
While 'finding a better theory' is always useful, I venture to speculate that we may be in more dire need to develop a 'saner' sensibility to inhabit the aporic space that seems to be, again and again, the place were we end up.