The “manic” part of bipolar disorder (manic-depression) could actually enable one to escape the self-hatred associated with melancholia. Manic states such as joy and exhaltation depend on the same psychical energy as melancholia. Humor is actually a natural anti-depressant that works by “the I” (ego) finding itself ridiculous.
Humor is a relation of self-knowledge. Finding oneself ridiculous ought not lead to shame or humiliation, but actually to modesty, for we might get a firm grasp on the limitedness of the human condition, a limitedness that calls for comic acknowledgement.
What one gets a glimpse of in humor is a non-hostile presence of mind that has undergone a maturation. This maturity comes from learning to laugh at oneself when we find ourselves ridiculous. Humor thereby saves us from tragic hubris and the fantasy of believing we are omnipotent. Humor saves us from self-hatred.
Moods have nothing whatsoever to do with cognitive functioning. For me, employment is problematic not due to cognitive dysfunction, but because I seem hostile to structure, schedules, petty politics, and a host of other phenomena: back-breaking labor hardens the body and soul, and kills dreams. Sometimes it is a sign of merit to be at odds with a society, especially when society rewards conformity and mediocrity and caving into the ways of industrial man while it starves the extraordinary. They praise honesty then let it starve.
My very being threatens and mocks the meritocracy. I am caught up in some kind of intellectual adventure. It is as if some kind of invisible presence were throwing all these books in my face, as well as “signs” in dreams and my experiences while awake.
The feeling of the absurd and suicide are directly related. Camus says that irremedial despair is the only honest attitude the heart can feel. Many people are walking around with broken hearts – that’s a condition called “schizophrenia” in this perfect day. I am concerned with the absurd for I see it everywhere I look. Once we have become conscious of the absurd, we are forever bound to it. We don’t have the option of being cured of our “soul” – but only seeking to live with it as though coping with an ailment, living with the sense of the absurd.
Phenomenology confirms absurd thought in its initial assertion that there is no truth, but merely truths. Is the phenomenological reduction an absurd procedure? “Intention” characterizes consciousness. Returning to consciousness, as we “awaken,” we escape from everyday sleepwalking and move toward absurd freedom. It’s not so much about explaining and solving as it is about experiencing and describing.
I have become alienated, marginalized, and superfluous. I can’t explain how I’ve come to be this way. I merely experience and attempt to describe experience. Radical intellectual honesty seems to be a necessary component in this process. I want to push through the barriers that prevent us from deep experience – self-deception, delusion, and downright blindness as to the motivations underlying behaviors which baffle us.
Isn’t this a dream, this so-called wakeful everyday reality? Isn’t the pain or humiliation we experience like a dream in the night, quickly arising and then passing away? People can be vulgar, sadistic, and cruel towards us, and we judge the world a wicked place, or at the very least, a world filled with karmic traces of negative emotion. Who knows the roots of pathological behavior? What is the I that gets traumatized? Is the I the source of consciousness? If this is true, this ought to make us pause, since the I is deceptive from the start. Nothing but consciousness is the source of consciousness. Some problems are insoluable. Our culture places the soul in the brain. Is consciousness a brain process?
How does an empirically responsible philosopher respond to this question?
Merleau-Ponty shifts the locus of intentionality from Husserlian consciousness to the body-subject. Embodied intentionality must now be seen as grounded in biological processes – processes that are shared by humans and non-humans alike. We are not radically different from the rest of the beings of nature, but rather we are different only in degree.
Merleau-Ponty does not repudiate scientific approaches as false – it is rather the insufficiency of these approaches to account for our experience as embodied subjects in the world that prompts his criticism (Harney). Scientific training/education imparts an unrealistic, rational picture of the world, where the individual body-subject plays a minor role. The individual, however, as an irrational datum, is the true and authentic carrier of reality (Jung). I think Carl Jung and Edmund Husserl would agree that one of the chief factors responsible for mass-mindedness is scientific rationalism, which robs the individual of his or her foundations and dignity. Rationalists are incapable of psychological insight. Feeling like an insignificant statistic or “vote,” and that life has lost its meaning, the poor gort is already on its way to State slavery. The individual personality is the real life-carrier. And yet wasn’t Husserl a man of the State, or at least one who sided with the State, in the sense that he was concerned about maintaining a primacy for science?
No creature escapes being a freak in the world of scientific data. In both the scientific-State view as well as the monotheistic-God-State view, the individual is but a puny, insignificant “consumer,” “client,” or “subject.” Science and technology made reason ascendant over our emotional system (instinct, intuition, unconscious animal responses), and from this comes the prime assumption of modern humanism: “All problems are soluable.” Emotion is held up to contempt and ridicule. Industrial society believes reason to be superior to emotion, and yet, as complex neurobiological organisms, we can’t reason without our complex emotional systems. Emotions are the mechanism that Nature has given us for fitting ourselves into our world (Ehernfeld).
A body (corps) is not reducible to an organism, any more than espirit de corps is reducible to the soul of an organism. The essence of animism is a radical rejection of Cartesian dualism. Animism is the recognition that we are our bodies and not ephemeral spirit wrapped in an arbitrary fleshy shell; animism is the simple belief in our own experience (Godesky). This is where phenomenology and animism merge. The body becomes the symbol for the I.
Alone, without the body, the I is an empty concept.
I am aware of the hidden forces within the body, within the universe, forces that, simply by existing, destroy all rational delusions. The truth is not in history. History is the opposite of Nature. The drama of truth occurs in our hearts, in our pain and ecstasy, in our doubt and intuition, in our private anguish and despair.
None of these can be explained away in terms of rational categories of a disembodied mind. Reason seems impotent when confronted with the depths of existence. The ultimate truth of our condition cannot be known rationally, because this truth is elusive, and any attempt to objectify it can delude us. The Hegelian philosophy of history is meaningless. Worse yet, it is cruel and coercive.
Heidegger viewed reason as an obstacle to thinking.
“The cultivation of the mind is not the only important thing in life,” says Camus. “Of more consequence is the development and maturity of personality.”
If there is no consciousness outside of the neural nerve net (the brain), if there is no soul outside the brain, where does consciousness come from? What causes consciousness?
What does the great Oracle, Arthur Schopenhauer, have to tell me about soul or consciousness?
“The maintenance of an empirical freedom of the will, a liberum arbitrium indifferentiae, is very closely connected with the assertion that places man’s inner nature in a soul that is originally a knowing, indeed, really an abstract thinking entity, and only in consequence thereof a willing entity. Such a view, therefore, regarded the will as a secondary nature, instead of knowledge, which is really secondary.”
Of course, according to Schopenhauer, the will is first and original; knowledge is merely added to it as an instrument belonging to the phenomenon of the will. And yet, even a mind as great, as coherent and clear, as we find in Schopenhauer, can at times become ignorance parading around as authority. Perhaps the willing entity is the thinking entity, and the duality between soul and body is a consequence of artificial conceptualizations we impose upon our experience.
Do mental states have non-physical features? Schopenhauer says that everything is most certainly physical, yet not explainable. Paul M. Churchland offers an explanation with neurocomputational terminology. The existence of one’s auto-connected epistemic pathways, their origins, and their current cognitive functions are all intelligible on purely physicalist assumptions. Isn’t this going about things counter to implementing Husserl’s “pre-scientific awareness”? I don’t think so.
Husserl’s phenomenology is a bringing us into contact with things through their being perceived in their fleshly presence. Each of us, including non-human creatures, has a proprietary way of knowing about the occurrence and character of one’s own internal states. Truth cannot be limited to what can be gained through the application of the scientific method. Merleau-Ponty argued for the irreducibility of corporeal know-how to discrete, syntactic processes. Merleau-Ponty went as far as describing scientific points of view as “always naïve and at the same time dishonest.” Many truths we arrive at intuitively through our living bodies, or through conversations with people. Even our readings of books can take the form of conversations with the voices behind the text.
I have a strong ambivalence towards professional, academic philosophy.
Thinking cannot be left to “specialists” or “experts.” Sometimes I give up the label of philosopher altogether and just consider myself a theorist, an animal metaphysicum.
What about the old issue about the essentially objective nature of physical phenomena and the essentially subjective nature of mental phenomena? We can now see that there is nothing exclusively objective about physical phenomena, since they can occasionally be known by subjective means as well, specifically, by the activity of one’s auto-connected epistemic pathways. Neither is there anything exclusively subjective about one’s mental states. While our mental states are known by way of one’s auto-connected pathways, our states can also be observed by Others. The very faculties of understanding are themselves physical in nature.
Consciousness flows. Consciousness is not me, but I am of consciousness. I am a species of consciousness. When one says, “I think, therefore, I am,” that which says “I think” is not that which says “I am.”. Only consciousness is. I can think I am or I can think I am not. Whatever I think is not what is. Descartes’s “I think, therefore, I am,” locks up “the subject” in his or her own ego. Husserl can’t transcend the ‘unknown forces of Nature” without invoking specific “magical” terminology such as the phenomenological act of reduction (epoche, bracketing off, suspending judgment).
“Magic” is a simple direct way of escaping the narrowness of everydayness. Instead of turning to the great thinkers, the student of the occult turns immediately inward and tries to reach down to his subliminal depths, into the cognitive unconscious itself, what Husserl imagined to be a “pure consciousness,” a primordial pre-scientific awareness, the ground of non-conceptual, “spiritual” knowledge. I think the chief thing is to establish a link between the conscious and subconscious mind.
Boredom and depression are a failure to grasp our natural powers. Isn’t Edmund Husserl kind of Faustian in his stepping back, stepping beyond? What Wittgenstein calls the mystical can be shown, although it cannot be said. Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.
“There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.” (Wittgenstein)
According to Western neuroscience, consciousness is a product of the physiological processes in the brain, and thus critically dependent on the body. We have absolutely no proof that consciousness is actually produced by the brain. We do not have even a remote notion how something like consciousness could possibly happen. That consciousness is a brain process remains one of the leading myths of Western materialistic science and has profound influence on our entire society (Grof).
Experiences originating on deeper levels have a certain quality Jung called numinosity. The term numinous is neutral and preferable to similar names, such as religious, mystical, magical, holy, or sacred. The mystics do not need churches or temples or universities.
Alcoholism and dependence on street drugs may represent a misguided search for transcendence. “Mystical states” offer richness of philosophical insights, but drunkenness does not offer such insights. People go into therapy trying to make the unconscious conscious. And yet, our spiritual ancestors close to the origins of our species realized the conscious and subconscious are linked together through the process of breathing.
Husserl had a deep conviction that Western culture had lost its direction and purpose. The individual is threatened from both sides: by the State and by God. It seems there is a psychological opposition between the phenomenal Natural World and the monotheistic God. The peasants starve and the police are kept well-disciplined and well-fed. Who is this goon lumbering around as my government?
To me, radicalizing phenomenology is simply acknowledging that when Husserl attempted to use rational means for attaining a transcendental state, he unleashed into the world a confusion. This was purely accidental. When I refer to myself as a “radical phenomenologist,” I mean that I fully embrace the confusion Husserl has exposed; in fact, I rest in this confusion. Edmund Husserl, without trying to do so, has undermined Reason, the god of the Industrial World. As a radical phenomenologist, I call into question the conventional scientific worldview. In so doing, I set about to further undermine the IW. The connection between science and totalitarian control has become apparent. The general population finds itself existing within a gargantuan industrial apparatus which it admires, worships, and idolizes, and yet cannot comprehend. Hence, the general population defers to the authority of the experts and specialists.
As a radical phenomenologist, I do not defer to such authority. I question the myth of objective consciousness. Starting with a sense of the individual that ventures to psychoanalytic depths, I rapidly arrive at a viewpoint that rejects many of the undisputed values of industrialism itself. My mode of existence, my philosophy, can transcend “high productivity,” efficiency, full employment, and the “work-and-consume” ethic.
Industrial man turns to science (and common sense) to explain reality. Objectivity is what characterizes both science and common sense. The professionals and experts of our society all cultivate an objective consciousness. The myth of our modern culture is a mode of consciousness, the natural attitude. In our society, the word myth is associated with falsehood. I mean myth as a mental construct, the way a given culture explains reality. The myth of objective consciousness begins by cutting reality into two spheres: “inside-the-skin” and “outside-the-skin.” Objective consciousness diminishes our existence. There are no experts in being me or you! The experts want to be correct; I just want to be wise.
Albert Camus, always honest and wise, writes, “Husserl’s manner of proceeding negates the classical method of reason, disappoints hope, opens to intuition and to the heart of the whole proliferation of phenomena, the wealth of which has something about it inhuman. These paths lead to all sciences or to none.”
When I first learned how to “program” digital serial computers, I daydreamed about creating software that would “swallow whole books” and then allow the user to search the text’s index and read aloud the relevant text. My motivation for this task was Arthur Schopenhauer’s magnum opus, considering the great index in volume two of the Payne translation. Fortunately we are each parallel distributive processing computers made of meat. I can easily instantiate this program myself quite mechanically to summon the presence of this mind that left such an impression on me.
I am moving towards an embodied realism, and yet I trust Schopenhauer when he writes, “True philosophy must at all costs be idealistic; indeed, it must be so merely to be honest. For nothing is more certain than that no one ever came out of himself immediately with things different from him; but everything of which he has certain, sure, and hence immediate knowledge, lies within his consciousness. Beyond this consciousness, therefore, there can be no immediate certainty; but the first principle of a science must have such a certainty. It is quite appropriate to the empirical standpoint of all the other sciences to assume the objective world as positively and actually existing; it is not appropriate to the standpoint of philosophy, which has to go back to what is primary and original. Consciousness alone is immediately given, hence the basis of philosophy is limited to the facts of consciousness; in other words, philosophy is essentially idealistic.”
But I digress. Spiritualism is the false safeguard against materialism; but the real and true safeguard against materialism is idealism. In spiritualism, what is proved is the knower’s independence of matter, but in idealism, what is proved is the dependence of all matter on the knower. Husserl always reminds us that consciousness is always consciousness of something. Schopenhauer says that consciousness without object is no consciousness at all. Both appear to be transcendental idealists.
Intellect and matter are correlatives. They are one and the same thing – not opposites. From one point of view, we have intellect, from the other point of view we have matter; and both are this one thing, the phenomenon of this will-to-live, the primordial one, Ur-Einen. Immanuel Kant’s proposition, that the “I think” must accompany all our representations, is insufficient, for “the I” is an unknown quantity. The I itself is a mystery and a secret. Isn’t the I Ur-Einen? Isn’t the I the thing-in-itself? We partake in the unconscious omniscience of the great mother (the inner being of Nature).