Bubbles, Live Conversation #4 – 6/8/2017

Continuing the discussion from Bubbles, Live Conversation #3 – 5/25/2017:

Dear @spheres readers: Here are the recordings from our video call on 5/25.

This call was a little different than previous ones, I felt, perhaps more of an “enactment” of the themes of the chapter than a set of reflections on it. And in retrospect I think there’s a lot of specific content in the text we didn’t cover, but it also felt more engaged and inclusive, to me at least. See what you think, and how you feel about it!



[mp3 download]


This is the 4th of 9 live conversations with Metapsychosis Journal’s “Readers Underground” reading group for Peter Sloterdijk’s Spheres Trilogy, Volume 1: Bubbles.

In this conversation, we discuss chapter 3 of the book, “Humans in the Magic Circle: On the Intellectual History of the Fascination with Closeness.”


Marco V Morelli (host)
John Davis
Dona Abadi
Ed Mahood
Wendy Ronitz-Baker

Date recorded: 6/8/2017

Thanks to everyone for participating! Mark your calendars for our next live call on June 22nd at 12 pm MDT. Call-in info here.


“Enactment” is a good, and kind, word.

And, I have two text-related questions, I’d like to throw out to the group, not only those who were present at the last session but those who were unable to make it as well:

  1. What is – or, perhaps better, is there – a trajectory that Sloterdijk is following with his presentation in this volume (e.g., ignoring all the preliminary text, we’ve gone from heart to face to (essentially) womb at the end of the last reading)?

  2. How does Sloterdijk understand the notion of “magic” and the “magic circle”? I’m still a bit unclear on how his prolonged discussion of mesmerism, especially as the prototype of modern psychoanalysis, is the best example to illustrate these notions.

Any and all assistance here will be greatly appreciated.


Oh, and while I’m at it …

Given that we often talk more about what Sloterdijk makes us think about than about what Sloterdijk actually thinks himself, I’m not too disquieted by doing a little of that myself. At any rate, what follows does dovetail into that part of our “enactment” in this last session that touched upon universities and degrees and learning. The Sloterdijkian hook was his discussion of Fichte in particular (though Schelling was not uninvolved) and the mentioning of the notion of the “professor-priest”. In reflecting further on the idea, I was reminded of something from long ago myself.

While we were talking of quasi-initiatic lineages, and the actual magic of the Latin mass, we might do well to remember that it was out of the Church (itself an initiatic order — the present Pope is a direct initiatic successor of the apostle Peter) was the soil out of which the university grew. That today’s universities have little in common, other than formalities, with their predecessors is inconsequential for the moment, but we should remember that the aura of authority that was once sole province of the Church, has been passed on nevertheless.

This very idea was described in a rather insightful, if not incisive, way by Jocelyn Gourus: in in his 1986 article in (the now defunct) Gnosis magazine (Issue 2, pp 34-38), “Priests, Professors, & Gurus: When the Academy is a Church the Hermetic Professor becomes a Heretic" (309.1 KB). Though Godwin’s focus is different from Sloterdijk’s, to be sure, it is very much worth giving a bit of consideration to it anyway. We should not deceive ourselves that science is objective and dispassionate as it likes to portray itself (and no one should get the idea that I, for example, am anti-science, for I’m anything but), for there is much that transpires under that approach to knowing that is in dire need of closer scrutiny and rigor. Where I differ from most mainstream believers, however, is in the absolutivity and exclusivity that science likes to claim for itself.

The ideas and notions that Godwin addresses are important for the simple reason that there has arisen a “new orthodoxy”, if you will, that now acts as gatekeeper to what is acceptable and permissible in our modern realms of knowing. We should not forget that Rupert Sheldrake and Russel Targ have both had videos removed from the TED platform, for example, because the views expressed therein are not in conformance with this current orthodoxy. We should remember that there are many topics that are simply ineligible for government or similar funding because they are taboo subjects (ESP, remote viewing, distant healing, extraterrestrial interaction, almost anything that has the merest tinge of spirituality to it) to name just a few that immediately spring to mind).

It is important to mention this because we live in a world that in many respects is really not all that different from those when the infamous Copernican Revolution took place, and while the persecutions may not end with human torches, the utter destruction of lives and careers goes on with unrestrained impunity. Whereas excommunication from the community of believers could once suffice to destroy most heretics, today it is exclusion from access to funding to pursue one’s research that serves a similar purpose.

Another reason I bring this up is a result of further reflection on the spin-off discussions that have taken place as a result of this reading group, such as the one on post-humanism and whether it matters. This one in particular raised key issues and concerns that I believe every one of us would do well to be clear on what it is we actually believe. Like the blind faith in the Providence of G-d which was required by the Church in the Middle Ages, today we are being called upon to have blind faith in (neo-)Darwinist evolution and neuroscience (the mind is the brain, the brain is the person), both of which are based on a postulated, not proven, materialism. When boiling down one’s own beliefs, there comes a point at which you realize you have to take a matter or two on faith alone. For the current materialistic orthodoxy it is the fact that matter is all that matters. There’s no way to prove or disprove this position, to be sure, which is why it is, in the end, simply a matter of faith.

Nevertheless, regardless of which faith we profess, we have to know that there are things that this faith alone cannot explain, or perhaps even not address. Knowing where one’s own faith lies can therefore help understand why it is some arguments seem acceptable or plausible and why others are not. I’m a big fan of self-awareness, not just as a notion or concept but as as active approach to understanding the world around us in general.

We should not forget that “science” was originally a word to identify a particular way of knowing. In the meantime, as with all words, its meaning has shifted, but we should not allow this original meaning to be obscured. Anything we humans can imagine, conceive or experience should, at least to my small mind, be legitimate subjects of scientific investigation, in which data may be gathered, investigated, and interpreted in the light of testable hypotheses that are part of consistent, coherent, and reasonable theoretic frameworks. In my view, we need to be open to all possibilities, not unnecessarily restricted by beliefs that themselves are simply declared exempt from investigation.

Just something to think about.


For me, Marco, one of the differences of this call, is that you stated an outcome for yourself and it was explicit. You also came up with a self metaphor." I’m an empty vessel."

Asking a group, who are we? Where are we? Why? are good questions perhaps but a bit of a leap for most of us. Most of us, most of the time, listen with our ears and assume we know what the other means. We tend to translate other’s words into our own vocabulary. This would be funny if we didn’t also create so much suffering. We assume way too much about others. They, like ourselves, are weird.

I recall in a dream, during the Gebser study, that I reported meeting up with Jean in the lower level of a shop selling light fixtures. As I was overhearing a conversation between two women discussing Jung and the film, Inception, Jean Geser, who glowed with an inner radiance, touched his ear, and said," You must learn to listen with your third ear."

How can we stop assuming we know what people mean when they use words we share in common? What could happen if we accept our deplorable ignorance and ask a clean question once in awhile? I imagine we could cut through the deficient rational monopoly on our discourse and create the conditions for re- languaging our bodymind in the moment.

We could also find perhaps that the third ear and the third eye are in close proximity and overlap in their functioning. We can then enter into uncharted territory with the greatest of ease, like the daring young man on the flying trapeze.

I was most amused, when at the end of the call, I asked if you had your desired outcome and you said, " Yes."

That is what I would call a ‘dynamic reference point’ for the group. The identity of a group arises out of such dynamic reference points. If we take the time to pay attention to what we learn, pleasant or unpleasant, there can become a momentum that is unstoppable.


Interesting, Ed. The article you share is written by Joscelyn Godwin, and I have recently come across his books a lot. Now that I have come across his name again, I feel the feel of something out of awareness that wants to be paid attention to. I will follow my inclination to read him, an inclination that I was unsure of but that now seems to be more compelling.

For me, learning in a group is a lot like ‘a wild goose chase’. Where did that goose go? Around the corner? Under the hedge? It is playful really because in my version we never intend to eat the goose. As soon as we grab her we are going to let her go. It is I guess a little bit like the Myth of Sisyphus but silly, without the serious heavy lifting.

Keeping amused, even in the midst of serious study, is important. And I think we did a good job of that during our discussion. You raise some serious questions, and also keep a clear head. A great stage actor once said," Tragedy is easy. Comedy is hard."

I try to find the middle of the middle, which is constantly evading me, so I will just make a plea once again for the aesthetics of relationship. I think group life reinvents itself elegantly if we pay attention to the differences that make a difference and are open to surprise, serendipity and novelty. We cant of course make that happen but we can give it a nudge.

So I would say to our group, do more of what you are doing and do it even better. Kick ass when you must, but more important for me is the capacity to free associate with a self determination. When each person articulates a desired intention, and we are made aware of that, ( as in the case of Marco at the beginning of the discussion) we can free associate with a direction, free associate with multiple directions. Free associating without a direction is a mere spinning of wheels.

“You, as your business and desire shall point you—
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is—and for my own poor part,
Look you, I’ll go pray.”


@achronon and @johnnydavis54—we talked a little about art during our call, and now Ed, you’ve talked about the “faith” at the heart of knowing, and Johnny, you’ve talked about the importance of being…both earnest (paying attention; desired outcomes) and amused (wild goose chase; open to surprise, serendipity, and novelty)—and it occurs to me that we could disentangle the notion of ‘faith’ from axis of knowledge and belief, and think of it more aesthetically, in terms of feeling and style, in other words, art.

You ask about Bubbles’ trajectory, Ed. I don’t think it’s going anywhere! I think Sloterdijk is painting a picture for us…a faith. He is not asking us to believe in doctrine of spheres. His ‘spherology’ follows an aesthetic rather than an ontological curve. We might call his approach “post-metaphysical” for this reason. Enactment is a moment of faith.

My sense of the discussion of mesmerism was that it was to show how we began to conceptualize our social affectivity (including the effects of charisma, movements, and emotional-impulsive dynamics in general) as being governed by unconscious mechanistic forces (e.g., ‘magnetism’ and ‘bonding’) and how this opened the space that psychoanalysis came to occupy, only in order to render it irrational or merely personal. By tracing the genealogy of the divide that leads us to regard our social-affective being as “less real” than the rational-objective, he is creating an opening for re-interpretation, or re-imagination…a new faith, or perhaps (free-associating perhaps a bit liberally here) a science of magic.


The science of magic-I like that! I imagine that would please Gebser too. The perspectivalism of the healthy mental can enter the magical without getting caught in the undertow. The healthy rational can center, ask questions, enter the dream/trance/field of all possibilities while maintaining connection to purpose and observe carefully, return to the waking state with some insight or understanding that can be amplified by some kind of action plan. Feedback can get stronger and reflecting upon the in-between becomes the new normal. The healthy rational can take a perspective upon the waking state from the dream state.

Researchers might start to develop a taxonomy of such altered states-altered states compared to what? A comparitve study among those who are competent and ethically mature ( rather than devious like the CIA psychic spy network) could move forward a vast research project that would make the Internet look kind of boring. We could clarify out of body from lucid dream states. There is a different phenomenology and I have studied the difference. Skilled practice could create a totally different kind of psychology and philosophy of mind than the reductive neuro-mania we now are burdened with. We could figure out what triggers telepathy, telekinesis, remote viewing. healing response to prayer, etc.

I suspect the Magicians of the past were engaged in trying to stabilize their extra-physical connections. Basically most meditation programs are doing the same thing I view meditation as a sub set of trance. As the subject/student gets more advanced the guide can exit. The best hypnosis is self-hypnosis.

There is a video of a woman ( it is really unpleasant to watch) getting cosmetic surgery , without analgesia, while under a self induced trance state. Many mothers have gone through pain free births with self hypnosis. The field is just beginning to mature and science is interested but the deficient mental sadly tries to turn everything into neuro-mania and big profits for the drug companies…

Nothing produces euphoria as much as generative trance. I imagine if more people got skilled at it we would stop projecting magical features onto trance workers. Trance would just be another alternate route to higher education.


Very helpful, Marco, @madrush, very helpful.

Neither do I think Sloterdijk is going anywhere, but for obviously very different reasons. :smiling_imp:

It could be that you are free-associating a bit liberally, as you put it, but I don’t think you’ve left the ground of the text (though, as I free admit, I have no real idea what that ground is). My feeling has been (off and on) that Sloterdijk is presenting us a collage (my first working hypothesis after I decided he wasn’t writing philosophy), which would need to be approached and understood differently from a, say, (even efficient) mental text. The introduction of the notiong of aesthetics is one I’m going to need to cogitate on furhter.

I don’t think there is an axis of knowledge-belief. We can dig into our knowledge of course and if we dig deeply enough we sooner or later recognize that what we “know” is ultimately grounded in some assumptions and presuppositions that we can not get behind, so to speak. Once we have recognized and acknowledged them, dealing with the less foundational and more detail-rich aspects of our knowledge is, I believe, easier to handle. One of the fundamental issues I have with so many writers and theorists today (and here I also include Sloterdijk) is that they do not make these assumptions clear. There are times when I think Sloterdijk (just to keep this text-related) is relating from “faith”, even as you have pointed out, but there are other times when I don’t think so at all.

Though in no way even really conversant on the matter, most of my aesthetic engagement has been with visual art, very often, but not necessarily primarily, via geometry, from Arthur Young’s “geometry of meaning” through what was known in esoteric circles as “sacred geometry”. (It’s odd that right at the beginning Sloterdijk picks up on the verifiable historical-anecdotal inscription above the door of Plato’s academy regarding geometry and geometers, and this is where it all started to go downhill for me: he was speaking of geometry (an interaction with space, to be sure) as spatial knowledge, whereas I had always understood that inscription as a criteria for the ability to think abstractly in terms of relationships: similarities, angularities, proportions, congruences, symmetries, etc. But I do not wish to drift too far afield.)

The long and short of it is that I need to dwell more on this aesthetic impulse that you’ve provided, especially as it relates to faith. It could very well be that the notion of faith enters more often into our discussions about the book for I’m fairly certain that we are not sharing congruent notions of it.

Thanks again for the impulse.


Perhaps, but I’m not convinced that Gebser would be too excited about a “science of magic”. After all, the word “science” itself comes from the Latin scire, “to know”, and we have made “science” into a particular way of knowing (ourselves, others, nature, the world). Magic, as I understand it, and as I read Gebser is also a way of knowing (ourselves, others, nature, the world), but one that proceeds by very different methods. In fact, it was Gebser’s making clear that each of the structures of consciousness that he identifies has its own way of knowing, and each of these ways is organized differently as to how it orders things, relates them to one another, its inner logic, range of methods, etc, that finally enabled me to make more sense of all the things I had been doing and exploring. What I’ve taken from Gebser is that depending on what one is dealing or interacting with, one or the other way of knowing may be more effective than another. They merely “speak” or react to or involve different intensities of consciousness.

On the other hand, I couldn’t agree with you more than something must be done to curb the "reductive neuro-mania we are now burdened with. This, combined with what Raymond Tallis describes as Dawinitis (that almost belligerent form of Darwinism that tries to reduce the human to a mere artefact of solely biological evolution), is what constitutes the “new orthodoxy”, as it guides most academic and scholarly thinking, but also is used to gate-keep what may be researched as well.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), but they are a highly respected and sensible organization that is working hard to open research to all those areas which the new orthodoxy would banish. They use science as that way of knowing described above and have a serious agenda which includes affectivity and spirutality, for example, as legitimate domains of scientific investigation. They are on FB, of course, and on the web (http://noetic.org/). You might want to check them out.


Yes Ed I know IONS and follow their researchers into various directions. I agree with much of Raymond Tallis.They have opened the Pandora’s box and it has not arrested anyone’s development. What Gebser I believe expected is that when the quantification of everything, led by the deficient mental has collapsed, a new kind of science, unleashed by these restrictions, could tip the data collection and the evidence procedures in different directions.

Pop culture is of course completely infected by the magical and some of it is pretty dumb and some of it is more sophisticated. Sci Fi carries some of the new physics and biology in new imaginary directions which create expectations. Institutionalized Deficient Mental Science has failed to meet the challenge. Many of us are hugely disappointed. We are not living in hi tech luxurious ecological cities ( polluted slums and gated cities are the norm) and the Human Genome Project has been a flop.

The collusion between the Gatekeepers and the Corporate Cannibals is all too obvious and has become a major theme in Pop Culture, where the Magical Mind is still supreme. Academia is frozen I fear in the arrested development of the Deficient Mental and as you pointed out it is probably not going to change from the inside in a healthier Mental fashion. Many of the most advanced thinkers, who have an integral edge, are not at Harvard Business School.

But the impulse behind the Occult and Science is over lapping and the Aesthetic pulses in all disciplines. Physicists love art and I have never met a Mathematician who didn’t like jazz. Goethe dreamed of a science of qualities and this is I believe close to what Gebser was thinking about too. The deficient mental, with its materialist bias and rigid quantification in tandem with Neo-Darwinist propaganda has got stuck in a cul de sac and like Goldman Sachs has become too big to fail.

But Mother Nature will clear the house pretty soon. And we who are around in these sad, waste times have a lot of work to do. I’m encourage by some scientists who are working collaboratively and ethically and making fascinating contributions.

Liberating the sublte realms is increasingly important as Magicians, Occultists and regular people without college degrees are more able to do than ever. We are not being burned at the stake anymore but we still have been burdened by the polluted atmosphere of higher education and the siphoning off of public assets for private gain. Most of the troubles on Earth have their source in the subtle realms, and those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear ( the third ear, the third eye) can recognize the patterns and meta-patterns from both sides of the in between. There are a lot of hungry ghosts who incarnated and work on Wall Street. They want to become the Body of a Global Corporation and they are succeeding now with the Trump in office.

Liberating of the subtle can be done in many ways and we don’t have to give up number. We can use the subtle properties and qualities of number, as the Ancients, who built the Pyramids knew full well. The subtle realm works with qualities, shapes, sizes, colors, forms and energetic configurations, tempo rtyhyms, that punctuate materiality in direct ways. The magical and the mythical will continue to evolve with the higher octave of Integral. Our capacity for using metaphor, analogy and storytelling will continue to evolve.

For example we now know that Cancer and homosexuality are not predetermined and caused by a special gene. A gene is like a word, and the sequence of genes is like a sentence. The sentence is punctuated by epigenisis, what deficient Mental Scientist call junk and epiphenomenal. There is nothing predetermined about the Genetic Code and as the Biologist, Lewontin says, " Nothing in the Universe replicates Itself." This sounds to me like the beginning of an Integral Science Magic.

Our DNA belong to us and to our environment not to a patent office or to the Human Genome Project. Hence my plea for a transdisciplinary effort, driven by aesthetic relationships. I continue to be tragically optimistic.


I’m now reading Geometry of Meaning. Author Young was a wonderful thinker and he did lay down along with Tesla some captivating ideas. These inventors who worked outside the mainstream science are good people to study. They had a pragmatic core to their work but could soar very high into uncharted regions. They also possessed tenacity when faced by mendacity.


And I, befitting the curmudgeon, am cynically so. :smiling_imp:

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Have you also read Young’s Reflexive Universe, which I find a highly engaging and provocative challenge to a lot of mainstream thinking? I have also found his model to be an extremely powerful tool in unpacking process both generally and specifically. (I tried a couple of times, with some of my brighter, more open MBA students, to introduce this model both in regards to organizational and business-environmental process and in regard to innovation (process, as opposed to the only other form I know, product), but failed miserably of course. Most business students are not known for their open approaches to business, let alone learning or life in general. That’s not a criticism, rather an observation of one of life’s contingencies.)

Young, who was one of the few “real” scientists I know of to openly and vocally support astrology (also as a way of knowing), was, to me at least, an integral mentator in the true, Gebserian sense of the word. I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet him and attend events at his Institute for the Study of Consciousness during my sojourn in California (1983-1997). His model of consciousness, which I find very compatible with Gebser’s, would make an excellent starting point for a revivification of science as we move in new directions as it includes all of those phenomena you mention that have been (arbitrarily) excluded from the “realm of the scientific” by the New Orthodoxers.

Most exquisitely put, as always.

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You were very lucky ,Ed, to have been influenced by Young. His Reflexive Universe is most compelling. I read it many years ago and would love to do a review. I would love to hear about your experience working with his model in a business community. Those kinds of investigations had merit then and may be even more relevant to a new generation that is stressed in ways that may help them be more open to alternate world views. In my own way, I was bringing in radically new ideas in the stressed communities I was engage with back then with many fascinating failures and some stunning serendipitous successes. We had to work underground in those days.

Maybe there is a new wave? I’m open to believe we can renew our inspirations and rise above our harsh disappointments and look back at the talented researchers and creative social experiments that occurred during the much discredited New Age. There was a lot of genuinely useful developments that were obscured by the hoaxes and the hype. Now that the dust has settled on a lot of the controversies we can look back and make a clean start. This might be another fun spin off from the Bubbles study group, an interesting cross-fertilization.

Thank God for YouTube! We now have access to many learning initiatives via YouTube, and this is as amazing perhaps in our age as the Alexandrian Library was to Classical World. I would be very curious about what you make of the Aperspectival adjacent possibilities that reflecting upon our reflections can co-inspire in this worst of times, best of times-


Wow, you guys/gals had fun with this one! Jealous, but very glad this will continue; I’ll keep up as best I can though my schedule remains the same. (:unamused:)

I’m really curious to hear what people thought of Excursus 1 “Thought Transmission” (pp. 263-268 in the English translation). Sloterdijk seems refreshingly lucid and direct as he reminds us of what looks uncannily like part of the magical structure of consciousness to me:

"…one cannot overestimate the significance which this syndrome of notions about the concealed nature of thoughts in the thinking subject has taken on in the recent history of private semblance. This perhaps makes it seem an even more provocative imposition to consider that precisely those notions have played a part in creating that semblance in the first place. (263)… The notion of private ideas had no grounding in emotional experience or the social concept of space: no cells had been made for individuals yet, either in the imagination or the physical architectures of societies. (264)
“The presence-magical conviviality of the oldest cultures depended on the neurolinguistic and neurosensitive domain: dense parallel programmings of the brain ensembles enabled the members of groups to function in great interpersonal proximity and intimate conductivity. That humans are capable of such densely mutually intervening participations is part of their oldest clan-historical makeup.” (267)

Now either this ties together some of my hunches on previous chapters or I’m seeing things - or… both?
Perhaps as someone(s) mentioned on the call Sloterdijk is treading carefully because “one does not simply” [channeling Sean Bean] bring up certain topics in an ultra-rational world.

@johnnydavis54: Some real thought-gems here!: “the body as time”; seating ‘beginners’ and’ experts’ at the same table"; even “sharing the confusion” which is pretty much what I’m doing right now with Bubbles . Your way with words is chock full of insight. Please stay “weird”.

@Dona: . Your point about being as reflection of others is the theme I keep coming back to as I read. Yet is that the text or just my projection? No, you don’t suffer alone! LOL.

@achronon: I’m not as frustrated as you but, as I said before, it’s likely because I don’t know all the philosophical inside jokes that have fallen flat. Your caution is still justified in my opinion. I enjoy exploring these avenues and encountering new names, but I’m still quite on the fence. (Whatever the decision of the group at the time, I’m going to go on to Globes later this year if I can. At least there I’ll be on stronger ground - Sloterdijk will have an opportunity to show me if he is indeed more profound than Spengler (whom he backhands on pages 77-78) or others on macro-cultural development. That will pretty much determine whether or not I take on Foams.)

@wronitz: I came close to spitting my tea over my nice new laptop when you mentioned the experience of not being able to move some people to see much of anything beyond their assumptions… Wring your hands, my aunt would say, so as not to get in trouble after wringing a neck. (LOL!) But I remember what Sloman and Fernbach wrote in Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds: “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding.” Learning “when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em” is part of life, too, eh?

For me the continuing (!) worth of a group like this is having my attention drawn to things beyond my assumptions. For which I thank you all.


This was, to my curmudgeony mind, one of the better sections of the reading thus far. What surpised me somewhat was precisely what you noted: The quote you mentioned was an attempt to explain something I believe Gebser documents very well in neuromanaical terms (the quote from p267). We have no real evidence that there are programs in the brain and current neuroscience cannot explain how their neural nets actually produce individual consciousness let alone particiipate in interpersonal communication. Maybe they do, but the neuromaniacs, I’m afraid are not even going to consider the issue because, to them, it simply cannot be. So here was an opportunity to provoke the establishment perhaps toward more openness and Professor Provocateur pulled up short when it comes to what I have been calling the “new orthodoxy”. It is statements like these that get my Sloterdijkian goat: just when I think he’s opening up valuable avenues of investigation, he shuts himself down with facts that aren’t.

This related, too, to the second question I had after our session: his discussion of mesmerism and its relation to modern psychotherapy. @madrush provided one perspective on this which I’m still mulling over, but as I understand mesmerism itself, it was based on a belief that there an actual exchange of energies took place (animal magnetism; Lebensmagnetismus). A subset of this involved what later became hypnosis. The energy exchange would have fit in better with his Ficino-based theory of fluid exchanges, but it dovetails more directly into things like the laying on of hands or aura-based healing techniques or several forms of spiritual healing (practiced most successfully it would seem for some reason closer to the equator). Instead, he does a pars pro toto thing (which Gebser sees as very much Magic structure of consciousness) and takes one part of something and inflates it such that he uses it to describe the whole. This isn’t the first times he’s done this. He multipage ramblings on the inscriptions of Plato’s academy, both in regard to the anecdotal as well as the fictious one are further examples. I realize these are the kinds of details that I keep stumbling over, which is why I’m trying, for now at any rate, to take a more aesthetically oriented approach to reading to see if that helps.

Most importantly, though, your aunt was a very wise woman.


This is, as you can probably imagine, a rather short story. As I noted in another post, trying to get MBA strategy students excited about anything more than next quarter’s results is a particular challenge. In much of the project work in which I was involved, the project groups were comprised of a consortium of partners from different European countries working through the common medium of English, and consortium lead partners generally worked on the assumption they knew what needed to be done and how and were less than open to alternative approaches to anything other than what they know. And that is the crux of the matter: in most situations, although processes are involved, if you aren’t the process driver, you stand little to no chance of getting anyone to open up something new.

About 10 years ago, though, my oldest daughter and a business partner started-up a small English-language training company, and by that a company to improve English-language competence in companies. It did not offer, like most of its competitors (Berlitz, Wall Street Institute, Interlingua, etc., all of whom have their own “secret-sauce” methods to guarantee learner success) general-purpose English instruction, rather it offered business-sector specific and department-relevant instruction for its customers. That meant English for sales and marketing in an international transport company, or automotive-design English for a global car maker, etc., or stated differently, we offered highly customized programs to individual customers, both at the customer and at the individual level. This was our foot-in-the-door offering to be complemented downstream by scalable programs on intercultural business competence.

This is only possible if you are willing to base your approach on open standards (Common European Framework for language competency levels, related to the notion of Communicative Competence across all four basic language functions (listening, speaking, reading, writing) as applied to whatever business domain is involved) and have a process that allows for flexible, yet targeted, development. Our model for lesson/module/course/curriculum development was based on Young’s seven-stage process model which was coupled with Kolb’s learning cycle and styles model (which fits well with the levels of Young’s model) to guide delivery.

As my daughter was the primary instructor, it was fairly easy to get her up to speed on what I was thinking, but we also employed a number of freelancers as is so often the case with start-ups. It wasn’t too difficult to get them to understand how and why this might be a meaningful approach, especially since they themselves were often unsure just how one tailors language instruction as specifically as we were. But Young’s model is also easily depictable on a Powerpoint slide, and in a brief “teacher-training” session I was able to get the essence across fairly quickly.

Yes, yes, I know, it sounds like a brilliant idea, but inept marketing and sales along with even more inept financial management (my daughter’s business partner’s ballywick) combined with the financial crash in 2008 which hit the Stuttgart area of Germany particularly hard created a cash-flow asphyxia that the company simply couldn’t survive. It was fun while it lasted though.

I’m all for recursive reflection, and I think that’s what I hear you addressing, a self-reflective reflecting on reflections that are not just one’s own but reflected by those mirrors of self we call others. Yes, life’s often like finding you’ve awoken in a hall of mirrors. And to deal with this, I believe we need tools, which we’re very capable of making.

Theories make me itchy. Too often, theories are little more than glorified and academicized opinions. I’ve been too close to science for too much of my life to want to base my actions on opinions. If you’ve got a theory that can be tested, fine; then show me how I can use it in my world or what good it does in helping me understand the world and I’m OK. Some theoretical musings, however (and both Young and Gebser are very relevant here) are presented such that we are offered or can derive models from them. As I described above, Young’s model is very adapatble in many areas of of life that have nothing to do with its origins (a cosmology of consciousness). Gebser’s framework provides a general-purpose tool for evaluating statements about consciousness. There are other more general tools out there, like the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, that are exceedingly helpful in finding one’s way around the hall of mirrors. Maybe it’s the teacher in me that thinks providing life sojourners with little things like knot-tying techniques, skills in using a pocket knife and how to use nature as a compass might be helpful when you aren’t around to answer questions.

One of the first lessons I learned when I went from working in an education into a commercial-engineering environment was “the person with the list wins”, so I was always making lists. It turned out that more often than not, this list overlapped in some way with that list, or maybe even that other list as well, and the next thing you know I found myself building spreadsheets, and cubes that helped not only with my own orientation but which were helpful to others.

Fundamental principles, from physics, biology, software development, engineering, literature, education, religion, esoterism … you name it … are invariably compatible with each other and with the larger, more general purpose models and frameworks I’ve collected. But even disregarded mundane items can be helpful. Taking a tip from Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking, I found that if you put disparate things (ideas, problems, models, notions, concepts, objects) in the same “space” and observe them long enough, their relatedness will become manifest and it will be a productive manifestation, perhaps one that inspires the making of a special-purpose tool. Being artistically challenged, I would say, I’ve never found how to present the results in art. What I have found, though, is that I can often construct a diagram or the like that gets the point across to others more quickly than I can explain it in words alone (like the Tower of Babel I made to identify language content areas, or the C3PM (Contextual Communicative Competence Process Model) for curriculum development or whatever.

In other words, nothing is taboo and everything is somehow related and we can focus our awareness and attention on whatever tickles our fancy … but more importantly, we can share those attentions, awarenesses, and tickles with others. That is what I understand under aperspectival adjacent possibilities. We always have to be mulling over whatever we have to mull over and my experience has shown that this can be hugely inspiring to others if the others whom you are with are open to mulling and have a willingness to be inspired. The world isn’t going to be saved (if it can be saved at all) by some grand overarching idea. It will be saved because thoughtful, reflective, insightful people did things to save it.


“life’s often like finding you’ve awoken in a hall of mirrors. And to deal with this, I believe we need tools, which we’re very capable of making.”

A hall of mirrors indeed. Whenever I’m around a serious theorist I ask about their models. If they don’t have any I look for a polite exit.

I consider myself to be a modeler. In the midst of great controversies and calamites I found good models and made up models of my own to deal with complex unstable systems I was entangled with. I found most theories of everything to be elaborate navel gazing scams.

So the more models the merrier! Capra in the interview with Young elaborates the difference between theories that seek truth and models that aim to be useful. We of course need both but to paraphrase a previous comment about Tragedy being easy, Comedy being hard, I would say that Theory is easy but Modeling is hard.

Modeling is a high level skill and that is why it is probably so rarely practiced. Theorizing is enriched when working with adequate models. Complex human communication systems, where there are multiple players with mixed metaphors and conflicts of interests, are making a huge mess. I do try in my humble way to bring attention to this tendency to theorize endlessly in vapid abstractions. Meta-land is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.

I would like to ask our friend, Marco, to sponsor another event focused on modeling processes. There are all kinds of models and it behooves us to know which one’s may be relevant and make them available.

As the 2008 financial downturn wiped out many projects that I was developing I appreciate the high risk nature of this kind of effort. Many of us were preyed upon and the rip off artists got away with it. We may need to regroup after that ongoing trauma, the effects of which are still widely felt, and redirect attention to what we value. The technology has yet to recreate intimate zones for the flourishing of aesthetic relationships, however, I do see signs of life here and elsewhere and I want to nurture those conditions .

I believe we are doing what we can to refine our models as we work with this unwieldy text and staying amused is very important to off set the tendency to try to save the world. I have sort of given up on that aspiration. Small incremental changes that can possibly renew collaborative initiatives, such as you describe, with your daughter’s business, is definitely worth taking another look at.

A suggestion for another pin off group. You could do a presentation on Young’s model and how you applied it and I could do a brief experiential bit with Clean Language, focused on creative writing. I tried to do this previously but the timing was off so I’m open to trying again with another set of parameters. I saw the recent Sperry experiment which you participated in. I admire everyone’s courage and felt something was learned but has yet to be elaborated .I’m interested in doing something very different, complimentary, and perhaps you may still have some juice to review Young’s model?

I think that we could then take a Meta-perspective that is grounded in models rather than pie in sky theories of everything, which ends up in post modern drift and spiritual by passing.

And where oh where did we put the action plan?

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Yup, I was so happy to see a straightforward point emerging, I let the whole ‘brain-as-electrochemical-computer’ thing slide. :laughing: Reading ‘aesthetically’ doesn’t come naturally to me at all, but I’ve been working on it. Maybe for me that will end up being ‘the point’…

And fortunately still is.

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I was very happy to hear your aunt’s wisdom is still with us. The world can certainly use it.

On a different subject: I accused Sloterdijk of doing a pars pro toto thing, but I may want to rethink that. Yesterday, I was reading Raymond Tallis’ Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity, and he noted that precisely this approach – taking a part of something and treating it as if it were the whole – that formed the “nub of the critique of neurophilosophy by M.R. Bennett and P.M.S. Hacker in the Philosophical Foundations of Neuroscience.” Tallis dubbed this the “mereological fallacy”. It would seem then, that this, let us call it, “magical reasoning” is much more widespread than just Sloterdijk. It all struck me as rather synchronistic.