Bubbles, Live Conversation 6 – The Primal Companion

Anyone feel this way about Chapter 5 of Bubbles?

I’m loving it, actually. Looking forward to yondering w/ y’all soon!

@spheres readers reminder: next call is Thursday, 7/6 at 12 pm MDT.


This was the first horror movie that I saw in the theater, but I saw it undubbed, in its original language. This version of the scene though makes about as much sense as Mr. Sloterdijk is making in his original language. Maybe it’s because I don’t speak Spanish.

Still, the parallels between this scene and potential reactions to this fortnight’s reading are obvious, even to one as slow on the uptake as I am. I can’t say that I particularly associate myself with the panicking and screaming horde, but I found the apparent similarity between an amorphous all-consuming and shapeless villan and Mr. Sloterdijk’s time-consuming and ill-defined prose rather appropriate.

While I hope to be finished with the currently scheduled section before our get-together later today, I’m not making any promises. Life has gotten in the way over the last week or so, and one does have to set priorities, even in the face of threats to life as we know it.

What is the link again to Zoom? I plan to be there.

I thought the blob might represent a return of the repressed. “Attack of the Killer Placenta” kind of thing. Sartre’s analysis of the “slimy” that Sloterdijk references.

If I met a placenta on the street, I expect I’d be pretty horrified. But that would not always have been the case, in most places and times, is I think Sloterdijk’s point. And why is that?

And once again, I think, we’re talking about Cherry Pie. But I do have a particular critique, which I hope to discuss on the call, where I think Sloterdijk falls for the same illusion of ‘purity’ that he means to question.

Looking forward to talking soon. Here is the link, again: Launch Meeting - Zoom


It was fun to be “in the room” this time. I’ll definitely have to schedule some more time off… :wink:

@raphae1: Thank you again. Your comments shed light on shadows of both curiosity and concern I still have as I continue to read. I share your sense that there is indeed something to this text, and in going back to pages 10 and 11 (English translation), I remain open to the suggestion “that life, the formation of spheres and thinking are different expressions for the same thing.” Having said that, will Sloterdijk succeed in making this point (or even ‘presenting’ it as vision or metaphor) with what seems right now to be a “wobbly ontology”? I don’t know - and even if I’m not trying to approach this as a ‘philosophical treatise’ it would yet be nice to be able to link statements with underlying assumptions.

I suspect Ed may be right: Sloterdijk does not lack honesty, but perhaps, with his repeated cautions to the effect of “I would say xyz if I could get away with it ‘respectably’…”, he does lack a certain degree of courage or there is something affecting his ability to follow through with his cleverly expressed thoughts. (I am directly reminded of Spengler. (I was just re-reading the translator’s introduction to the 2nd edition of Decline of the West.) Apparently, shortly after the first edition came out, some scholar compiled a list of over 400 academic criticisms of various assertions in it - of which Spengler addressed or corrected none by the second edition(!), sticking with his convictions (as wrong as some of them certainly were/are) for the sake of his overall theme. Same ‘powerful German academic philosophical tradition’ here… maybe a high school teacher has less reason to be concerned than a professor?)

@johnnydavis54: You ended on a really intriguing note I would have liked to pursue if I too didn’t have to run just then.
Back to Gebser:
I see the “realist” as the magician steeped in the ‘what is’ even if in a pars pro toto way.
The “visionary” is the myth-maker or story-teller. The “critic” is of course our mental analyst, the voice of compare-and-contrast. There is greater “natural” affinity between the realist and the critic, but that goes nowhere without the visionary, as, in turn, the visionary cannot be allowed to fly off into the distance never to return. In fact, the deficient mode is really nothing but listening exclusively to any one of these. Your point that we cannot begin to have integration until all three are seated at the table in a mutual feedback loop of grounding and exploration is one I cannot possibly be more in agreement with.
Just throwing that out there.

So which (any, all, some, none?) is Sloterdijk? :smiling_imp:


I like your formulation, TJ, and there are many ways of languaging these functions and many thinkers favor one over the other, which is a profound mistake. Magician is one of the leading masculine archetypes as he has strong affinities with Trickster and with the old Bardic traditions. He held the memories of the group and could weave together large chunks of knowledge prior to the written word through story and verse. I think of him as a gifted communicator but not necessarily the same as the Visionary.

The Visionary can have a terrible responsibility to deliver the message intact from the Daemonic realms. The Visionary ( like the Shaman) may feel this is a burden for there may not be any clear cut ways and means. Connected to subtle realms, the Visionary has to report what he experiences in a way that makes sense to the tribe. He needs the Realist to do that.

Realist is the guy or gal who can implement the Plan, put the Vision into some kind of vernacular so that the masses can get mobilized around it. Realist has to be skilled at coming up with a budget and being sure that a schedule can be met. I would agree that Realist and Critic have an affinity for each other but they will never come up with anything that is new.

Critic is allowed to criticize the Plan but not the Vision. The language of the Critic needs to be shaped so that the intention behind the criticism of the Plan can be delivered to the Visionary, who can then dream up ideas about the modified Plan. The Visionary and the Critic should never be left alone, they will get into a food fight.

This is based on Walt Disney’s creativity strategy, as modeled by Robert Dilts. Disney had the Dreamers on the top floor, the realists on the second floor ( the technicians who put the dream material into a coherent order) and the Critics were located in the basement. He kept them in several different locations on purpose.

When we internalize these functions in a healthy way, (as your remarks indicate that you have),.it is easy to spot a break down in communication, not always easy to make the triad communicate better. It is a skill.

Sloterdijk, for me, has a strong Magician, operating, with a very deep and allusive memory. He draws on lots of folk lore, art and he invites us to muse together in highly speculative ways. I rather enjoy this although I appreciate that others find him a bit over the top. I’m not sure yet if he is a Visionary, that for me is an open question. And a Visionary is never concerned with a theory or a desire to make money. The Visionary is concerned with the Future of the Planet!!!


I don’t get the sense that Sloterdijk is a “visionary,” but I can see how magician is closer to the mark. Spheres, via Bubbles, Globes, and Foam, are not a vision, but an image. A magic image that conjures the world in a certain dimensionality, breaking and casting spells in epic incantations. He is a wizard, and even looks the part! Can’t you just see him in purple wizard’s robe with hieroglyphs and runes, and the pointy cap?

TJ, I love how you and John have juxtaposed the Magician, Visionary, and (Critical) Realist as complementary characters in the dance of emergence (via magic, mythic, mental)…but I’m curious who is the one that relates to all three and keeps them in productive dialogue?


And that excellent question is at the heart of my (not at all pretentious :rofl:) emergent theory of culture - the beauty and danger in the tragi-comedy of the human condition:
Not a Who but a What, not an ‘Other’ but a Situation…

There is no Walt Disney at the table in my little scenario to give ultimate direction and meaning to the project. (But, we instinctively ask, what about the Artist or Philosopher or even Scientist? No good - the first is produced by the Realist and the Visionary, the second by the Visionary and Critic, and the third by the Realist and Critic…)
Rather is there a messy, trial-and-error filled journey ahead for our three, one that requires each, however painfully, to recognize the elements of the others in him/herself - to reach the limits of isolated frustration and to discover the power, nay, necessity, of complementarity. The “productive dialogue” must come from this and the three must keep themselves at it.

Or, and herein lies the danger, not

(Yeah, with a quick trip to the dressing room Sloterdijk could pull off the Gandalf look, couldn’t he?.. LOL)


I would ask a person who has fully embodied the Critic, Realist, Visionary to find a SPACE that knows about the entire system.

I would ask them to stand in that SPACE and ask," What do you know from this space about Critic? About Realist? About Visionary?" Then I would listen carefully and take good notes.

I would call this SPACE that knows about the relational network a META-SPACE. I would ask what it knows. This is an epistemological investigation.

Emergent knowledge is readily available when we treat Space not as an empty container but an Intelligence that that has shapes, sizes and qualities.

We are moving out of the Euclidean-Newtonian-Cartesian grid into Alternate Geometries, Onto-topologies, non-orientable Spheres, Finite and Unbounded, Adjacent Possibilities, within and between-

We are in the Twilight Zone.


Exactly. And our three (dare I say Trinity?) must help each other find it - e.g., the Visionary may come to the realization most naturally, but may not automatically be the one who knows how to explore it profitably, etc…

“Between shadow and substance”
Where things are neither too well-defined nor totally unclear
Where uncertainty keeps everyone honest - and intrigued
Where the ideas are because the need for ideas is greatest


As curmudgeon I recall that to Gebser the Magical was all about sound, the ear and viscera as spiritual organs; empathy and identification, hearing as the basis for forms of realization and thought, their processes being assosciative, analogizing, sympathetic and interweaving; their actual formulation being world-knowledge, the “recognized” world.

In camparison, the Mythic is for him image: the heart-mouth as spiritual organs; the basis of realization and thought were imagination and utterance, contepmlation and voicing; the processes are internalized recollection, contemplation, externalized utterance and expression; the actual formulations are the world-image or Weltanschauung: the contemplated and interpreted world.

And while I can well imagine Mr. Sloterdijk in @madrush’s “purple wizard’s robe with hieroglyphs and runes and pointy hat”, I can imagine him less in Gandalf’s grey garb. I see him wobbling between the Magical and Mythical in Gebserian terms – whereby I would hasten to add that a magico-mythical stance may be fine for what he’s doing … if we only really had a better idea of what that was. Ever since we “decided” early on that Sloterdijk’s spheres were metaphorical, I’ve seen him more as a myth-maker than magician, but that’s just a view from beneath a furrowed brow.


And who are we, when we have “decided”? Does that WE have a size or a shape? Where does that WE come from?

Ed, your review of Gebser’s model is excellent. As you remind us, the ear ( third ear?) of Magical, the heart-mouth organs in use by the Mythical, each stage has an emphasis upon how the sensorium in a collective is used. No doubt each person at whatever stage the Dominant Culture was at could register different kinds of sensory based information but were indeed restricted and constrained by their fellows center of gravity.

Then Mental kicks in with the perspectival, we use a different skill set, the taking of a position in a visual array that is separate from the viewer, the rise of Capitalism, The Protestant Reformation, The separation of Church and State, wide spread literacy, Free Trade and now we have the Neutron Bomb!

Recently we have the Internet, too, which is responsible for our current communications here in this forum. Are we restricted at all? If so how so? What does our current cultural/social arrangements support or inhibit?

Magic and Mythic have not gone away and without those stages none of the Mental could function at all since rationality rides upon the previous stages and could not have happened if they had not been well established in the human collective. Suppression of pervious stages leads to severe mental breakdowns.

Anyone who has listened attentively to Tibetan chants or to Gregorian Chants knows that there is something special about those collective expressions of voice in sacred communities . The effects are immediately felt as aesthetic pleasure, especially after a hard day at the office, sitting in front of a computer. We can listen to all kinds of music and practice yoga and meditation too.

So we are I submit a hodge podge of movies, theories, medical interventions, diets, urban environments, air travel, competition, etc., all of the glories of the Modern mixed with a lot of war, injustice and rigid boundary making. We also have these small scale networks that we are using. What happens next?

I sense that we are tuning into the impoverished world views we have inherited and we can feel the effects of those bio-chemical experiments swimming around in our foreheads and in our guts. There’s got to be something better than this.


Yes, TJ, we are I believe swimming in a sea triads, starting with Mommy and Daddy and me, whom we internalize and draw upon in different ways as we mature and let go of our traumas. We are a blend of these triadic arrangements and are I believe becoming much more sophisticated in who or what we decide to model. We are body-mind-signs in action. Aint it great?


You always hit the ground running, as they say.

My “we” was the very mundane collection of individuals who started talking about Sloterdijk and kicking around his ideas about 13 weeks ago, and the “decision” was put in quotes because it wasn’t really one but that we had formed a very vague, non-binding consensus that spheres was more a metaphor than anything else.

It is my belief that we (and this is the more general, we human beings alive on this planet at this time) cannot exist without limitations, if that is the correct word to describe them. I tend to think of these as boundaries, but they are also restrictions and constraints and some of them we create and some of them are presented to us by others and some are products of the situations in which we find ourselves. I’m pretty sure right now that Mr. Sloterdijk and I agree on this point, but I’m not convinced, which I’m sure you’ll find hard to believe, that our interpretation of their meaning. But, I could be all wet, too. I think sometimes that the very notion of “space” may be the complicating factor here.

For example, in what or which (the very question colors the different possibilities of answer) space are you and I now? Where is this discussion thread taking place (if we are to include @madrush and @patanswer who are contributing as well)? The bits and bytes that constitute its potential for physical manifestation may be on a server in Colorado with identical copies existing on other servers in Arizona and North Carolina, but that’s certainly not the where of the discussion. And while you may join and contribute from New York and Marco from Colorado and TJ from somewhere else in the EDT-zone and I from Germany, none of those places are definitive of the space in which the discussion takes place. That is to say, any space that is conceived in regard to this discussion is simply irrelevant. The whole question of space just doesn’t matter. This is what I understand, at least in part, by aspatiality, as our friend Jean called it.

This is not to say, of course, that when I or you or anyone else who reads what’s being put out “here” and stops to think about it and reflect upon it or even think about formulating their own response to any of this that it doesn’t happen in some space. That space is, however, an abstract one, though we might also link it to a physical one (like my study, for example in my case, even that’s often only where the actual writing of those formulations take place) but that space has no constituitive relationship to the “discussion space”. Again, it doesn’t really matter, hence I feel no need to even think about it. And since it doesn’t really matter to me, in spatial terms, where this discussion takes place, in contradistinction to what I think Mr. Sloterdijk is saying, it need not be spherical or have any shape at all. I don’t know why it would need one, but I keep getting the impression from Mr. Sloterdijk that perhaps I should. But, perhaps that’s why I have so much trouble understanding him because I don’t always get the necessity of what he’s trying to say (and for me it was that way with spheres from the beginning).

Now I would be the last to maintain that the Magical and Mythical are no longer with us. I don’t consider myself a rational person for that very reason. They are very much alive even if they are not always actively in our awareness. But, I also think that Gebser was making clear, and you are reinforcing the understanding, that each of these structures has its own rules of engagement, if you will. Anyone who has actually practiced magic (or magick as it was often referred to in order to distinguish it from the sleight-of-hand on stage) knows that the very first thing act one performs (after proper ritualistic cleansing and preparation) is the drawing of the magic circle. This is perhaps one of the most intensive acts of boundary-setting that one can do. I mean, if you’re going to be fiddling with the fundamental forces of the cosmos in order to achieve your one, singularly defined act, it’s a pretty good idea not to be too generous about who/what is in and who/what is out.

It is very clear to me that in regards to magical associativity this is absolutely essential. This feeling leads to that connection and on to yet another notion and the essential and fundamental connectivity of all that is suddenly spreads one out over the whole cosmos itself. I don’t know about you, but my little mind has trouble with all that. And so, we learn to focus, to separate and exclude what is necessary from what is not, what is relevant from what is not, and this ability to set boundaries, impose limitations, engender constraints – whether we are focusing our wills, our vision or our thoughts (just to touch upon the last three active consciousness structures) – is essential to our individual, hence our collective survival. If that’s what Sloterdijk is telling us, I’m all for it, but I’m not sure. But what is equally clear to me is that there are consequences to setting any and all boundaries/limitations/constraints. This is not a bad thing, it’s a good thing, and it’s the Magician’s lesson to us: if you take in everything, you have nothing; if you allow everything to affect you, in the end you can be nothing.

The very first lesson of the very first sephirah we encounter on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life is discernment. We start learning this lesson very early, at least when we take our first breath. (Yes, some, among them Mr. Sloterdijk, move this moment even further back, but I’m not convinced of that and the argumentation and evidence I’ve encountered and been presented with hasn’t yet convinced me otherwise, so I’m going with my own model in the meantime.) But, too many people don’t seem to get it. As a result there are a whole lot of folks in the world who are, as you so eloquently put it, “a hodge podge of movies, theories, medical interventions, diets, urban environments, air travel, competition, etc., all of the glories of the Modern mixed with a lot of war, injustice and rigid boundary making” (whereby I’d replace “rigid” in that last phrase with “arbitrary”).

What you describe is a kind of hell, at least a hell on earth, and as Jordan Peterson points out, one thing that makes hell Hell is that it’s a bottomless pit: there’s always someone who finds a way to make things even worse than they already are. Well, obviously the first thing any of us has to do is to find a way not to make things worse. For me, the obvious second thing is to find others who are trying to make things worse as well. I would like to think that’s precisely what we are doing “here”, wherever that may be.


Thanks Ed for your patient response to my some what wayward question.

I remember years back I listened to a recording of Moby DIck. The voice was a good one and the actor caught the rhythm of Melville’s multiple voices and as I was sitting in my room, listening to the voice, I felt myself suddenly and with a bit of surprise, floating in the ocean, and the small cabin boy, fell into the sea and the sailors off to find the whale came back to find him an hour or so later and pulled him up out of the ocean, where he had been floating, looking up at the sky. The cabin boy is reported by the author to have gone mad that day. He never was the same. I was for a split second that cabin boy.

And when I returned to the room, curious about my shifting spatial boundaries, and marveled that with the Melville prose, the space of the novel and space of the listener to the reading of the novel, somehow blended, and triggered a weird kind of psychoactive space, not here, not there, somewhere in between. I guess this subtle kind of experience happens often in imaginary experiences but for me this particular experience was unusually robust. I felt for a few seconds in more that one world at the same time. It’s kind of embarrassing because I often know things that I’m not supposed to know. I have told people about symptoms they have and stuff like that. I am baffled about where that knowing comes from? Certainly not typical Cartesian coordinates.

This kind of thing happens a lot in ritual and performance, as you point out, and I have had lots of experiences of a sense of a shifting boundary, with groups or by myself, and especially in music or theatre. I recall I went to hear the pianist Horowitz when I was in my early twenties with a close friend and I had a weird experience of being transported into another kind of space. I asked my friend," Do you ever feel that the music is coming from inside of you?"

My friend, looked at me, like I was nuts. " No," he replied," I always am aware of the music as happening outside of me." I never brought up that topic again.

I have had lots of dreams, where I examined the location of the dream and did a contrastive analysis of objects. In one lucid dream, I picked up a glass and actually dropped it to see if it would break. It did. I also noticed that the sound of the glass breaking and the sight of the glass shattering were out of synch, like a badly coordinated film. Other dream experiments followed in which I asked deceased persons if they were real or my imagination. I got lots of different answers to that question. I have even eaten food in a dream. Most of the food tastes like tofu. Smells are hard to register too. Subtle senses present different aspects of the sensorium.

So I guess location is a peculiar notion for me, a bit of an obsession. As I have lived in the same city for many years I often had moments of certain street corners, with memories of episodes that had happened there, and there was the residue of those memories, palpable, pleasant and unpleasant, with a strange feeling of compressed, multiple time frames imposed on the physical space.

Now that so many places have been torn down and rebuilt over the last few years there is a shock when I walk around the neighborhood and there seems to be less and less a sense of the place, the presence of the past is fading. I feel that I live in a city without shadows, it is all gleaming with a high tech shine and very over priced tourist attractions and I have become one of the tourists.

So it is not a trivial question that I asked for me at least as I am often transported by other people’s descriptions into what some would call the demi-real. So meta-spaces, spaces about spaces, has a peculiar appeal to me. And I think Sloterdijk is addressing that as well. Identity has a lot to do with where you draw the line. And if you draw the line cross over the line you can learn a lot.

There is line of course that you should not cross and that is what Magic is all about. Faust made a bargain that he was not prepared to keep, when he crossed that line. I think many scientist are making that same error. Deficient Science and the Occult are looking for something that is hidden that they want to manipulate. Misplaced concreteness? Not sure. We are no longer becoming what we were becoming.

I suspect as I am a low level synasthete that I am neurologically atypical and this is becoming a field of study for some philosophers, I would imagine the use of the Internet could amplify a typicality.


This turn in the conversation reminded me of a piece JF Martel wrote:

Interestingly, I had a left a placeholder on the discussion, a photo from a page in a books of essays on Wallace, beginning with the line:

“In an age of disbelief,” says Wallace Stevens in a late essay," it is for the poet to supply the satisfactions of belief, in his measure and in his style."

Wallace then goes on to ask:

“What, then, is the nature of poetry in an age of disbelief?”

The hodgepodge of psychic content that you describe, Johnny, is that same, I believe, that Sloterdijk names at the end of this chapter as “the disappointing outside and its deaf, tiresome, and superfluous signs,” which Wallace refers to as our “age of disbelief,” and Max Weber and others called the “disenchantment of the world” or Nietzsche analyzes in terms of nihilism.

I understand Sloterdijk’s project to be one not of _re-_enchanting the world (ala the New Age) but of disabusing us of our disenchantment!

Which is why, I believe, Sloterdijk goes on to say:

“the not-yet-speakers” [i.e., those for whom the magic circle of speech, hearing, and meaning doesn’t exist] “…go on a primal strike […] the ungreeted, unseduced and unenlivened are—rightly, one is inclined to say—agnostic towards language and cynical about the idea of communion. They do not move into the house of being in the first place. For them, language remains the epitome of counterfeit money; communication is nothing but the forgers’ attempt to bring their own duds into circulation along with all the others.”

I would take this as a bit of a challenge to us “speakers.” He is saying, Why should anyone believe you? If there is no longer belief in belief, then what’s left? And how do we speak that language?

Maybe it was a mistake to “decide” that Sloterdijk’s “spheres” were merely a metaphor. What is a metaphor, anyway? Is it just an image? An excess of significance, creating a symbol? Or is it constitutive in some way, space-making? Does a metaphor even, in some way, become a place?

###A Postcard from the Volcano

Children picking up our bones
Will never know that these were once
As quick as foxes on the hill;

And that in autumn, when the grapes
Made sharp air sharper by their smell
These had a being, breathing frost;

And least will guess that with our bones
We left much more, left what still is
The look of things, left what we felt

At what we saw. The spring clouds blow
Above the shuttered mansion-house,
Beyond our gate and the windy sky

Cries out a literate despair.
We knew for long the mansion’s look
And what we said of it became

A part of what it is … Children,
Still weaving budded aureoles,
Will speak our speech and never know,

Will say of the mansion that it seems
As if he that lived there left behind
A spirit storming in blank walls,

A dirty house in a gutted world,
A tatter of shadows peaked to white,
Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.


“Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires.” -Wallace Stevens

Death is the mother of beauty is a metaphor. It carries across one meaning to another meaning. It rearranges the furniture of the mind, moves some pieces to the attic, some to the basement. A leap is required to understand a metaphor and if you slip and fall you might get your feet wet. Metaphor is Mind in motion.

Metaphor works at a very high neuro-logical level. More of the nervous system is engaged in metaphor making than in literal language. Identity and mission and vision are conveyed through metaphor.

One linguist said we should throw out the word" literal". There is he claims no literal meaning. So how do you ‘throw out’ the literal?

So everything is metaphorical. Everything points to everything else!

Bodymindsigns are in motion. We can model that. We have to be swifter than lions. We need a meta-language to do that.

King Lear says," That way madness lies, let me shun that, no more of that-"

In my brief career as an actor I played lots of Shakespeare roles, including Lear, Edgar, Shylock, Iago, Bottom, Angelo, Claudio, Horatio-

Sorry those iambic pentameters really hang you up the most-

“And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.” -Shakespeare

“Only the Imagination is Real”.-Wallace Stevens

Or as my mean old dead Daddy used to say," Shit or get off the pot."


Metaphor picks up where the literal leaves off. An axe can help us get firewood, or it can be something to grind.


Hey Marco, is the new Bubbles conversation coming out soon? I’m running out of metaphorical gas and I cant remember much about what was said. Look forward to a review of that conversation that might jog the memory to crank out something. Mucho Gracias!

Fell behind on things but it will be up later today!

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