The Primal Companion


(john davis) #22

It’s like a pleasant dream that I had that I cant remember the details of.

(john davis) #23

Exactly, Ed, and when I ask about location and whereabouts of the " we" , when “we” decide, I’m mindful of the confusion that we might encounter on the way as we “unravel our weaved up folly.”

My question, perhaps badly timed and in an unfriendly medium like writing, which is the poor companion of live speech, I rely heavily upon a technique, to point out perhaps the overly obvious, our deeply entangled with everything language games. Is it a hopeless knot or can we unravel it?

My obsession with location is not about real estate, but about the Ever Present Origin! Questions of the whereabouts of things is of crucial importance to actors, writers and poets. Inside or outside? Size or shape? Percept? Concept? There are space related questions but what kind of space?.

Outside is real, in our culture, inside is subjective and in deficient mental discourse, unreal. Madness or sanity. This is an area that Gebser tracks well as does Shakespeare who’s leading characters are moving from Mythic-Magic to a very shaky Perspectivalism.

A dramatic example is from Macbeth, moving towards the bed chamber of the King, whom he intends to murder. He pauses to reflect upon the workings of his own mind in turmoil.

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?”

I’m very interested in the space in between, or what the conditions of possibility could be. Philosophers are also interested in the inside/outside conundrum.

Tim Ingold, anthropologist, comments about our creative entanglement, in some carefully crafted metaphors. I like this passage-

“Whichever image we prefer, what is crucial is that we start from the fluid character of the life process, wherein boundaries are sustained only thanks to the flow of materials across them. In the science of mind, the absoluteness of the boundary between body and environment has not gone unquestioned. Over fifty years ago, the pioneer of psychological anthropology, A. Irving Hallowell, argued that ‘any inner-outer dichotomy, with the human skin as boundary, is psychologically irrelevant’ (1955: 88), a view echoed by the anthropologist Gregory Bateson in a lecture delivered in 1970, in which he declared that ‘the mental world – the mind – the world of information processing – is not limited by the skin’ (Bateson 1973: 429). Much more recently, philosopher Andy Clark has made the same point. The mind, Clark tells us, is a ‘leaky organ’ that will not be confined within the skull but mingles with the body and the world in the conduct of its operations (Clark 1997: 53). More strictly, he should have said that the skull is leaky, whereas the mind is what leaks!”

(john davis) #24

The hodge podge of what you call my psychic content, Marco, is not that far removed I think from what Shakespeare’s characters were dealing with. My main interest is how do groups sponsor novelty. Crafting questions that are a good fit is a primary concern for moving that agenda forward, an agenda that I believe is at the heart of what visionary and realist and critic, like the three stooges, are stepping on each others toes, to accomplish.

Like little kids on a long journey in a car ask every five minutes," Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

The Blob is coming after us.

(john davis) #25

Death is the Mother of Beauty…is a beautiful line.

Death is the Father of Beauty…doesn’t work.

Metaphors draw upon our experience which always involves a place. Metaphors, that introduce novelty, are not arbitrary

(Ed Mahood) #26

May I ask, solely as a matter of interest and clarification, John, what differences in meaning and nuance do you have in regard to “location”, “place”, and “space”? Overlaps are definitely there – at least in my mind – yet there are significant distinctions to be made, don’t you think?

(T J Williams) #27

Super question, Ed. I know you asked John, but for grins and giggles take this shot-from-the-hip for what it’s worth:

(Of course there is overlap among the following.)
Let’s put location on the hypothetical grid by which we pretend to conquer the immensity of ‘space-as-quantity’. Location will always be relative to whatever we (arbitrarily) decide x=0, y=0, z=0 to be, but it will (have to) do as a reference.

Let’s say place is the amorphous “seat” of our moods and apprehensions - as in ‘place of serenity - or of anxiety (“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Obi-wan…”)’. Place then ‘travels’ with us (leaving aside our on-going investigations of whatever the heck “consciousness” means - i.e., I realize I just made some kind of individual center a requirement here…).

This leaves space (as-quality!), where people make connections and “groups sponsor novelty” - where “places” meet, if you will, and where languages (metaphors, symbolisms, concepts) are essential.

Again giving him the benefit of a very large doubt, I am beginning to read Sloterdijk’s hearts and faces and mesmerism and discarded Withs as examples of how people used to deal with space-as-quality, as opposed to what he calls a “Modern Age” moving away from this altogether in order to make space a quantity and the individual the autonomous and even autarkic “outside observer.”

I (think I) see it. As we must believe something, let us set out in what we see (from “here”) as a positive direction. As humans, we reserve the right to make adjustments as we go along.

(T J Williams) #28

(Marco V Morelli) #29

@achronon and I talked a little about this yesterday: “What do you believe?” I asked Ed (much more long-windedly): How do you believe in belief? This got us into the “pure heart of nihilism,” which led to the positing of a “negative nothing” and a “positive nothing,” and the virtues and limits of the practice of metaphysics, and ruminations on an ecology of writing.

Regarding “quality time”: I liked the article, and it’s true there is no substitute for putting in the hours. One of the painful things about being a parent, or a writer, or anything I’m committed to, is that I simply wish I could spend more time on it. I believe quantity will naturally lead to quality.

Somewhere else, @johnnydavis54 said, “time can be our ally.”

And yet, some fake Buddha meme generator said: “The problem is, you think you have time.”

Ed also (indirectly) asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Are we there yet, indeed! :exploding_head:

(Mindful AI) #30



This is the 6th 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 5, “The Primal Companion – Requiem for Discarded Organ” as well as “Excursus 5: The Black Plantation – A Note on Trees of Life and Enlivement Machines,” pages 343–412



[mp3 download]

Machine transcript [HTML file]


Mark Schwartz
John Davis
Ed Mahood
TJ Williams
Wendy Ronitz-Baker
Marco V Morelli

Date recorded: 7/6/2017

EDIT: Updated media files for trimmed content, removing first 10 minutes of silence before convo started.

(Marco V Morelli) #31

Just realized that the recording had started a good 10 minutes before I got on the call. I’m going to edit out those first 10 minutes of silence and re-upload…

(john davis) #32

Wow Ed that is a very good question!

Location. Location is affective and in here, usually in the mid section of my torso. Shifting affects and moods are registered in the torso but do not necessarily come from that area. The torso is the location through which contact is made between and with other entities in other times and places. It could come from imaginary or actual events, anticipated or remembered

Place. Is on the outside or imagined as on the outside. I see the tree sway in the breeze outside my window beyond my firescape. I am aware of its intelligence and beauty over there. St Joan has a bouquet of lavender colored flowers at the place where she was burned at the stake. When I was in Rouen, a few years ago, I stumbled upon that place intuitively without a guide book. I knew exactly where it was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Places can be sacred or profane. Some places I avoid.

Space is inside and outside, has no clear cut boundary. I can make distinction in space, and clear those distinctions and start all over. I can close my eyes and drift in dream spaces or reverie spaces which are non local but have great impact on actual places and locations. A dream body and a physical body are both processed through different kinds of space. Dream space for example has no gravity, no night or day, no digestive organs, and is always awake and has a much more intense affective, sensory awareness. The physical body sleeps, digests food, develops time based initiative and processes, obeys gravity, etc., and is much heavier and cautious. Both bodies have a mutual influence upon one another. Both are equally real.

Thanks Ed for the great question!

(T J Williams) #33

I agree, provided that “quantity” carries a measure of commitment to connect/improve, etc… In the context of this discussion, it struck me that “quality time” occupies the same continuum as “quality space” - where the connections are made that awaken and strengthen the writer’s treasuring of his family. (With “place,” according to my flimsy definitions above, being his inward journey of discovering the treasure and “location” being a house on the beach.)

(Ed Mahood) #34

While it was @johnnydavis54’s post that prompted my question, I’m glad the spirit of this particular place was honored by having @patanswer respond as well. As @madrush pointed out, in our own discussion on Tuesday, we touched on themes that overlap with the questions I posed as well.

Two things struck me about the responses: (1) the subjective as well as objective considerations involved (which could be expected, I think), and (2) the introduction of the quality/quantity dichotomy (which, albeit perhaps not as expected, moves the discussion in a richer direction. What is more, I found it exceedingly thought-provoking that TJ appears to see location “outside” (quantitative), yet for John it is “inside” (affective), and the reverse obtains when we come to place. This reinforces, for me at least, the thought that even though we can understand them very differently individually (and, yes, TJ, it is often – maybe even always – necessary to posit a individual center as a requirement when dealing with such notions.)

To me, that’s not a disadvantage, it is, I believe, essential. Marco and I spent some time exploring beliefs, and I have many which I try to coalesce into a coherent understanding of reality. One of the beliefs that I hold, and which I mentioned in our chat, was the primacy of consciousness. Materialists, for example, often end up in that “negative nothingness” that Marco mentioned; materialists also emphasize quantity over quality, since we can, to their minds, only know what we can measure and what we measure are all they can admit as qualities. It is, of course, an extremely limiting and restrictivce perspective, and it is highly exclusionary. Materialism is, however, a belief, for we have not yet, and I can’t personally imagine how, we can prove or disprove it. All the evidence we advance is, at least at this stage of the game, indirect. Yet, the same applies to my primacy-of-consciousness belief: it is neither provable nor disprovable, but it allows for the exploration of phenomena that materialist must otherwise exclude (e.g., a lot of the dream-reality experiences that John has often brought up, spirituality, psychic phenomena, and not the least of which the notion of an individual self).

To get back to the point; that is, the discussion of my questions and your responses; the mere fact that we have trouble nailing down the distinctions of perception here in an agreed way indicates to me that we are in fact dealing with a very fundamental phenomenon. TJ has helped make clear that there are physical aspects of these notions, and they will often be relevant when we are using the terms. John has helped make clear that there are affective aspects of them that will also often be relevant. In that the words can help us make sense – to ourselves and to others – of how we relate to phenomena and experience, they have a strong referential aspect, even if it is often metaphorical. (There was a time a marketing expert could tell you the three most important factors for your business were location, location, and location.) Nevertheless, there is a concreteness about them that gives them a strong literal aspect as well. (If that location wasn’t on a corner, its effectiveness was greatly diminished.) But now, online? Most things have become alocational, if I may put it that way.

Gebser, as we all know, made a very big deal (and I believe necessarily so) of the notion of aspaciality. Now, here, as above with alocational, I’m using the prefix a- in the sense of “free from” not in the sense of negation. (Physicists may be able to negate space and time, but I haven’t grokked that yet.) But what I’ve also been wrestling with is the question of whether Is it possible to free oneself of place? Linguistically, it is difficult because we don’t have good place-related adjectives. What is more:

(Whereby it is interesting to note that the Latin sacer from which our English word “sacred” derives is one of those linguistic gems from by-gone times in which some words meant something and their opposite: sacer can mean “blessed” or “cursed” (those places John may avoid); altus can mean “high” or “low” … we’ve only got one such words left in English as far as I know, cleave, but I digress …)

As I like to say, you are wherever you are whenever you are, and you’re never anywhere else. Until that “where” is imbued with experience, it can’t be a place. You can only place yourself within the vast set of relations among phenomena, objects, and experiences (that is, space) when you become aware of what you are experiencing. Should the phenomenon/object/experience be absolutely concretized, you can most likely locate it as well, e.g., 2 miles down Rte. 30 heading south on the left-hand side of the road, the pain is in my left little toe, but also Heartbreak Hotel. Should it so manifest that you can share (not in the sense of merely communicating, as I can do with the pain in my little toe when I’m at the doctor’s, but in the sense of a sharing of the experience) this where (whether really or vicariously is, I think, irrelevant) with others, you can also create a place. We can be space-free and time-free, to put it in Gebserian terms, but I’m not sure we can be place-free.

I have the strong suspicion that this is what Sloterdijk is trying to put his finger on as well, but he opted for space not place. Since, as Gebser shows, we can be free of space, Sloterdijk’s insistence on its ontological fundamentality gets in his own way. Given that he is obviously wrestling seriously with his own ambivalence toward what we might call spirit and soul and self, and the terribly nihilistic legacy of post-modernism (negative nothingness), he’s forced to describe his spaces in exclusionary ways. There is a feeling of hollowness that accompanies them. There are lots of empty spaces on this planet, but there are never empty places, for places are, I believe, a human creation. Wherever we experience place humans were there.

And, that’s how I see our little platform here for discussions, as a place.

(john davis) #35

There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
-Stephen Sondheim

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
-Harold Arlan

Home is the place where,
When you have to go there,
They have to take you in.
- Robert Frost

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:
Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
- Martin Luther King

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
-Antonio Machado

(john davis) #36

Ed says,
“Two things struck me about the responses: (1) the subjective as well as objective considerations involved (which could be expected, I think), and (2) the introduction of the quality/quantity dichotomy (which, albeit perhaps not as expected, moves the discussion in a richer direction. What is more, I found it exceedingly thought-provoking that TJ appears to see location “outside” (quantitative), yet for John it is “inside” (affective), and the reverse obtains when we come to place. This reinforces, for me at least, the thought that even though we can understand them very differently individually”

“We can be space-free and time-free, to put it in Gebserian terms, but I’m not sure we can be place-free.”

Jesus stops the crowd from stoning the woman who committed adultery.

Who hath condemned thee, woman?

No man, Rabbi.

Neither do I condemn thee. Go thy ways in peace.

But some postmodern theologians have asked where is it that this woman could go?

Having reread the previous posts, we have collectively posed some interesting ideas and they are emerging out of our experience. The differences that subjectivities register in their use of words and concepts to describe experience gives rise to the objective. Then the objective takes on a life of its own in the deficient mental, with its mania for number crunching, and fails to register its own precarious position emerges out of relationships which cant be quantified.

You cant measure relationships or weigh them but they can have a shape, a size, a feel. We cant measure relationships but we can map them. And this mapping process is what I sense we are actually doing here.

Multiple subjective minds will inevitably create differences that then can be used to create a safe place. We no longer have to label difference as pathological or dissent. We can point out, as Ed has, how the same words used by different users, can have multiple senses, without contradiction. Multiple descriptions give us depth.

There are truths, as Gödel demonstrated, that cant be proved. The arts and humanities are okay with that but deficient dominant Mental is not. It is basically operating out of an either/or strategy which backfires often when reconciling differences among complex living systems.

I think that we can step out of time and look at the productions of time as Blake did and return to the time refreshed and recharged. We can then process in more relevant ways, the immense amounts of information our sensorium and our societies produce. I would hope this forum could become a place to hold different experiences without falling into misplaced concreteness as Whitehead, mysteriously warned against… To do that we need relational skills, which this group, does have. I encourage us to keep up the good work!

I believe our open curiosity is widely shared among us and we have shown a willingness to become sponsors for maintaining the place, keeping it clear of debris and clutter, clarifying the speech of our tribe, blessing each other’s best efforts, and especially when we finds errors. I’m using the WE carefully. For me this communal effort becomes a duty and a pleasure!

In a dream last night a man appeared who told me to start working on my next life. I was amused by that meta-message from perhaps a time free zone.

(T J Williams) #37

As always, John, well-put.
My own subjectivity contains great appreciation for what is already going on now as well as vision for future directions in this ‘place/space’ (sphere? :smiling_imp:) kept “clear of debris and clutter” - which I would define as the unfortunate tendency to pay tribute to the troll-mind behind so much internet interaction. It’s almost sad that this forum is an oasis in what really should not be a desert, but there it is. You are right: sustaining multiple viewpoints in pursuit of depth is a duty, but certainly a happy one.

Is there room among the “radical humans” for one more? :grinning:

(Ed Mahood) #38

But of course! Especially those radicals who are true to the word’s own etymology, making it, as @madrush and I touched up in our recent chat, self-recursive. Radical < Lat. radix, meaning root. Or, as (Flighty) Dwight Macdonald put it, “The Root is (Hu)man”. Where the Enlightenment tripped itself up was trying to make this an exclusionarily singular notion. One of the defining characteristics of “human” is responsibility; if we are, as was long maintained – and not without some justification – the pinnacle (a disturbing term due to its overly spatial connotations) of creation, well, you are by the very nature of things responsible for everything that is (allegedly or otherwise) “beneath” you. Responsibility is simply a non-rejectable part of the package.

But, since you brought it up :smiling_imp:: as Eddington and Einstein demonstrated and others have corroborated, the universe is toroidal in form, not spherical. Reasoning from the time-honored and oft-borne-out Hermetic axiom, “as above, so below”, we can perhaps most naturally (I use the word consciously) deduce that our microcosms would perhaps mirror (there’s that recursiveness again) the macrocosm. So, I’m going with the 2-torus instead. :wink:

Bubbles, Live Conversation #8 – The Siren Stage: On the First Sonospheric Alliance
(Ed Mahood) #39

Leave it to you, @johnnydavis54, to mention what is arguably my favorite New Testament story. (In fact, I have a draft novella based on it lying around here somewhere.)

Of course I’m having some difficulty getting my head wrapped around the concept of a “postmodern theologian”. As postmodernism is at root (and therefore radically) atheistic and without values (as @madrush and I noted in our chat heading down the tubes of postmodern nihilism), I just can’t imagine what such a person could be. Nevertheless, the question (and they developed the art of questioning into an almost demonic art, I must admit) they pose is worth thinking about whether they questioners were capable of answering it or not.

Being a stickler for (the wonders and grave dangers and disadvantages of) translation, I would note that what Jesus says to her is rather, “go, and sin no more”. Of particular interest is the fact that the word for no-more-sinning is written with that curious alpha- prefix that Gebser loves so well. He could possibly be saying, “go, and be free of sin”. Now the Evangelicals and their like-minded associates will be having none of that, I’m sure, because that sounds too much like forgiveness and as we all know, they are rather stingy with that. My guess is most of them will most likely see here an alpha-negativum (i.e., no (that is, reject) sin). Reading it as an alpha-privativum, however, makes for much more enriching associations. After all, Jesus just said he wasn’t judging her, so I get the feeling that forgiveness wasn’t even necessary. Let’s face it, there are enough instances in the gospels where he spells out his attitude to that subject quite directly. Instead, a casual, modern rendition might then be, (literally) stop screwing around, get your shit together, and get on with your life. Well, then, she could go wherever she pleases.

But, that was another thing I never liked about postmodernists: they loved to make problems where there were none.

(john davis) #40

I relate to Jesus primarily as a poet and performer. He performed what he preached and co-created high risk social panaromas to explore. The guy was a master of topologies, and theatre magic, accessing different kinds of spaces, zooming in and out of times and places, zooming back into a particular context, putting a spin on accepted doctrine, that put the orthodox into a spin. A great Radical Utopian!

He never says it is okay to commit adultery, he asks he who is without sin to cast the first stone. That puts the system into a what turns out to be a very creative double bind! He doesn’t necessarily solve problems however. He was not a reformer of the current system. Like Groucho Marx, he would never belong to group that would claim him as a member. He advocated that people leave their families an go off on a great adventure.

I admire many who are called Post-Modern and wonder where those who were thrown out of the Modernist Village supposed to go? Modernism made a very big deal of keeping some people out of the loop, they did marginalize, and those who weren’t allowed into the art schools or academies, revolted and created their own art and music. If you were from Africa or India you were not even allowed to apply. Modernism, for all of its virtues, created many a mess.

Now I do not romanticize the Pre-modern or the Post-modern. Gebser holds out the hope that we can integrate these stages which overlap in strange ways and do not sit still!

Mark C Taylor’s After God is a good book, which I recently read. He discusses the rise of Secularism as a basically religious move spawned by the Reformation. He is not a theologian perhaps but he is a student of religion, who went through the Post modern as does Jeffrey Kripal, who is my favorite writer on religion. Kripal, as far as I know, is just about the only professor of religion, who takes the para-psychological seriously. Catherine Keller is another theologian that is working through Post Modernism.

Post modernism, like Modernism, is a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. I hear Peterson approved of lot for his rants against the Post Modern. Now I admire his guts but he is often stuck in an apologetic for a neo Liberalism regime that makes me cringe. At least, he argues, it is better than the Soviet Gulag. I think that is a pretty shallow and not the way forward to what Gebserat his best is tracing out as Integral.

Much fat to chew on here!

By the way, I really enjoy your etymological investigations. I would like to get better at that! It is good to have colleagues who have skills that we might lack. We can become more agile.

(john davis) #41

I totally agree with your assessment. I really like the oasis metaphor. Is there anything else about that oasis?