Identity and Individuality, II

I have some issues with the term “inter-subjectivity”. I can appreciate, though, why it is emphasised by those, such as Frank Broucek in Regaining Consciousness, who object to Scientific Materialism. They are trying to get past the “I – It” or subject-object dichotomy, and they are right to do so. Intersubjectivity emphasises the importance of the “I – Thou” relationship over the I-It one.

But in that, intersubjectivity is like intercourse. It might be great for both parties involved, but intercourse doesn’t a make a marriage does it? A marriage gets beyond intersubjectivity to form a true “we”. A “we” is not an intersubjectivity. It’s a communion. Most intersubjective negotiation, transaction, intercourse, or dialogue, or whatever you want to call it, is an attempt to get beyond the I-Thou relationship, overcome the time and space between us, and achieve a communion in a “we”. It’s quite often a struggle.

In any attempt to form a We, the “I” — the subject — is very often the obstacle that must be subdued. The problem with most marriage today is that it never really gets beyond “intersubjectivity”, which is just what we call the courtship or wooing phase. But “we”? That’s an entirely different person than “I” or “You” or “He and She”. It’s not a sum of I’s or a totality of persons. It’s the communal form of the person.

(I note that Gebser uses the “we” form in referring to himself, just as Plotinus used the “we” in referring to himself, too. They were acknowledging the plurality of “selves” or identities that comprised them, and yet in terms of the communal person as “we”, ie, the integral awareness as the One who is Many. Blake could not use the “we” form for his Four Zoas until they had achieved harmonisation in and through “Albion”, who is the integral awareness).

Intersubjectivity has its limitations. Even the mystic who seeks communion with his or her God must get beyond this “I-Thou” relationship so that all distances of time or space between I and Thou disappear in the communion. Transcending such intersubjectivity, or the I-Thou relationship, is called, in the Hermetic Philosophy, hieros gamos or “sacred marriage”.

This is what underlies the Buddha’s teaching of anatman, sometimes translated as No-Mind, No-Self, or No-Soul, and which very often confuses aspiring Buddhists. Buddha referred to the “I am conceit” for precisely those reasons. You must get beyond the I-Thou relationship to a true communion called “Ultimate Truth”. Paradoxically, you cannot realise your authentic individuality until you overcome this “I am conceit”. (Nietzsche’s book Beyond Good and Evil might have been more interesting if it had been Beyond I and Thou, which is where he was really headed anyway).

 

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