The Subject – Object Dichotomy and Climate Change

The “mind-body problem”, or subject/object dichotomy (Cartesian metaphysical dualism) began its career only as a convention. Not even Descartes thought there was an absolute incommensurability between mind and matter, or mind and body (res cogitans and res extensa). In fact, Descartes also had a tripartite vision of reality — as three “substances”: res cogitans, res extensa, and God. And this triangulation, so essential to dialectical reasoning, is clearly illustrated by Descartes himself.

The Cartesian "cogito" illustrated by Descartes

The Cartesian “cogito” illustrated by Descartes

Which, of course, leads to this — the famous symbol of the “Illuminati”

annuit coeptisAnd which is, moreover, derived from the perspectival eye of Leonardo da Vinci as he illustrated it himself

da Vinci's Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

da Vinci’s Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

And it was against this eculidean or triangular model of thinking and consciousness that the mystic and Hermeticist Jakob Boehme (and Blake later) hurled his own understanding of the fourfold and his own quadrilateral logic,

Jacob Boehme

Jacob Boehme

… which is very much akin to Rosenstock-Huessy’s own “cross of reality” as well as the indigenous Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel.

We know, today, that the mind-body problem or the subject-object dichotomy has been greatly overdrawn and exaggerated, and in fact Descartes himself only adopted it as a convention of his methodology for the sake of his goal of obtaining “clear and distinct ideas”. That is to say, it was an attempt to save the law of noncontradiction by suppressing the coincidentia oppositorum, unity of the opposites, or the paradox from our thought and consciousness as was implied in the Hermetic Philosophy of the doctrine of the affinities and the principle “as above/so below” which denied any absolute divide between mind and body, consciousness and cosmos. All new science today now recognises a correspondence and a reciprocity between consciousness and reality, and that these are co-evolutionary. It’s the meaning of Prigogine’s “New Dialogue With Nature” in his great book Order Out of Chaos and also of the “Measurement Problem” in quantum mechanics.

It’s this convention in thought, one that eventually got out of hand, that has Gebser speaking of “deficient” mode of the perspectivist consciousness structure, which we call “the point-of-view” consciousness. The subject-object, or mind-body, dichotomy is very much implicated in the decay of Reformation into fundamentalism and of Renaissance into reductionism. If there is contrariwise, as all this suggests, a fundamental reciprocity or conviviality between inner soul and outer nature, or awareness and cosmos, or the within and the without — a dialogical rather than a dialectical relationship — then we have been badly mis – informed. But we continue to have this croaking toad — Blake’s “mind-forg’d manacles” — squatting atop our toad-stool brains telling us that there is no reciprocity or commensurability between the “in-here” and the “out-there”.  (And that croaking toad is the real “puppet master”).

Since we remain oblivious, for the most part, to this reciprocity, mutuality or conviviality between soul and nature, psyche and cosmos, we might also wonder whether, with climate change, the crisis of nature — or “death of Nature” as some call it — is not also insinuating itself into our very thought processes and behaviours without our being in the least aware of that, in fact is being denied altogether, because the anguish of the Earth (and the “law of the Earth”) becomes also our anguish and our law.

Physis, for the pre-Socratic Greeks, made absolutely no distinction between subject and object states. It was a single continuum but nonetheless also fourfold in nature, in terms of the powers of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, which were not considered inert substances but living essences or powers. Physis was the realm of life, and not, as it later became, of inert or dead matter, and the life was one life, whether it expressed itself in the four primary elements or as metabolic system, respiratory system, nervous system, and circulatory system that made up the physical body or the psyche. A lot of pre-Socratic philosophy sounds sometimes strange to our ears precisely because they made not distinction between what we call “mind” and “body”, or between “body” and “nature”. It was all one realm of Physis, which meant then “Life”.

A lot of what we call “post-modernity” is connected with the breakdown of the subject-object dichotomy and the return of the paradoxical relationship between the “in-here” and the “out-there” as we have conceived of these things, and what is now taking its place is the notion of “field”, and very much in the ancient sense used by the pre-Socratics — physis. This also suggests an impending shift towards the mode of perception of McGilchrist’s “master” — the consciousness associated with the right-hemisphere of the brain, and the nature of that mode of attention is its immediate (rather than mediate) connection with the field (which the neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor called “Life force power of the universe” in her TED talk).

(Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and his “grammatical method” is a contemporary field theory, by the way, which also maps the realm of “physis“).

This raises an interesting question about the field and our (albeit mostly unconscious) embeddedness within the field (what was implied also in what was formerly called participation mystique), and whether the “crazies” which we are currently witness to aren’t, in some fashion, the climate crisis, as field effect in all its nuances, itself insinuating itself directly into the thought processes of late modern man by virtue of the the right-hemisphere’s immediate connection with the field, (ie a “disturbance in the force”, so to speak) and whether this isn’t behind the current epidemic of the crazies (in the form of cognitive dissonance, “symbolic belief”, duplicity and so on). This would suggest that denialism, and also an exaggerated identity politics, is fundamentally an attempt to preserve identity as subjectivity in the midst of the breakdown of the subject-object or mind-body dichotomy in which the field (as holonic), rather than the point-of-view (as partial or partisan view), gains ascendancy.

It’s a novel way of looking at it — that, in some sense, the attempt to preserve and save the “status quo ante” is a reaction formation to the incipient emergence of the field into awareness over the conventional subject-object dichotomy, for the field is also paradoxical in nature. We know that the mode of perception of the “Master” or right hemisphere, by virtue of its more holistic perceptions, is more sensitive to the flux of energy, and to disturbances in that flux, than the Emissary is because of the “Master’s” immediate and direct connection with that flux. And this may well be connected with Gebser’s preference for speaking of an “irruption” (rather than an e-ruption) of a new consciousness structure through chaotic transition.

At least, I tend to think that this is so — that much of this denialism (and by implication also “culture of narcissism”) is connected with the ego-nature (or identity) attempting to preserve the subject-object or Ego-It (or us-them) relation against the emergent pressures of the “field”. Or, to perhaps put that another way, the Totality at war with the Whole.


16 responses to “The Subject – Object Dichotomy and Climate Change”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    I think you can see the critical problem here: the euclidean mind takes only a pie slice (the perspective pyramid) out of reality and calls that alone “the real and the true”, and this may be “mind” (idealism) or “body” alone (materialism) while vast other aspects of the human whole are left outside the parameters of perception — body, soul, spirit — nada, nichts; or mind, soul, spirit — nada, nichts, “nothing but” and so on. They are consigned to the “occult”, the vast terra nullius outside the pyramid of perception that is perfectly illustrated in the Great Seal as a dead zone or wasteland of nothing but.

    Well… it’s totally wrong.

  2. donsalmon says :

    In “The Master and His Emissary,” McGilchrist points out that Descartes’ longing for “clear ideas” is characteristic of the left hemisphere. This is the neurological correlate of “selective attention,” which in modern times has become “exclusive attention” – excluding the body, emotions, intuition, etc.

    The iruption of the Field (RH) does indeed cause the fixated, exclusive attention (which increases activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which “mediates” the “little me” – “Ahankara” or “I-maker”) to hold onto its exclusion even more….exclusively.

    We see this in the extreme in narcissistic personality disorder, which we see exhibited in its fullness in the current American president-elect. Even the slightest criticism is perceived as an existential threat (we all saw this exhibited in his 3 AM tweets determined to “take down” the former Ms. Universe that he ‘fat shamed” – note also his exaggeration of his height in order to move his weight from the category of obese to overweight).

    But we all do this, much of the time.

    Iruptions from the field can be frightening personally; they also elicit hostility from those in the public realm dedicated to maintaining exclusive attention (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, etc).

    Psychologist Jim Carpenter has come up with the first theory of parapsychology that promises to integrate over a century of research. He calls it “First Sight,” meaning that what we normally take to be perception is actually the result of a field like awareness which is unified in its nature, which is responsible for parapsychological phenomena. The reason psi is so terrifying to so many Left-Hemisphere dominant scientists and philosophers is admitting its validity would mean and end to the reigning left-brain exclusive attention paradigm throughout the scientific, and technological world.

    • Scott Preston says :

      re: Carpenter’s comments: I think that’s pretty much it. And yes, the field can be both awful and awesome both, or as Castaneda’s don Juan put it, terrifying and wondrous (and the need to balance the terror and the wonder as being the “art of the warrior”). That’s also what Blake refers to as the Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

  3. Andrew says :

    I’ve always been fond of the number seven: forwards/backwards;up/down;inside/outside;and around:)

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      You’re not alone. There is much to be found in religious commentary about the significance of the number seven. The number features prominently in sacred texts from around the world.

  4. Andrew says :

    Oh yeah, I’ve always liked 8, too! Sorta looks like the symbol of infinity! I call it thru………..

  5. abdulmonem says :

    It is a dialogue with god, the consciousness and the source of the cosmic consciousness and the human consciousness,and only through consciousness communication is possible. Ibn Arabi stated that the first fall of impression is truthful because it is the message from the source, the field in which all different kinds of communications take place. We distanced ourselves from the source through the intermediaries, such as nature or the other different human,religious or other modern names, that is, why we are hearing so many voices calling for immediate connections, that is to move from the mediate to the immediate,from the part to the whole, from the limited to the integral. To be present in the divine field, divine presence, saves us a lot of troubles and makes us immune to the memes of other personal experience,since the spiritual experience is purely personal and requires its private road to him. The sufis say there are as many roads to him as there are creatures in the universe. It is not coincidental that most true seekers have their own linguistic vocabulary with him.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    I like to add that the intermediary sometime becomes very dangerous when it becomes a substitute and starts to play the role of the original, like nature which has become god to some. Prayer is the dialogue we use with god and his response is his participation in the dialogue when we pay close attention through our complete silence in his presence. Another paradox when we hear in the abode of silence, as if the principle of paradox is the essence of life activity. As I said in my previous comment that there is a system of knowledge descent from the divine sphere to the human sphere through meditation using certain rhythmical alphabetical formations, another paradox that defies the human limited logic. God knowledge is free and woe for those who use it for money,like all others divine benevolence which the humans have been taught to deny it and start to think that the governments or the corporations are their god that feed them and sustain them. No wonder we are living in such a mess.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    Actually, it just occurred to me that the suggestion that climate change may be insinuating itself, subliminally, into present thought processes and behaviours is the theme of the book and the movie Solaris which some of you may know and may recall.

    Also, I’m finding that Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, which I’m currently reading, also pursues this idea in relation to the novel and fiction. He’s looking for the subtler signatures of climate change in today’s works of fiction. It’s an interesting approach (although he hasn’t come to any real conclusions about anything yet).

  8. Scott Preston says :

    this may be a book that will interest some. I just heard of it. It’s entitled How Forests Think by Eduardo Kohn, an anthropologist, and is also very much “field” oriented, it seems

  9. Scott Preston says :

    A quote of interest from Ghosh’s Great Derangement that is particularly relevant in terms also of Gebser’s thoughts on temporality

    “The events of today’s climate change, in that they represent the totality of human actions over time, represent also the terminus of history. For if the entirety of our past is contained within the present, then temporality itself is drained of significance. Or, in the words of the Japanese philosopher Watsuji Tetsuro: ‘Rather than trace historical development… all one need do is to distinguish the various formal transformations of the present.’… The climate events of this era, then, are distillations of all of human history: they express the entirety of our being over time.” (p. 115)

  10. abdulmonem says :

    Thank Scott for the link, Eduardo Kohn study only proves what I said in my comments, that everything in our cosmos has consciousness and that is why the quran draws our attention that all other creatures in this cosmos are nations like our nations . Oh unaware humans you are here not , only to live and make money and exploit others but to know the why of life and how to be a valuable human beings benefiting others in this short existence.

  11. Scott Preston says :

    Amitav Ghosh: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable is a good book, by the way. Covers many of the same themes as here in The Chrysalis. Starts a little slow, but the second and last sections on History and Politics are spot on.

  12. davidm58 says :

    “The attempt to preserve the ‘status quo ante’ is a reaction formation to the incipient emergence of the field to awareness.”

    Yes. Using PatternDynamics language here, mixed with Peter Pogany’s ideas: The Global System 2 (GS2) currently holding sway over our current socio-economic arrangements is the Network pattern using the Feedback pattern for self-reinforcement against the encroaching Emergence and Field patterns working together with the Creativity and Order/Chaos polarity patterns (and the Feedback pattern as well), working to overcome the deficient Global System 2.

    PatternDynamics is a potentially powerful tool. Especially when you can become fluent enough with it to see the multitude of ways that the patterns interact with one another.

    On a related note, Joseph Camosy posted over on the faceboo page of Integral Post-Metaphysical Spirituality the following, followed by my response.

    Joseph Camosy: Tied in with my previous post on Ideology, there is a relationship between identity and commodity fetishism.

    We see news commentary about “fake news,” climate change denials, and right-wing media outlets with their own version of the truth.

    What happening is that “facts” have now become “commodities.” What this implies is that commodity fetishism is now in full effect regarding what people believe to be true. What commodity fetishism tells us is that the perceived inherent value of something is actually a network effect. And now truth is as well. Media technology provides the infrastructure to navigate and manipulate this network effect to create value for one’s brand (Trump) as well as being able to manifest a collective “virtual reality” where one can manufacture consent.

    How does this influence someone’s sense of identity?

    From the article: “People’s identities to a large extent emanate from their place in the system of production.”

    Being able to locate oneself within that network-effect called the social order is what makes one a subject. As the vast majority of us must sell our labor on the market, we too are commodified and thus placed in a value location relative to that network effect known as “The Market.”

    So as that One True God of Capitalism, “The Market” moves in its mysterious ways and capital and production shift around, individuals within these networks lose their previous location, lose their moorings and must try to find another place within the Market and social order.

    So how do individuals attempt to recover meaning, identity, and subjectivity?

    For one thing we see the kinds of activities that I outlined previously with my analogy to Freud’s 5 kinds of resistance:

    1) Repression: managing anxiety via addictions, distractions, spending, spectator sports, TV, hobbies, music, also public spectacles, etc..

    2) Transference: “Theatrical displacement” into some other aspect of life. Scapegoating the Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, etc…

    3) Gain from illness: Trying to be MORE of what we think the system wants of us and supporting those strong exemplars of the worshiped deity (The Market) such as the business tycoon, etc…

    4) Unconscious or Id: Archetypal possession: Following orders. Staying safe within one’s existing script, or taking on a new script and robotically acting it out.

    5) Superego resistance. Beating up on oneself or embarking on a self-improvement regime. Going to therapy or taking up meditaiton instead of joining an organization or movement.

    So this HYPER-OBJECT (Global Capital & The Market) being a network-effect is determining not only our values, but our own individual value and identity. And now we see that it also it telling us what facts are.

    Truth itself becomes a network-effect that is molded to the requirements of this hyper-object’s need to continue to feed and metabolize everything in all 4 quadrants.

    Dave M: Joseph, this idea of the HYPER-OBJECT of Global Capital & The Market is similar to Peter Pogany’s concept of Global Population Plus Economy (GLOPPE) leading to the self-organization of Global Systems (GS1, GS2, GS3) that hold sway over us with distinctive socioeconomic conditions. I’ve posted about this on the IPS Ning site, and am beginning to write about it again in my current series of blog posts. I like the framing here of “network -effect” – this is perhaps good example of the PatternDynamics #Network Pattern.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Very interesting.

      So as that One True God of Capitalism, “The Market” moves in its mysterious ways and capital and production shift around, individuals within these networks lose their previous location, lose their moorings and must try to find another place within the Market and social order.

      Pretty good description of what Canada’s Finance Minister referred to as “job churn”.

      At university, I once read a book called Third Space, I don’t recall much of that now, but it’s what later came to be called “virtual reality”. Now I see that Third Space is the space of the “hyper-object” in the sense used by Camosy. Perhaps some connection with Toffler’s Third Wave. Don’t know. Never made the comparison before. But Third Space would seem to be imaginative space, or perhaps an attempt to describe the field in other terms. I’ll have to go back to those books, as, come to think of it, Third Space may have something to do with Jensen’s The Dream Society too.

      I’ll have to familiarise myself with Pattern Dynamics, as I should have done earlier. Thanks for the links.

  13. Charles Leiden says :

    Joseph Chilton Pearce suggests that a human being is born to be playful in a matrix of love and support. If this breaks down because a variety reasons, anxiety is the result. Anxiety is a big dynamic in ideology.

    “The biological plan is wrecked when the intent of nature is met, not with appropriate content, but with the intentions of an anxiety-driven parent and culture.”

    “Anxiety results when the child is forced in mismatched relating of intent and content. Interchange with the matrix and growth of personal power then break down, but the sequential unfolding of maturation goes right ahead.”

    Richard Stivers – Shades of Loneliness (which Scott has mentioned) is an expose of technological society. The theme is that technological society is pathological. His position as he started the book is “all disorders stem from the same sociological context and each disorder recapitulates the entire psychopathology….from the preceding analysis, two commonly shared sets of characteristics emerge as most intimately related to the various technological contradiction: meaningless (nihilism, normlessness) and the will to power. He also suggests that as “technical rationality” (the power of technology) increases, so does irrationality (the power of instinct).

    This just corroborates what Scott and others writes.

    David wrote

    What happening is that “facts” have now become “commodities.” What this implies is that commodity fetishism is now in full effect regarding what people believe to be true. What commodity fetishism tells us is that the perceived inherent value of something is actually a network effect. And now truth is as well. Media technology provides the infrastructure to navigate and manipulate this network effect to create value for one’s brand (Trump) as well as being able to manifest a collective “virtual reality” where one can manufacture consent.

    Good Stuff.

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