The Life-World: “Storms to the Stormy”

One of the things that grabbed me while I was reading one of the Seth books was a simple statement Seth made during a particularly stormy night while beginning one of his “sessions” with Jane Roberts and Robert Butts.  Of all the things that should stick with me after reading the Seth material it is, oddly enough, “storms to the stormy”. The phrase recurs to me every time I reflect on problems of climate change or of chaotic transition.

“Storms to the stormy” brings to mind Heraclitus and his admonition that “character is fate”. In the original Greek, though, character is “ethos” and “character is fate” is only a very rough translation of “ethos anthropos daimon“. Heraclitus, the “Greek Buddha” as he has been described, meant by this “daimon” something more akin to the Buddhist “Mara”, Lord of Illusions and “the Architect”. Greek “daimon” is often adequately translated by the Latin “genius“. But neither “demon” nor “genius” mean, today, what they meant then.

“Storms to the stormy”, like Heraclitus’s ethos anthropos daimon, is a summation of Seth’s oft-repeated maxim: “you create the reality you know”. Both statements are in the nature of the Hermetic principle of the coincidence of opposites — or “as above, so below”, or “as within, so without”. “Storms to the stormy”, or ethos anthropos daimon, or St. Augustine’s “time is of the soul” are all equivalent in meaning. All these are, furthermore, implied in Blake’s insistence on the primacy of “Imagination”, which is connected with the “intentionality of consciousness” as described in Husserl’s Phenomenology (and, indeed, with “intent” as it is described equally in Castaneda’s writings, where it is equivalent to “creativity”). This same principle of intentionality is implied in Nietzsche’s philosophy of “amor fati” (or “love of fate”): “it is so because I willed it thus!”

All these statements are exactly equivalent in highlighting the primacy of intentionality, even where this is called “Imagination” by Blake. All say one  and the same thing: “you create the reality you know”. At a fundamental level, there is no separation of inner states from outer states, or of inner dynamics from “objective” dynamics. It is a continuum. Our inner states profoundly effect and shape the life-world as a whole, even disruptively and turbulently. Chaos within becomes chaos without. “Character is fate” becomes, in St. Augustine, “time is of the soul”.

In a day when quantum physics faces “the Measurement Problem” (or “the collapse of the wave-function”), this function of “intentionality” in every act of perception should not be difficult to understand at all. What Heraclitus means by “ethos”, what Augustine means by “soul”, what Blake means by “divine Imagination”, or what Castaneda and Phenomenology mean by “intentionality”, or what Nietzsche refers to as “the will to power” are all bound up with what Jean Gebser means by “a structure of consciousness”. It is also bound up with Peter Berger’s and Thomas Luckmann’s description of The Social Construction of Reality.

Intentionality is not will. Will is only peripherally connected with intentionality. They can become even dissonant, which is why the religious plead “not my will but Thine be done, O Lord”. The will is of the Selfhood, or McGilchrist’s “Emissary”.

There is a passage in Castaneda’s 30th Anniversary Edition of The Teachings of Don Juan that I find particularly relevant to the meaning of “intent” and Seth’s remarks about “storms to the stormy” (as well as Heraclitus’s “ethos anthropos daimon” or Augustine’s “time is of the soul”). Here, Castaneda is speaking of the shamans of Mexico and their understanding of “intent”,

“They saw that the entire universe was a universe of intent, and intent, for them, was the equivalent of intelligence. Their conclusion, which became part of their cognitive world, was that vibratory energy, aware of itself, was intelligent in the extreme. They saw that the mass of intent in the cosmos was responsible for all the possible mutations, all the possible variations which happened in the universe, not because of arbitrary, blind circumstances, but because of the intending done by the vibratory energy, at the level of the flux of energy itself…. Don Juan pointed out that in the world of everyday life, human being make use of intent and intending in the manner in which they interpret the world. Don Juan, for instance, alerted me to the fact that my daily world was not ruled by my perception, but by the interpretation of my perception. He gave as an example the concept of the university, which at that time was a concept of supreme importance to me. He said that university was not something I could perceive with my senses, because neither my sight nor my hearing, nor my sense of taste, nor my tactile nor olfactory senses, gave me any clue about university. University happened only in my intending, and in order to construct it there, I had to make use of everything I knew as a civilized person, in a conscious or subliminal way.” (p. xvii – xviii).

For don Juan, also, the mastery of “intent” was, paradoxically, the surrender to intent — very much akin to the prayer of the religious. And many physicists are, today, coming around to this view expressed by Don Juan — Amit Gotswami, for example, in The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material WorldAnd it is “intentionality” that is strongly associated with the magical structure of consciousness, for it is magic — everyday magic even despite ourselves.

And this brings us to the issue of “technocratic shamanism” (or necromancy). What is implied in the phrase “perception management” (branding, propaganda, disinformation, etc) is actually the attempt to manipulate this intentionality rather than the percept or the act of perception itself. This is the Freudian “superego” and is akin to what don Juan called “the foreign installation”. This “superego” is actually Buddha’s “Mara” (whose name is contained in the word “nightmare” or “night-mara”). When Buddha calls Mara “Lord of my own ego”, this is the Freudian “superego”, and is the same as don Juan’s “foreign installation”. For Don Juan, “total freedom” comes from dissolving the foreign installation and reclaiming “intent” as one’s own, paradoxically, by surrendering to it, in effect, becoming one with the universal intent. For Blake, similarly, this is liberating the “divine Imagination” in the human, which he sees as equivalent to “God” and God as equivalent to “the Universal Humanity”. In Blake, God is this same implicit “intentionality” or intent which is equivalent to creativity, and which he calls “Imagination”. Similarly, what Blake calls “the mind-forg’d manacles” in his poem London, is what don Juan calls “the foreign installation”, but which others call “superego”. What Heraclitus calls “ethos” is what Seth calls a “belief system” which specifies how intent is to manifest itself as a fate.

The manipulation of intentionality by “vested interests” (mainly via branding and “brand managers”)  is what Algis Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism”.

The emancipation of intent from “amalgamate false natures” (Rosenstock-Huessy’s phrase for “mind-forg’d manacles”) bears on Augustines’ “time is of the soul” and Gebser’s anticipation of “time-freedom”. Time-freedom is what Blake refers to in his own “fourfold vision” as “Eternity in the hour” or in one of his Proverbs of Hell “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”.

What is called “reclaiming lost innocence” is really this foregoing of the egoic will and its subordination to intent. Will pertains to McGilchrist’s “Emissary” as “usurper” as intent pertains to his “Master” mode of awareness. The disruption in the life-world is owing to an inner conflict between will and intent. What Jill Bolte-Taylor calls “the life force power of the universe” is intent.

“Human nature”, so called, is in conflict with this life-force and with its life-world, and this is chaos. Nietzsche called this life-force and the life-world “Dionysus” and intent, as described by Castaneda, he called “will to power” as the universal operative principle in the cosmos. This has been badly misunderstood, since this “will to power” is Bolte-Taylor’s “life-force power of the universe” equally. It is the misalignment of this egoic “I am” or “I will” with the life-world and intent that is the root cause of all of our troubles, or as Nietzsche put it, the true self is not that which says “I am”, but which does “I am”.  It is the “doing” of the latter that is called “intent” or “intentionality”.

There is also a Buddhist proverb that speaks to the meaning of “intentionality” in this sense: “he who sees the action that is in inaction is wise indeed”. The action that is in inaction is intent, not will.


11 responses to “The Life-World: “Storms to the Stormy””

  1. abdulmonem says :

    In the divine realm there is no separation between will and intent,between the I and the we, between male and female but once we descend to the human realm separation takes place and human troubles start to appear as part of life trial, and the freedom given to the human to select his unique alignment path and the difficulty he faces in aligning his will with the divine intent because of the availability of different paths and his freedom of interpretation of his perception, as Don Juan put it, the world is not ruled by my perception,but by the interpretation of my perception. It is really true that we have been given consciousness to know him and appreciate his artistic creativity and bow in his presence and thank him fo what he has given us,and to recognize our part in his holy wholeness.Thank you Scott for a beautiful meandering in the never-ending seas of the divine words.

  2. davidm58 says :

    Scott, This is an excellent response to my unasked question, which was, Why are you drawn to the phenomenology philosophy of Husserl? Now I understand, and you’ve tied some threads together for me.

    I’m drawn myself more to the process-relational thought (Whitehead) in conjunction with Radical Empiricism (Bergson, James, and the Chicago School of Wieman, Meland and Loomer, and finally the relatively more recent (late 1980s) explications of Nancy Frankenberry in Religion and Radical Empiricism, and William Dean in American Religious Empiricism and History Making History).

    Bernard Meland, in his 1976 book “Fallible Forms & Symbols,” noted the commonalities and contrasts between these two approaches of phenomenology and process-relational radical empiricism. He called them the two wings of the new realism. He wrote,

    “Despite dissimilarities between various modes of post-liberal theology, stemming either from a phenomenological orientation of thought or from that of a process metaphysics, an underlying ground of new realism pervades them. This new orientation has enabled religious thinking to break free of the enclosures of mentalism and personalism which had shaped the imagery of theological liberalism since the time of Kant. Whether one pursues a line of inquiry within the dynamic and relational ground of Whitehead’s reformed principle of subjectivity, or in that of the phenomenologist’s revised notion of intentionality, as formulated by Merleau-Ponty, or as expressed by Martin Buber in his notion of the I-Thou encounter, something more contextual connoting a sense of otherness is conveyed than had been possible within an earlier liberalism. That earlier liberalism had been shaped within the imagery of Kant’s transcendental ego and the dominance of that notion of personality as being the criterion of ultimate value. In both wings of the new realism ultimacy is seen to inhere in a ground of otherness to which man, in his subjectivity, relates himself. The thrust of the argument here, however, is to indicate that, in going beyond historical liberalism in these respects, post-liberal theologies are not abandoning the critical, post-orthodox or post-authoritative stance which liberalism initiated. hence their concern with otherness in designating or defining ultimate reality represents, as we have said, a radically reformed rendering of the liberal heritage designed to repossess, within the disciplines of liberal scholarship, the full range of the Christian legacy of faith.”

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’m not very conversant in the philosophy of Radical Empiricism, but I don’t see a lot of difference between that and Phenomenology. Husserl’s interest was a return to experience, which is basically what his motto means: “to the things themselves”, as we experience them before mental abstraction is applied to them. As far as I can see Radical Empiricism and Phenomenology share in common a return to direct, immediate experience and in those terms approach what Buddhism means by “suchness”.

      Phenomenology is more a method than a philosophy, in that sense — the “bracketing” of the secondary abstractions in favour of direct perception (especially exemplifed in Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception). Phenomenology is, in those terms then, the study of perception itself. This is what interests David Abram in Husserl and Merleau-Ponty in The Spell of the Sensuous — “to the things themselves” is not just about experience, but perception, interpretation, intentionality, and all those things that are implicit in the act of perception. Perception precedes conception, and yet we have largely inverted the relationship, which was Descartes’ great error. He inverted the relationship between conception and perception.

      And that’s what Blake tries to rectify with his remark about cleansing “the doors of perception”. It is pretty much what Phenomenology attempts to do by returning to experience as the act of perception before it is interpreted by the intellect or assigned a value or concept

      • davidm58 says :

        Yes, both have an interest in a return to experience. The difference seems to be in Phenomenology’s emphasis on intention, and Radical Empiricism’s emphasis on dynamic relations.

        Hence, “you create the reality you know” characterizes phenomenology, and in contrast radical empiricism would say, as Bernard Meland did say, “But, as James and Bergson were later to remark, countering the stance of Kant and Hume in one basic respect, the nexus of relationships that form our existence is not projected, it is given. We do not create these relationships; we experience them, being given with existence. And from this matrix come resources of grace that can carry us beyond the meanings of our own making, and alert us to goodness that is not of our own willing or defining. This goodness in existence which we do not create, but which creates us and saves us, is the datum to which I mean to attend. It is literally a work of judgment and grace, a primordial and provident goodness, the efficacy of which may be discerned in every empirical event of creativity, sensitivity, and negotiability. Thus I am led empirically to speak of God as the Ultimate Efficacy within relationships.”

        This stance seems to me to be consistent with Heraclitus (all things flow), Buddhist metaphysics, new physics and complexity science, and McGilchrist’s ‘master’ mode of awareness.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Thus I am led empirically to speak of God as the Ultimate Efficacy within relationships.


          I don’t think he understands intentionality, then. Because that’s a description of intentionality. Intentionality isn’t a property of the subject. It’s a condition of consciousness, and consciousness isn’t confined to the subject. That which establishes relations is exactly intentionality.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Let me try and put that another way. If it wasn’t for the action of intent, there would be no relationship between anything. It would be a mad universe indeed. What the mental-rational interprets as “logic” — the force of reason in the universe — is actually not logic in that sense, but intentionality. And it is intent or intentionality, as his general operative principle in the cosmos, that is the basis of magic, not logic.

          • davidm58 says :

            Just to clarify – in that second quote Meland was contrasting with Kant and Hume, and not with phenomenology in that instance. That was my doing, to contrast his quote with the Seth quote. So if there is a lack of understanding, it’s more likely to be mine.

            And on that note, not knowing much about Husserl or phenomenology, I pulled down a book series I have on twentieth century philosophers, and found a couple of statements that I find a bit contradictory. From William Barrett’s introduction to phenomenology and existentialism:

            “The point of departure for phenomenology, as Husserl conceived it, was the ‘bracketing’ of the world: the common-sense belief in a world of objects existing independently and externally to consciousness as well as the belief in the existence of other minds independently and equally conscious as one’s own private mind, were to be suspended; the phenomenologist was to concern himself with the pure data open and accessible to consciousness. The point of departure, in short, was the pure privacy of the Cartesian consciousness. And Husserl himself in a rather late work, Cartesian Meditations (1929), acknowledges Descartes as the prototype of his own, and indeed of all truly philosophical reflection.” (p. 131), which seems to support my point about a contrast with radical empiricism’s dynamic relations emphasis?

            Then, this on p. 133, which seems (in contrast) to support your last point (“That which establishes relations is exactly intentionality.”):

            “The result of following through on this intentionality of consciousness is to change radically the way of regarding consciousness. Instead of its being some kind of substance, or thing, in which ideas exist, it becomes a vast field of intentional relations. On this point Husserl should be compared with William James [founder of Radical Empiricism] in the latter’s essay ‘Does Consciousness Exist?’ published in 1904. James had answered the question of his title in the negative; but then had gone on to explain that he did not mean to deny that consciousness existed as essentially relational, he meant only to deny that it existed as something substantial, as a thing. Neither Husserl or James directly influenced the other; their developments here are parallel but independent; and this striking similarity in the direction of thought seems evidence once again for the old Hegelian hypothesis of a Zeitgeist, a spirit of the time that leads men’s minds in the same direction.”

            • Scott Preston says :

              The second quote is to the point. The first, not so much. The reason the statements appear contradictory is because consciousness appears in two modalities — intentional (or intending), and attentional (or attending). These are like the poles of a battery. Mr. Barrtt hasn’t made the distinction, because the attending mode is callled “awareness” and the intending mode is called “consciousness” proper.

              Mr. Barrett may be confused about the word “meditation”. The Cartesian meditations aren’t what we properly understand by the meaning of “meditation” today. Descartes doesn’t “bracket” in the phenomenological sense. He ruminates, rather, like a cow chewing its cud. He never leaves the charmed circle of the “monkey mind”. If the purpose of meditation is to attain “inner silence” or “emptiness”, this is not what Descartes does. His triumphant conclusion “I think therefore I am” is rather circular and because of that, he believes that thinking, or reason, is foundational.

              Phenomenology treats of thinking, or “mind”, as just another phenomena — “the common sense” interpretation of the world. “Bracketing off” is what is called “waring” rather than thinking, and this is what is implied in the motto “to the things themselves” — before judgement, evaluation, and so on is applied.

              The upshot of that return to attention or a-waring is the meaning of the Zen koan:
              First there is a mountain
              Then there is no mountain,
              Then there is.

              What that actually means can only be accessed by suspending the monkey mind, which is called “inner silence” which is pure a-waring. It cannot be approached in the Cartesian manner. But it’s an expression of the insight that “nothing has self-nature” or the notion of “the empty mirror”.

              So, the rhythm of the koan is from a) intending to b) attending to c) intending again. The fact that “nothing has self-nature” or is “empty” is very much the insight of Blake of the infinite in the finite and eternity in the hour. There is no difference. In effect, the reality of the mountain is inconceivable. The infinite and the eternal are inconceivable. What makes a mountain perceptible or conceivable as mountain is our intending.

              As Castaneda’s don Juan put it “perception is the final issue” and “unfolding the wings of perception” — that is what “bracketing” attempts.

              So, it’s not “Cartesian” in that sense at all. It’s not so much “to the things themselves” but that I allow the “things” (the phenomena) to come to me, as it were, as they are, without pre-judgment or evaluation aforethought. And then you see it — the world exists in and through intent, because the state of pure attention is called “the void”. This is a universe of intent, which is just another word for “creativity” — constant creativity.

              This is what Blake calls “God”, who does not exist as the “wholly Other” but as “the Imagination” “in existing beings and men” and not other-wise.

              Now, isn’t the Zen koan about the mountain exactly what Jesus said about “moving mountains”? And if, by “faith”, we can so re-arrange the things of this world, isn’t that the same as “you create the reality you know”? Well, you can only do that if “I and the Father are One” — that is to say, if your true and implicit nature is God-Nature, which it is by virtue of intentionality, which is creativity. And therein lies the meaning of vox populi vox dei or Rosenstock’s own “God is the power that makes men speak”.

              Yes, Husserl was accused of “solipsism” (Barrett’s reference to the “private consciousness” is this same charge), but that’s only relevant if… if indeed being is dichotomised between the “in here” and the “out there”. Fundamentally it’s not.

              Now, a “faith that moves mountains” (and which is reflected in the Zen koan) gives rise to problematic notions of “mind over matter” (and thus magic and miracle)– and that’s problematic because neither mind nor matter really exist at all. They are themselves “intentional” objects constituted by an act of perception. The common sense dies hard, but if mind and matter don’t exist in the sense we have understood them till now, then ultimately there is no separation of things, no separation of subjects and objects and thus nothing that could be described as “relation” or “inter-connectivity” or “inter-subjectivity” or “inter-being” and so on. If “all is One” and this is timeless and spaceless, what sense then to speak of “relationships”? Relationships are emergent and intentionalities.

              So, here’s the nub. For Blake, for example, “all that lives is Holy”. And since, for Blake, as for Buddhism, everything lives, what is outside this “Holiness” (or Wholiness)? What is a “thing” after all such that it needs to establish relations when it already exists with everything else in holiness? How do things then come to be at all?

              Well, for Buddhists the realm of discrete things is Maya, and for Blake it is Ulro, and for Gebser “archaic consciousness” is also non-differentiation and is the ever-present origin otherwise called “the One” — No-thing. And this archaic consciousness (symbolised by the void, by water, water everywhere, by the abyss) is also the soul, the “ancient force” and abides as a big part of our makeup (soul is often symbolised by ocean or water, as Gebser notes). How “things” emerge from this ocean of the archaic is the action of intentionality, symbolised by “the Word”, discerning light from darkness, sky father from earth mother, the waters above from the waters below, and yet specifying their relationship. There’s a peculiar relationship between think, thing, and thank. (also in German — denken, danken, and dingen).

              It’s not really surprising that magic is the first awakening of intentionality — magic is making, as Gebser observes. Intentionality is what Gebser calls the “directedness” of consciousness.

              This intentionality is what Blake, cryptically refers to in this passage from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,

              “It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out, but the Devil’s account is, that the Messiah fell, & formed a heaven of what he stole from the Abyss”

              That’s Hermetic code, but points to the action of what we are calling “intentionality”.

            • davidm58 says :

              Well said, thanks.
              BTW, I was slowly recognizing this understanding as well, that intentionality is equated with creativity. Creativity is the preferred term of the radical empiricists Wieman, Meland, and Loomer. Creativity, Creative Interchange, Creative Passage, etc.

              Another btw, at this year’s Gebser conference Glenn Aparicio Parry was promoting his Nautilus Award winning book “Original Thinking,” where he was also emphasizing that “the origin of thinking is thanking.”

            • Scott Preston says :

              That book by Parry sounds interesting. Will probably read it in conjunction with F. David Peat’s Blackfoot Physics.

              But, today I received Glass’s Yuga, so I’m going to be occupied with that for a while.

  3. Dwig says :

    As I read these comments, I was more and more struck by their consonance with what might be called “the verb-based reading of reality”, in which nouns are secondary, and possibly dispensible. Indra’s net emerges from Shiva’s dance, and it’s nodes only exist through the connections between them — and even this description is too noun-based to do it justice.

    In Peat’s book, he mentions a native friend saying something like “I talked all morning with my people in our language, and never used a noun”. Maybe we need to learn such a language in order to truly make sense of this topic.

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