Confabulations 6
Edited by Adam Blatner, Imagination-ologist
(Part of Series on Textures of Reality---also known as:
the Journal of {Very} Speculative Philosophy)

First posted, August 31, 2010, Revised May 12, 2011   (See Confabulations 1    2     3      4     5    (This is 6)    7     8

You Want Proof?

You want hard evidence? How about the mathematical equation that explains it all? Well, you're in luck: Here 'tis. Irrefutable, if I may say so myself. Or, to quote a denizen of Through-the-Looking-Glass Realm, Humpty Dumpty (Lewis Carroll was in touch with an alternative reality): "There's glory for you!"
 The rest of this particular interaction: 'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock- down argument for you!"'
'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

I confess that this passage has significant meaning, in the light of discoveries in the field of semantics---the study of the meanings of words---especially the emotional coloring people feel about them. This field was very influential in my development. So I dare play with words and concepts in an effort to penetrate their deeper meanings (or non-sense).


What we call reality is just the skin, so to speak. We've been penetrating the skin of reality in many ways: Developing better approaches to human and animal anatomy, astronomy, oceanography, geology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, linguistics, history---just about all human endeavors might be viewed as getting beyond that which is obvious, that which is superficial. What we find is complexity and beyond that, much greater complexity. For those with a spirit of adventure, this is bracing, intriguing. It's as if we continue to be challenged to the edges of our understanding and then just a little further.

The proper response involves a complex mixture of humility yet confidence to take it on. (That doesn't mean you're going to get it all, soon, or even forever---but you are hopeful you'll get more.) One needs to balance also ambition, a bit of wild presumption, with again surrender. These qualities are not easy to balance, but then again, as the sages say about true maturation of the soul, there is also a need to balance qualities that once were thought to be either / or, either masculine or feminine, either spiritual or secular---and of course the art is to learn how to do both.

In art, too, there is a need for balancing. I have been influenced by the philosopher Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000), whom I was privileged to know. Among his diverse interests---not only philosophy, but also ornithology, and especially the mystery of the at times remarkably musically interesting songs of some species of birds---he developed a theory of aesthetics, of what is beautiful. Basically, you can't pin it down, it's a flow among seeming dualities, opposites, never being stuck, moving between and among:  novelty and sameness; loudness and softness; dissonance and consonance; beauty and ugliness; fast and slow; rhythmic and breaks in rhythm, or new types of rhythm; complexity and simplicity; profundity and superficiality; different emotional tones and mixtures; and so forth. This variation may apply to all the creative and expressive arts and crafts.

Reality (2)

Reality is so we can really mess with this stuff, so we can sustain a perception, keep a relationship going, satisfy the human instinct to grasp, possess, settle down. Our dream world doesn't offer this, for the most part. One could argue along with the fascinating character of Pico della Mirandola"  who said, in his Oration on the Dignity of Man (around 1490) that "Spiritual beings from the beginning become what they are to be for all eternity. Man, when he entered life, the Father gave the seeds of every kind and every way of life possible. Whatever seeds each man sows and cultivates will grow and bear him their proper fruit."  People can use their minds, he asserted, to lift themselves to be more spiritual or they could give in to the temptations of laziness of mind and childish bodily desires and be more like beasts. Humans are a great opportunity for God to experience three-dimensional space plus one-way time in some interesting ways.

But that doesn't mean that reality is confined to those dimensions. We can glimpse at deeper pattens, though it hasn't been clear what they mean: What, after all, is music, or mathematics, romance, the arts, consciousness itself? These mysteries show little evidence of being answered by the physical sciences. They operate on the "skin" of the cosmos, the external or "explicate order" (in contrast to what the physicist and theorist David Bohm called "implicate order")..

Esoteric versus Exoteric

The exoteric is what is out there, plain as day. The esoteric is out there, too, but not so readily perceived. It's more like what comes out at dusk or twilight. (People have their own associations to the meanings of twilight versus dusk or evening, have you noticed?) The esoteric has to do with what you need to study for, but also use intuition to understand. What's life about? The exoteric is generally filled with platitudes and common sense. The esoteric is deeeper. Exoteric religion involves showing up and being part of the congregation. Esoteric religion involves those who want to stretch their minds and hearts with a bit more discipline, to really connect. It's more mystical.


The aforementioned Pico Della Mirandola was a young man, brilliant, who hung out with scholars from many backgrounds. He found depths in the Jewish mystical tradition called Kabbalah---and I, too, have found this tradition to be rich with implications. (I write about it more on other websites.) (Indeed, it seems that Pico was the fellow who brought the Kabbalistic tradition into Western Christian esoteric thought, which in time became the root of some Rosicrucian, Theosophical, Magickal, and Neo-Pagan trends.)  Kabbalah seems to me to the epitome of esoteric thinking, perhaps because, though rooted in a thick tradition, it also speaks to principles that transcend any particular religion---or that's the way I see it, anyway. (To the right is one of my versions of "The Tree of Life." )-->

What is "underneath" ordinary material reality, the appearances, the superficialities of role relations? I find another connection between this question and Jungian psychology: Related vaguely to psychoanalysis, Jung's analytical psychology includes a far broader range of sources of motivations that he calls "the archetypes." (I write about these elsewhere on this website, also.)

Thinking It

Dare it be thought? Can it even be imagined? Perhaps it may just be dimly intuited? Then there are those few or those wacky enough to think it but cannot find the words to express what is thought. What does that say about our poor minds and its density---or destiny?

Nor is thought distinct. The concept of "complex" was one of the better products of psychoanalytic theory: Our mind rarely thinks a clean thought. Almost always there are associations that may be easily accessed by consciousness, along with many that are not easily accessible or perhaps not at all accessible to the powers of ordinary awareness. The whole field of semantics speaks to the emotional tones evoked by certain words, and how  knowing that this dynamic happens with words can help us to become more conscious. Developed by Alfred Korzybski in the era in which psychoanalysis was becoming quite the intellectual fashion (in the 1920s and 1930s), semantics offered another way of insight---and in my thinking, at times equally or even more useful than what was then and even now illuminated by depth psychology!

Complexes also include memories of relationships, their tone, which in turn may have involved mixed feelings. Complexes mix the individual's ability to conceptualize, levels of maturity, willingness to engage, tolerance for ambiguity, the degrees of pride needed to sustain a valued sense of self, and many other variables.

Finally, there's the interesting problem that most thoughts might be thought differently when run through the thinking filters of one with a different background, world-view, historical era, motivational system, set of priorities, and innumerable other things. This of course leads to the next topic:

Different "Trips"

This term from the late 1960s referred not only to psychedelic experiences, but in a broader sense, the idea that people have different destinies, "dharma," journeys in life, challenges that fit their particular blend of personal background, talents, temperament, and preferred interests and imagery (see paper elsewhere on this website about individuality). This picture on the right hints at the variety of journeys operating in this world. There was a popular song in the 1956 titled "Two Different Worlds," and many other observers have noted the seeming incompatibility of class, race, age, or other demographic variable. The older I grow the more I have come to sense that in may ways most people live in different worlds, they are on different trips. This is in line in a sense with that existential philosophical rejection of any doctrine that pretends to generalize about human nature (i.e., "existence precedes essence").

And yet what's amazing is that you out there in your other universe really, really exist! I think Descartes' solipsistic thought experiiment that led him to the logical conclusion that "cogito, ergo sum," "I think, therefore I am," wasn't bad, but yet wasn't enough of a stretch. What's also obviously true and ultimately mysterious is that you exist as much as I do, and you're so different in subtle ways, and what does that all mean? Whoa!

Dancing in the Flow

Here we are (on the left), in not only this dimension, our angels shuffling and re-shuffling our pre-birth karmic factors, our destinies yet to interact, but over time, it is the Dance of Shiva Nataraj, the image of a god expressing the spirit of the cosmic play, "leela."

I'm not even sure which one is "me" when I do this dance, but when I do folk dancing or square dancing, there are other times when what's up is the dance, and it's not terribly important who is dancing, or whether "I" am being noticed, or whether "I'm good enough." It is enough just to be participating in making this complex communal gesture happen, and it's actually fun to blend in with the we, in gentle ecstasy (in the sense of the Latin word root, ex- outside of, and -stacy, standing---standing outside of our egocentric perspective, surrendering to the flow.

I'd like to see lots more  community dancing. Not dancing in crowds but it's still you making sexy moves; nor even the great fun of ballroom dancing, which for me is another art form, but rather the challenge of  types of folk dancing (including square and round dancing) in which what's up is the  we-ness  celebrating the forces of holy  making-nice-happen in interesting spatial-body-music-combinations.

Textures of Reality

"Reality??? Ha! What a concept!" -- "Mork" as played by Robin Williams in a 1970s science fiction sit-com. Mork was a visitor from the planet Mongo or something like that. He obviously didn't take our concepts of reality too seriously. I can get with that.

What we experience as reality is a compound, a composite, an aggregate of billions of components. Mind can entertain such complexities, though it isn't smart enough to figure it out. It can learn to see through the illusory nature of what we take to be reality, and innumerable books by South Asian philosophers and commentators also in the West in the last half century and more have noted this dynamic. It is the essence of Buddhism. Most people America and Europe still believe that reality is out there and mostly made of stuff, whereas it is often more useful to recognize that most of reality is mind-stuff, stories we make up about what stuff is and what it's about.

Self as Illusion

Take the experience of being a separate individual, a self. In our own lifetime it may become apparent that it's more useful to think of the "self" not as a single "thing" but rather, another kind of illusion. What we experience and/or tend to think of as self involves not only the innumerable qualities, roles, thoughs, sensations, interpretations, and other mind functions with which we identify---and identification is the activity of in effect saying, "Yes, that is part of me, or like me, or I'm part of it!"

On the right is a very diagrammatic example of how there's a kind of thread that ties together many different dimensions or planes of existence. Self-ing is an active process of constructing a sense of continuity and cohesion among a variety of roles---even though this sense is in great part influenced by the narrative or story we tell ourselves about who we are and where we fit in this whole shebang.

As illustrated on the right, these roles actually involve different dimensions---some played out more in the realms of economics, or family life, play or religion, and so forth. In those roles, the individual is actually somewhat different in the subtle feelins of how one is, although at the same time the differences of this state of mind and its associated behaviors differ from other roles is blurred. One feels oneself to be the same person.

I amplify this concept of constructing of a self as a process (rather than believing that there "is" such a "thing" as a "self") in an essay on another website.  The metaphysical elaboration of this picture hints at the intuition of the virtual existence of many sub-"planes" of existence operating within the larger dimensions accessible to and co-created by mind. This co-creation is occasionally idiosyncratic, mainly created by an individual, but most often to a greater or lesser extent co-created by others and the family, community, and culture in general. That is to say that we tend to think in lines that are consistent with world-views and experiences that have been articulated as being at least somewhat valid in this culture. There is yet room for innumerable variations but there are also limits.Byeon those limits ideas are near- or literally in-conceivable, impossible to conceptualize, imagine.
       Many ideas and themes today were inconceivable to people living two centuries away, and at the edge of conceivability---but still more science fiction---one century ago.

Journal Titles

What to call this series? Cosmic-comix? I thought of calling this the Journal of Speculative Philosophy--- sort of speculation as confabulation, just making stuff up, what if... and all that. Then I discovered that this is really the title of a respectable professional philosophy journal run by people and featuring articles by people and read by people who take this stuff seriously, or so I gather. Wow! So maybe I'd call what you're reading here "The journal of VERY speculative philosophy?"  or fill-lots-of-fee?  or take a turn towards the grandiose and call it the Intergalactic Journal of Confabulology, or what other titles?  Also, let's use the nature of this medium to welcome input. You can email me ideas, and if I like them I'll include them and give you credit.