culture, embodiment, gender, metaphysics, philosophical liberation, Romanticism, sociability, spirituality, time, transcendence
No one can, by looting property or by any other kind of violence, get beyond the control of the macro-parasitic capitalist faction and its structures of cultural influence, because violence and property are the operating mechanisms of the parasite faction itself. The most important and valuable personal possessions aren’t property anyway but rather the system of ideas by which a person’s orientation is constructed: conceptions of nature, transcendence (the supernatural), community, and personal subjectivity, all provided originally by the ambient culture into which a person is born, and presented as reality. Getting beyond the control of a dominant faction has to be done by getting beyond the cultural system of reality which legitimates the parasites and their operations. Specifically, it is necessary to get beyond the top-down orientation of popular systems of reality, because that orientation enables the use of those systems as ideological legitimations of macro-parasitism. For example, the fact that cheetahs prey on antelope is cited (since Darwin) as proof that human-on-human macro-parasitism is decreed by the laws of cosmic nature. However, every Great Chain of Being that serves as a food chain is a political construct to legitimate predatory behaviour and institutions. To re-orient freely, you have to disconnect from the message built into culturally assigned personal identity that you are a product, creature, construct, or function of the ambient cultural system, of your ethnic and religious background and your relation to the economic system. That involves going beyond the stories and formulaic word groupings in common currency.
Spiritual Vulnerability Number One
Any survey of human behaviour at large finds striking uniformity, and that is often used against the idea of individual autonomy and creativity. However, there is widespread uniformity because culture provides circumstantial compulsions. All of that cultural uniformity is founded on a fascination that individual intelligences have with other intelligences. The most interesting thing to any individual intelligence is other intelligences, and it is undeniable that individuals are almost helpless and completely unviable without the support and nurturing of a surrounding group of people. It could be argued that the mutual attraction of intelligences is the ultimate spiritual vulnerability, because we are very often ready to put up with great discomfort and un-fulfillment to maintain our interconnection with others. One thread of romanticism holds that, due to the dependence of individuals on the support of other humans, the most important thing, the crucial thing, is that individuals be provided culturally with a sense of belonging and social attachment, no matter if that sense is based on outright falsehoods and deceptions. Because we are spiritual beings in the uncertain process of self-creation, and because we are uncertain of our spirituality, we begin by accepting the stories going around ambient culture, including the assignment of personal identity in terms of ethnicity, family, religion, nationality, gender-role, sexual orientation, job aptitudes, or trophies won, until we recognize that, along with belonging, they impose a sense of personal diminishment and a disabling false finality. That leads to a philosophical questioning of the ambient cultural system of reality, and of personal orientation within that reality, especially upon recognizing that top-down concepts of subjectivity, spirituality, and identity which produce personal diminishment and false finality also maintain control by the macro-parasite faction.
Embodiment and Spirituality
The incongruence between personal embodiment and spirituality has always been an important inspiration for philosophical questioning (in addition to the two vulnerabilities described in the previous posting). The challenging nature of the embodiment – spirituality duality is already expressed in ancient Orphic philosophy: a story about spirituality exiled and cast down from divinity, and imprisoned in matter by embodiment. That ancient story illustrates a longstanding approach to spirituality as the reach for “something higher”, as an inherent sense of relation between personal spirituality and a universal divinity. In fact, the inspiration to search for “something higher” is nothing other than the sense of unknowing or uncertainty about personal spirituality (what is personally “higher” in relation to dead matter), for example, the search for how personal aspirations and accumulated lessons learned are present invisibly (which is the immediate presence of “something higher”). The same impulse that goads the quest for the “higher” (non-apparent) presence of personal bearings or directionality is full enough of hopes and fears to fixate on the most grandiose possibility of the “something higher” in the form of deity, a non-apparent cosmic master intelligence or spirituality.
The rejection of such upward-orientation is not a rejection of spirituality. Spirituality is the creating of time as accomplished by every individual intelligence. Time is freedom into which an intelligence projects itself creatively, a personal hyper-space of ‘metaphysical’ non-actuality. Freedom is possible because time is a device or technique created by individual intelligences to transcend (be free of) nature’s determinism, and so it could be said that being-in-time is what distinguishes intelligences from the natural world within which we build lives. This is an unfamiliar idea, but time is the conception (opening) of freedom-from-nature and as such the transcendence of intelligences. Temporality is teleology. Transcendence is in the questioning directionality of any human gaze (always into futurity) and not in free-floating deities (there are none), nor in the vastness of nature itself, nor in the supposed one-ness of all existence. Individuals cannot claim to be creative masters of nature, but each person creates a time-system (a life) of possibilities and probabilities in our own universe of interiority, a personal orientation within non-actuality, which is then actually imposed on brute nature with variable success, and shared by building interconnections with other ordinary intelligences. **
There are several ways in which it is correct (but also misleading) to say that there is no spiritual self. The basic nature of the spiritual self is to evade a final particularity of itself, to project its self-creation continually into a not-yet of futurity. In that way spirituality is inseparable from time, and both have the same immateriality or ‘metaphysical’ quality, without appearance. The self is a no-thing-ness, neither a thing nor a structure of things, but instead is a spirituality or intelligence: a flight expressive of an interiority of non-actuality, time, and freedom. What time as a personal mirror shows is exactly spirituality. The immateriality of spirit is precisely the same thing as the immateriality of time. Time is not an appearance (does not appear), but instead is the orientation (spirituality) of an intelligence engaging with brute actuality, living its particular life and imposing that life onto brute actuality. An individual’s aspirations and lessons learned are present as shaping forces in this moment of engagement with the surroundings, but they are not perceived or perceivable. They are not “backstage” as images somehow pushing. They are present only in the non-appearing directionality (orientation) itself.
The only way to truly or fully embrace spirituality is to recognize the strict and inescapable individuality of embodiment. Spirituality is nothing other than freedom, the non-particularity of intelligence is the non-particularity of freedom, and freedom is actualized in gestures of the body. We have a tendency to overemphasize our particularity based on the finality of bodies, since bodies are measurable in great detail, mappable, chartable, locatable, and so we are very clear about our presence as a body-particular, up to a point (another vulnerability). We are much less clear about spirituality since it is a no-thing-ness, only a directionality pointing out away from itself. So, under the influence of cultural teachings, we underrepresent the never-yet-particularity of personal spirituality (intelligence) in our self-identification. That is why the emphasis here is on identity as spirituality with its creative freedom. The realms of experience most expressive of embodiment are, first, placement (being here), then, effortful mobility within, and effortful mobilization of, brute actuality, grounded in a person’s accumulated sense of the metabolic cost-shape of the world, and third, communication and interconnection with other people which, surprisingly enough, cannot be done strictly spiritually, but instead require gestures of the body. Embodiment defines a strict spiritual individuality.
The Bog of Yin/ Yang Spiritual Dualism
The no-thing-ness of spirituality is not a void to be filled from outside itself, but instead is a gusher of curiosity, questions, projections of marks and patterns, and expeditions of discovery and creation. That is why the proponents of macro-parasitic patriarchy would like to appropriate spirituality as a masculine quality. There is an historical attempt to connect mentality, specifically rational thinking, with masculinity, coupled with an attempt to associate femininity with embodiment. However, there are possibly more metaphorical congruences of spirituality with aspects of female sexual biology, based on spirituality as no-thing-ness, an absence, labyrinthine, creative, undefined and as such free. The positivism of embodiment surely is more congenial as representing a certain dominant style of masculinity. Not much should be made of any such metaphors, no metaphysical conclusions please, especially since far too much has been made of them historically. Spirituality is gender neutral, and metaphysics is not gendered.
It is obvious that no individual’s re-orientation beyond the dominant culture is going to cause the institutions of macro-parasitism to vanish, so that pay-off is strictly off the table. Getting past the typical top-down orientation does not objectively negate the power of the entrenched macro-parasitic faction and their decisive influence on culture-at-large. So, it is fair to ask what is achieved by getting past looking up to sovereignty, divinity, tradition, institutions, ethnicity, the language community, or anything like that. The process of philosophical liberation, the re-orientation accomplished by a critique of common reality, leads back to a new recognition of personal spirituality, to embracing spiritual individuality as defined by embodiment, and nullifying the typical alienation of autonomous creativity. The only pay-off is life as a spiritual being than which there is none greater or higher, embodied among others, conscious of the transcendent freedom of individual intelligences as distinct from the unfreedom of inertial nature, without guilt from any mythical inherent flaw, original sin, or from interpreting the will to live itself as a fatal weakness. The immediate result of going beyond culturally assigned definitions of personal identity is taking on the burden of spiritual no-thing-ness, which is the project of self-creation at every moment, engagement in a personal creative process. That has to be the new way to enjoy engaging with the surrounding cluster of other spiritual beings, all relating to one another using our precious embodiment.
** An earlier iteration of this paragraph can be found in posting 74, June 7, 2014, The Use and Abuse of Spirituality.
Copyright © 2015 Sandy MacDonald.
Karin Jasper said:
This is a fine essay.