Back to H.F. Philosophy contents


1995 Tutorial

Part II. High-level affections when "personal experience" is integrated around personal identity and purpose



VII. Identifying the high-level affections

VIII. Correlative modes of affection

a. meanings covered by ‘morality’

b. esthetics proper

c. character

d. comportment-to-death

e. despair-as-a-disability

IX. Attitude highs and timelessness

X. Emotional sensitization and media of evocation

XI. On abstract metaphors for spirituality

a. mind

b. infinity

c. light

XII. Abstractly defined postures as opponyms

Epilogue: Proactiveness, visionary elevation, reciprocity of personhood



In the remainder of the tutorial, our declared topic is high-level affections–I will explain the phrase at length. On the other hand, the vernacular term for our topic is "spirituality." (Another, less enduring term was "meaning.") That was how I had to announce the topic to the student(s) or interlocutors in order to get them to unburden themselves.

When physics and brain science came up in the conversations, as I said, the students wanted to believe that the experts had already given perfect answers, even though they didn’t know what those answers were. Even though they had agreed at the outset that we needed a new idea, they had no burning dissatisfaction with the official answers.

When I announced the topic of spirituality, I found the same situation. There already was a spirituality which already satisfied them. "Spirituality" allows the modern rationalist to drop his trousers, to believe in the elves and the goblins. It was utterly incompatible with the scientific answers to which they had just blindly subscribed, but they couldn’t grasp that their beliefs were incoherent. And the reason was simple: it was that both of the incoherent positions had social prestige, had a constituency. They would not believe that cracks in the sidewalk could foretell your future, but they would believe in astrology, because it had social prestige.

Thus, for them, to say ‘spirituality’ meant that the problem had been solved and it was quitting time. They had no burning dissatisfaction with socially approved answers, and they could not understand my dissatisfaction.

To me, it was idiotic to announce how scientific we all were now, and then to turn around and derive our humanness (and the politics of human rights) from stories from thousands of years ago about men conversing with gods who live in the sky. (Or, the worship of the five-legged frog, if I may express my contempt thusly.)

One acquaintance even reproached me for requiring consistency, insinuating that I was being objectionably fastidious. Such are the defenses one encounters. Do I have to say that astrophysics does not give anybody permission to believe in elves and goblins? Do I have to say that astrophysics does not give anybody permission to throw the canons of rationality to the winds? Do I have to say that if you announce elves and goblins as your astrophysics, the profession will ostracize you? If the educated laity is so ready to abandon scientific rationality on weekends, their commitment to it was never worth anything.

The net result was that the aforementioned acquaintance was giving the "cultured" status quo a clean bill of health. Really, if somebody feels that way, why am I talking to them?

Today, everybody rings in idiotic superstition as the answer when science proves inadequate. They don’t care how many billions of years the universe will last–that’s just lip service to modernity. They care about themselves. It is their own fate which they want to comprehend with idiotic superstitions. But why is that adequate, why is it credible? Why do they want to entrust the most important things to doctrines which the science they defer to dismisses as trash? The answer comes all too readily: they know themselves to be trash, and saving themselves with trash feels just right.

It’s a screaming object-lesson for personhood theory.

As I said before, this draft is in transition. I have chosen to retain some of the discussion of spirituality which catalyzed the conversations. Although "spirituality" would be the vernacular’s rubric for the entire discussion, I pursue a novel inquiry which will diverge more and more from what "spirituality" has meant to my audience.

After mid-1995, I was able to enrich my treatment of these topics substantially. Here I have mostly preserved the content of 1995 for documentary reasons.


VII. Identifying the high-level affections

Our topic is affections, an archaic word for conditions or comportments of the psyche. We are concerned with affections which are palpable. Also, we are concerned in the first instance with affections which are high-level; which presuppose the subject’s hierarchical self-organization.

I originally offered the "high-level" notion in a chapter in Depth Psychology as a Post-Scientific Modality called "Apperceptive Cogency." Then I transferred the notion from my psychology to person-world theory. To repeat from Part I, §III. In lived experience, there is a self-supervision of fleeting sensations and imagery and impulses or tendencies. On awaking from a dream, there is a moment when one grades the memory as a dream. Such examples evince a self-supervision of experience–which yields personal identity, etc. This organization is, roughly, hierarchical. Personal identity is "higher" in the scale of self-supervision than sensation, imagery, spasmic movement or action (a sneeze). Pain, thirst, phobic fear are not high-level affections.

Personal identity involves your longitudinal judgment of some of your personas as impostures that don’t pan out. It involves distinctions of your degree of honesty with yourself. It involves subtle evaluations about behaviors which are disapproved by others and behaviors of which your are ashamed. When the self-supervision goes awry, we say that a person is helpless, legally incompetent, out of control, insane.

As examples, morale, despair, etc. presuppose longitudinal thematic identity as their basis. Or, for example, one cannot become romantically infatuated (to put it cautiously) without having a thematic identity which the other person can vivify and upset. In general, from the outset, I conceived the person-world as the realm characterized phenomenologically by these affections.

Again, the phenomena are palpable. Emotional responses. Romantic infatuation. Sorrow. Awe. Nimbus-experience. They can be unbidden. We have highly developed capacities to stifle these affections–that is, to numb ourselves–once they arise. But that they arise is not subject to skeptical nullification.

Speaking of nimbus-experience, the nimbus occurs in the external field–yet the consensus reality posits that we supply it, as we do our dreams. A sense-event which is self-supplied imposes itself on you–so the story has it.

These observations are not "uplift." There is nothing saccharine about these observations. Nothing says that high-level affections have to be pleasant or pleasurable.

Another consideration which should be explored as we proceed is that some of the affections considered here do not demonstrably presuppose, or need, the hierarchy of self-organization.

Yet another surmise is that some affections which are not credulous or judgmental nevertheless arise only in a mature person.

I will want to pass to the extreme standpoint in the Epilogue. At that level, high-level affections which I have just now called palpable could be judged mirages. It is not that the subject’s agitation is doubted. It is that the dimensions which the subject imputes to the "models" which occasion the agitation are suspect. Of course, the person undergoing the agitation will be the least likely to consider that "the objective situation agitating me is a mirage of some sort." But that is attachment – carefully examined in the early person-world manuscripts.

Perhaps you will be forced to leave the city in which you live because of changes in residential rental economics. That may disrupt what you wish to do with your life. I cannot concede a status to the described objective situation beyond that of a mirage. Admittedly common sense is irreconcilably resistant to the lesson that the confronting "objectivities" are a mirage.

Terms which pertain to this realm are spirit, inspiritedness, morale, esteem, dignity, seriousness and originality, [intellectual honesty,] wonder (as might accompany psychedelic apparitions), emotional sensitization, compassion, romantic infatuation, apprehension of gracefulness; responsibility; comportment-to-death; sublime gratification; nimbus-experience; reverie.

Other, less beneficent terms are equally evidentiary: despair; [guilt, humiliation,] shallowness, self-hatred, exhaustion, aimlessness, dispiritedness, servility, irresoluteness. The age we live in is such that it is easier to motivate the topic from these infelicitous qualities.

Popular inspirational literature has its own phrase for the topic: what makes a whole person.

As I just noted, I have a conception of "human possibility" specific to me, specific to the extreme standpoint, elicited by "radical empiricism," say.

That compels me to say that people have hitherto understood "humanness" or "a real person" wrongly: because of the sectarian perspectives of the cognition of reality to which they have tied the idea. In particular, an evolution ending in the modern European treatments of "humanness," whose debacle I note in the Appendix. (§H) Even more fundamentally: the observation I made above that various aspects of "a whole person" amount to mirages.

But that is not to say that I am the first person to know high-level affections. Resuming the journalistic commentary, high-level affections are culturally correlated. Various traditional cultures appeal to them, and cultivate them, explicitly. (The examples of India and Japan). There must be shared or counterpart affections–which do not require my perspective to be launched. I will try to speak of these venerable and generic affections first.

Certain qualities are found in traditional cultures without being accompanied by awesome instrumental efficacy; and they can appear in the individual without awesome originality and inventiveness. Emotional sensitization, intellectual courage, respect for one’s consciousness, responsibility: none of these are new.

We can learn much from considering what it means to be young. A youth faces, in an unguarded way, the ideals which his or her elders proclaim, and the vocational options which are already established. This ready-made guidance may be mismatched to the youth and even deeply injurious. A young person may be able to survive only by reinventing a branch of human endeavor–and that may mean going off the map, becoming socially invisible, going underground. If you are mismatched to the ideals which are proclaimed to you–and if you cannot break with the consensus in a "creative" way–then you will be crushed in one way or another.

The young person will not come through, and come out on the other side, unless he or she already has certain generic advantages well in advance of knowing what he or she ought to be doing. You have to trust that there is such a thing as a path, at odds with the consensus, which is honorable; even as your elders and peers classify you with the fools, the losers, etc. Something far more difficult than stubbornness is involved here; you are demanding and asserting a nobility which others cannot see–long in advance of knowing what you ought to be doing. What is the capacity to uphold an integrity, at odds with the consensus, long before you find the content you permanently commit to?


Let me explore certain general terms.

Anticipatory comportment. It is a basic characteristic of lived experience that one's intentions run ahead of the present, that one plans and projects, that one is mentally ahead of the present moment. To forego or escape anticipatory comportment may not be impossible, but it is untypical of lived experience.

[Recognizable sentient life involves an emotional orientation to the future. I must orient myself toward the future and make projections of the future.]

Longitudinal themes in one's life are at issue. One acts not from nothing, but from a mission one has already chosen or assented to. So one comports to one's past biography, one's cumulative identity.

Hope. The expectation of a gratifying event. Also, the broader meaning of anticipation of a gratifying outcome–as when you anticipate that some preferred longitudinal theme in your life will be vindicated. Even more broadly: the expectation of increasing personal worth, increasing autonomy. See morale, below.

I have made special claims for coherent novelty, for an unprecedented fate, in an individual life. Aside from that, is it meaningful to ask, about any person, what the identity-themes unique to the person might be? The most comfortable identity-themes? The most challenging identity-themes to sustain and uphold? (Is this language inflated in an American way? "The exciting challenge of writing toothpaste ads.")

Self-confidence has a meaning of action uninhibited by timidity, fretting, etc. But it can also mean that I judge myself favorably. I judge myself regarding effectiveness, fulfillment, sanity, etc. (as in "The Person-World Premise, II"). Self-confidence, then, can involve satisfied or hopeful self-judgments.

The original meaning of morale concerns the attitude of groups of subordinates. But we can also speak of the morale of the independent individual. In that case, morale may involve self-confidence, and the ability to apply oneself to the missions one sets oneself (or assents to). Morale can mean that your life has preferred longitudinal themes and that you anticipate that they will be vindicated.

Shame is self-disgust reflecting other people's disapproval of oneself because one has behaved in an unworthy or derelict way. Envy is distress at one's lack of qualities or possessions and hatred for a person who has them. Both of these are tormenting emotions–making one feel like a vehicle of the torment.


As we explore the topic, we will come upon a profound and perhaps unexpected failing in natural language. If we wish to address people in unspecialized terms, as wholes, we are forced to use natural language. But that does not mean that natural language does not have features which betray our endeavor. Syntax has the effect of cutting the spectrum of meanings to create parallels (between meanings) which are highly artificial: as when English says, he has tuberculosis, he has money, he has honor, he has Russian.

This situation affects our discussion because there are abstract descriptions of attitudes which in fact cover contents of opposite import. They are opponyms, rather like the word cleave.


mindfulness of death



Futile debates over what attitudes are spiritually attitudes are provoked because these words cover attitudes of opposite import.

VIII. Correlative modes of affection

I have narrowed the topic to (palpable) high-level affections. Even with the topic narrowed in that way, we accomplish more if we acknowledge that these affections are correlative to modes which have traditional boundaries and labels. Morality. Sense of beauty. Character. Comportment-to-death. (Capacity for humor.) Also, despair and self-hatred apprehended as a disability: a mode which needs explicit recognition.

We find, then, that correlative to the high-level affections is a venerable compartmentation. How real is the separation of the moral, the esthetic, character, comportment-to-death, humor, despair-as-a-disability, etc.? I don’t think the question has ever been asked. Is it of the human essence that these modes are separated; or is it merely a cultural contingency?

Another key observation about these modes. Morality, sense of beauty, comportment-to-death, humor do not, of themselves, explain what I call attitude highs (defined in detail in §IX to follow). Nor do they explain originality or "genius"; and originality is a quality which I don’t want to lose sight of. (That is a reason why I introduce the term character.)

Clearly these diverse "modes" can be combined in different societies to yield markedly different cultural profiles. Religious worship can be sensuous ("esthetic") or austere; religion can be or not be the source of moral injunctions.

a. meanings covered by ‘morality’

Moral conduct means e.g. refraining from injurious selfishness–as a matter of socially instilled obedience. As such, it is not our topic. A person can be fastidiously moral while having no originality, imagination, sense of humor. Originality, imagination, and even sense of humor are not obligations. They are advantages.

What is more, there are world leaders who continue to be admired even though they were more or less vicious. There is a topic here which at another time and place must be examined. Great men are expected to live by a different morality.

Morality consists in prohibitions of injurious selfishness; and can be instituted as mere obedience. We should not overlook the underlying assumption that the social system – be it slavery, feudalism, or capitalism – is just, or at least inescapable. The assumption that transactions which are legal do not injure you, are neutral at worst. Moral compliance has little to do with fully awakened humanness; and, embarrassingly, it has little to do with historic political stature.

I cannot be morally commanded to be another person’s soulmate. I cannot be morally commanded to recognize intrinsic stature. I don’t owe anybody understanding, or emotional sensitivity and resonance. It is a privilege: to have understanding, sensitivity, resonance to give.

In Caesar’s confrontation with the soothsayer in Shakespeare’s play, Caesar’s failure did not consist in abusing another person (except for the minor fault of rudeness). Caesar did not fail a moral test by not heeding the soothsayer. He refused to accept a favor and doomed himself. He did so because he wasn’t aware; he was shallow; he was witlessly arrogant.

All this notwithstanding, a moral dimension intersects our topic. Self-discipline; not being dominated by resentment or spite; not having an insatiable hunger for comfort. Honesty: not in the sense of not practicing fraud, but in the sense of not being a pathological liar, for example. (The person continually engaged in purloining social status.) These counsels are classified as moral; all the same, they foster "a real person." Also, such a moral affection as compassion is part of "a real person."

b. esthetics proper

I appeal to an older meaning in which the topic is not art in galleries, but the appreciation of beauty. Beauty in nature, as it was called; not the showcased artifact. Also an esthetics of the fabricated environment (as opposed to the exhibited artifact). Yet another meaning was the claim of beauty which used to be made for mathematics.

We have such a word as gracefulness as one of the meanings of beauty. To appreciate gracefulness is an aspect of humanness or of "a real person"; but now this trait is classified as esthetic. The capacity to enjoy gracefulness is an advantage, not an obligation.

c. character

I use the word character for a topic which receives too little attention. In the literature of victimhood, spokespeople of the oppressed see the applause for genius, and conclude that the Establishment gives genius to the privileged as a gratuity. They then demand that the Establishment give them genius; they want to receive it like a diamond brooch so that they can wear it as a status symbol. Setting aside all the nuances of the topic, this conception nullifies the very meaning of genius. The spokespeople in question don’t understand the difference between being given something, and having something to give. Since the possession, or lack, of seriousness and originality is of overwhelming importance here, I need to provide a decisive reply to those who want to receive seriousness and originality as a gift from the Establishment.

My provisional answer turned on the inseparability of your identity from the course of your choices; your responsibility in who you are. It’s not morality: because it’s not obedience, and it’s not limited to the issue of not selfishly injuring other people.

i. One's identity cannot be divorced from one's cumulated choices in given circumstances. You must expose yourself now; you cannot wait for the future utopia to decide and to act (to take a stand). Rigorously, identity cannot be divorced from choices (creatively) assimilating given circumstances. If you strip a person of his or her cumulated choices in given circumstances, you get not a more accomplished person, but a no-one. (The question of living divested of cumulated choices in given circumstances is so extreme that it would confuse the level if I tried to incorporate it here.)

ii. For many people, it can be said: Social conditions do not absolutely bolster you, nor do they absolutely crush you. Social conditions militate in many directions. For many people, it is unwarranted and cowardly to conclude that the universe crushes you. The universe presents you with a profile of opportunities and restrictions which has no ultimate consistency; it is up to you to make of it what you will.

As a member of society, I find myself inundated with ready-made solutions for everything. But these solutions are not automatically binding on me. I have to choose, and to go on choosing, whether or not I will accede to these ready-made solutions.

iii. As prospective recipients of a cultural message, people are not empty boxes. Every "unimpaired" person is willful. Every unimpaired person already "thinks" something. Every unimpaired person upholds a biographic identity. Every unimpaired person already pursues something. I have never met an unworthy person who was not resolute in defence of the nothing he or she had. People stubbornly glorify crass lives; that is the reason for the popularity of certain genres of cinema and TV.

The conclusion is that your identity cannot be separated from your choices, you are not an experiment that can be redone. Humans do not run on rails like a train. They invent their goals and they improvise their preparation for life. Whatever you accept as life’s true goal, and whatever you accept as the perfect preparation for it, the responsibility for your acquiescence (if it is even that passive) is yours.

Again, we need an adequate perspective of the capacity for originality, for moving into uncharted territory. "Genius." Lack of character is an evasion of responsibility–one who believes that one has no contribution in one’s fortunes. The slang for such a person is "a worm." That is not to deny that routine success may have the character of a windfall to social identity. But that is a topic for a discussion with sociological premises.


d. comportment-to-death

Death can be preceded by a long period of debilitation and incapacity, which may be accompanied by gloom. But just as much, we dread a sudden death in which we have no time to adopt a suitably morose and regretful attitude. (Being blown up in an airplane.) There are emergency situations in which to give up hope will assuredly bring death. (Being adrift at sea.)

There are many instances in which people prefer death to life. (The euthanasia candidates.)

The discussion of comportment-to-death aims at a lesson such that a long course of debilitation and gloom is not the point of the lesson. Indeed, a non-biological definition of death is suitable here: death is longitudinal finitude, the end of personality. Then comportment-to-death becomes comportment to the longitudinal limit. The latter phrasing is not pretentious; it gets to the required level of generality. In the back of one’s mind is the threat of a limit on oneself which absolutely isolates one and nullifies all meaning or worth. "You can’t take any of your achievements to the grave," as it is said. This attitude must be explored without relying on any particular medical biology or mythology of the soul.

What is my anticipational picture of my own death? The latter is presumably based on my registering deaths of others during my life–but strictly, deaths which I observe are not commensurate with the notion of my death.

What does the fear of unexpected sudden death mean (as if I unwittingly booked myself on a flight which crashed)? Phenomenally, it is fear of being robbed of a future; and of being cheated of all worth; as well as fear that people to whom I matter will be robbed of me.

The problem of death as a problem of apprehensiveness. Extinction of the psyche. Being isolated in a way that divests you of all meaning, that cheats you of all worth. Death’s power to render any individual life meaningless.

The moment of death divests even a "fulfilled" life of all meaning (robs you of a future and cheats you of all worth); isolates you, consigns you to the society of the cemetery.

I do not know when I am going to die, whether it will be before or after the future which I continuously project.

I should not attempt to supply the personal worth of my life from posthumous fame connected to a social movement (or any future beyond my death?).

It is not a virtue to be too "cowardly" or "selfish" to ever risk my life. The self-creation of my character can at times require that I take the risk of not fleeing or surrendering to an antagonist. *NOTES (22)

e. despair-as-a-disability

How many people secretly feel that they are nothing and that they have nothing? Lack of motivation, or purpose from within. Aimlessness and uselessness, boredom. That they remain alive is a triumph of life as a phenomenon of nature. This disability, impairment is held (in Islam, for example) to call for a healing, for medicine, in a metaphorical or holistic sense. [At present, there has been a sea-change. The condition is called clinical depression, and is viewed exclusively as a biochemical abnormality. The remedy is one of a family of pills. It would not be sensational, except for two reasons: the life-situations which are captured for treatment with pills; the sheer number of urban middle-class individuals receiving the treatment.]

Kant’s second or third Critique, which definitively ensconced ethics or esthetics as a "branch," did not similarly ensconce the topic of despair as a branch.

IX. Attitude highs and timelessness

There are various situations in which one accedes to "a radiant occurrence," a glow, to relish of the destination. [relish at the destination]

I label these as attitude highs with a conscious edge of patronization. (The tacky phrase "blissed out.") That is to underline the equivocal value of these situations. A felicitous experience with a psychedelic drug can afford this result without your [having to earn it]. [Rejoinder: if you get it, you earned it.]

One of the qualities of the attitude high is the sense of having escaped differentiation and discursive thinking. Then it can seem elemental and not dependent on the hierarchy of self-organization. All the same, it is evidently a phenomenon of adulthood, not childhood. Also: the value of the attitude high lies in prolongation; the sense of persisting at the destination.

Discussion. An LSD trip throws you to the different state of consciousness, but the recreational users didn’t have the preparation to take it as anything but entertainment. What I thought after giving my lecture "From Fundamental Philosophy to Meta-Technology" in Stockholm in 1979. The locals did not bring the worthiness to glean anything from it.

Hennix’s rejoinder. A psychedelic trip is too heavy to be "just entertainment." Then: the recreational users are entitled to be shallow; they are entitled to life.

The high-dose acid experience of being in the light is self-justifying; but it is also deceptive. (You can’t just bliss out to deliverance.–? Is that an apposite comment? Deliverance need not be claimed by the subject.)

The attitude high is palpable and is not tied to any religion; nor does it depend on credulity. Thus, it can be misleading to link reflections about the attitude high to reflections about religion. Nevertheless, there is a connection.

"Eastern practice" is characterized by proposing to proceed to the attitude high without further ado.–Or, to achieve it via discipline in which this condition is conceived as the one purpose.

"If I can erase differentiation from my mind, that will overcome reality and give me magical efficient causality." This Eastern surmise about how to acquire magical powers is a mistake.

Let us stop being gallant toward the "Eastern salvations" which operate primarily on attitude. India and Pakistan build atomic bombs, and shift their economies to computer programming. The devotee assents by default to science, technology, economy, the bifurcation of subjective/objective, interior/exterior, human insignificance in the astrophysical universe.

Hinduism grows out of fables about divine people which are like baubles for children. More about mythology in a later section.

Buddhism promises what amounts to an attitude high–in some versions, a sensuous relish. It is in default on the intellectual and practical issue of reality as resistance. It deals with the human necessity of doing via an insincere cleverness: [a posture that] "nothing matters." "I can like everything and therefore nothing matters, so I am above it all."

Let us spend a moment on versions of Buddhism which say that they enable you to "transcend Ego." [The Buddhism that reconciles you to everyday life.] You are going to do it by including a daily meditation period in an otherwise everyday life. If religion really wanted you to transcend social role, and the hierarchical content of the personality, it would tell you that everyday life and its purposes are obstacles. If it wanted you to find what being without a personality is like, it would tell you to sever contact with other people, to avoid threatening environments, and to avoid participation in mundane activities, institutions, purposes. Insofar as the practices "to transcend Ego" don't take this direction, I suspect them of being compensations. The actuality of the practices is self-hypnosis and a highly willful, selfish cultivation of indifference, a willful numbing of caring.

The practice which religion calls meditation is designed to support everyday life and its purposes, as opposed to obstructing and challenging everyday life. To divert the venture of transcending ego to this pathetic path is more of religion’s malice.

Certain of the arts of ancient or traditional societies afford attitude highs. Those traditional performances are simulations of happiness which presuppose the dichotomy of professional, virtuoso entertainer and passive audience. When the performance is over, the bright lights are turned off, the props are packed away, the hall is emptied, and the theater is shut, then performers and audience alike crawl back to resume their desolate lives.

The attitude high, then, can seduce deceptively. If modern civilization is to be superseded by a civilization which respects the ecstatic condition, cerebral examination has to take place. The attitude high tempts you not to take the work seriously. It's like putting on sunglasses and deciding that you are unscathed by the sordidness of society because you are cool.

It is not stupid, is not to be scorned, to challenge the logic you have internalized [been inculcated with], and to challenge it in the alert waking arena. You grapple with some of the structures blocking receptiveness to ecstatic experience. Contending with logic affords cognitive disillusionment–and even more, affords the new logical experiences (such as are gained via my illusion-supports). You accede to a wondrousness which is different from the attitude high.

The attitude high has you feeling silly for worrying about intellectual structure. It has you telling yourself that it is more important to relish the destination than to strive [undergo the work of reaching the destination].

In fact, your effortless escape from the sordidness of the world was a temporary respite which depended on sequestering yourself.


There may be occurrences in my life which are rich: in that through them, I surmount the dread of being cheated by death. That is one sense of fulfillment or plenitude. The attitude high. But also: an intellectual insight of great scope. Again, the unique value of the attitude high lies in prolongation; the sense of persisting at the destination. Apprehensiveness is overcome by relish at the destination. So-called "time stopping." [So-called timelessness.] (Actually an escape from apprehensiveness? More like a different quality of time?) To locate such experiences in a time-series of events is to lose their point.

To conceive an event as occurring in a time-series is to ascribe to it the banality of things which come and go. The empiricist construction of a subjective time as a preparation for physics must rule out any orientation to "radiant" occurrences. This observation is one example of how person-world considerations shape the artificial, imaginary universe which the physicist seeks and finds. The physicist gets the brutal, numb reality which he wants and deserves.

Let me spell this remark out in a little more detail as an intimation of how these considerations interact with "physical reality." Even if the example is premature and weak, its suggestive value is important.

i) The construction of linearized subjective time is rationally prior to the construction of the physicist’s artificial time.

ii) Radiant experiences actually belie the uniform linearization of subjective time. "By keeping you in the moment," as it is said.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t leap forward to physical time, to rectify subjective time [thinking that you correct subjective time], when you haven’t secured subjective linearization yet.

If you ask physicists why they don’t take radiant episodes into account in their apprehension of time, they say "we don’t know how." That’s not their reason. They don’t want to take it into account. Let us also note that physics is justified by the immediate and comprehensive power to manipulate matter in mundane life only lately. This goal is not in the forefront in the classic texts.

X. Emotional sensitization and media of evocation


joy (awe, the luminous)

the morose and the macabre when sublimated (Tantric painting?)

the sombre; inconsolable losses


A community's "tradition," symbolism, ritual, etc.–all are emotionally charged. Different cultures are specific: promulgating markedly different values, cultivating markedly different human faculties. Emotional sensitization is correlated with cultural tradition; and with mythology or concrete imagery. The particular inherited culture; and the way that it both actuates and hobbles those native to it. This phase must be considered one source of my emotional sensitization or capacity.

A person has a native culture just as much as he or she has a native language.

You don't reach advanced human possibility by becoming more and more vague. You reach it by becoming more and more particular.

Such advanced possibility can be appreciated from outside the "nationality"; yet is a living practice only from within.

I don’t mean to praise tradition in the abstract. What we find specifically is that traditional societies manifest a sensitivity which is glaringly absent in modern culture; at the same time, they are superstitious, and cruel and autocratic. One may well seek to uncouple from tradition. As to why the world confronts us with unreasonable alternatives, as we see in this case, it is outside the scope of this discussion.

So the collective creations called cultures are undeniable as sources of "richness"–of the content which might be called the "there." But then there is an interplay of tradition and originality. One aspect: the vernacular culture of Africans brought to the U.S. was shaped with great originality into a new tradition. Another aspect: how does the particular tradition which is a birthright relate to the universality of human issues? Perhaps a key is that culture is layered, with different layers having different scopes. (The Roman alphabet has greater scope than given languages.)

To repeat, a definite culture is both an enabling medium and a cage confining the individual (a cage which transcends individual control). The level at which one works may be "native" to narrower or broader groups of people. Does the move to a broader scope entail a loss of particulars, as happens with abstraction? Often yes, but not necessarily.


non-pictorial arts

Vicarious and sublimated affective experience "conveyed" by thematic modulation in a musical language. Incidentally, I derive much from Hindustani music without knowing the very specific mythology and codified explanations that accompany it.

Visual ornamentation. A graceful image which is beyond the threshold of perceptual comprehension, which I can sense to have pattern, but cannot grasp the pattern in perception, evokes awe. The principle of Islamic tracery.

The immense gulf between these–and twentieth-century Europe’s "abstract painting" and certain modern musics employing "private languages."


One consideration in mythology is that it is images, the more concrete the better, which evoke the affections which I call sensuous relish or relish of the destination.

And yet, a mythology cannot be the answer for us; so how do we proceed without these images? Some of Hennix’s work–also the 1979 Kitchen concert–showed how a novel medium, a personal language, might [convey in the manner to which we aspire] without depending on a common mythology.

XI. On abstract metaphors for spirituality

There are a number of venerable attempts to find a principle for spirituality. I could have reviewed them along with the modes of affection, but I preferred to wait until we had explored the subject-matter rather widely. Here I delve into history of ideas for the heuristic benefit. The influence of Aristotelian and Leibnizian theology on modern scientific formulations is still urgently relevant.

a. mind

There is a long tradition of finding the principle of spirituality in "the mind." The hope for survival of death focuses on survival of the ontologically autarkic "mind." "The mind" is found to elevate humans above animals. There is a long-standing philosopher’s ethic that the most worthy person is the person who controls his or her desire for corporeal comfort, and devotes him- or herself to contemplation.

I live the life which various philosophers and theologians endorsed as ideal: insofar as I have reflective thought as my vocation, and maintain a tolerable level of comfort rather than seeking opulence. But I chose that more from default than because I idealize contemplation.

In much culture and much historical experience, the instinctual and the refined are constructed as opposite poles. An anthropologist would say that shame, modesty, and discipline are universals of human life. That implies that the conquest of instinct is what elevates humans to nobility.

Somehow, "the Dionysian" gets socially constructed in a package with the sordid, the scabrous, lack of character, exploitation. (Sacred prostitution in pagan cultures. Inebriation.)

All the same, I am not convinced that what are culturally called the instinctual and the refined are at opposite poles. Do unworthy alternatives set up this polarity?

Banal clutter and abuse are inimical to exaltation; thus everyday life, in historical experience, has been found to be inimical to enlightenment. But again, the outcome is due to unworthy alternatives. Ideally, one would not renounce communal existence as contemptible; one would reconstruct it.

["Outcomes set up by unworthy alternatives." All the same, the lesson remains that if one adopts certain personal goals, then one discovers a certain code of conduct–far from what is comfortable to the average person–which is realistically required if one is to progress to those goals. One discovers a personal code; or perhaps one is herded to it by the school of hard knocks.

There is no point today in talking about learning this code from a mentor, even an atypical one. Today’s intellectuals glorify rakish, pandering conduct. The self-motivated contemplative and ascetic life is unpopular as it has never been. One is pushed toward a non-trivial discovery of a code of conduct (else one loses oneself).

Let me change the subject, and make an observation about "any person." One has a stature which one can come to appreciate only by trying to win oneself. Nevertheless, one’s stature extends beyond any purpose which one can contrive.

Changing the subject again, let me recall that it is a privilege to have understanding, sensitivity, resonance, to give; that it is a privilege to be capable of seriousness and originality.

The first two of these lessons are faint, long-term lessons–which I neglected in previous years. But having come to the present topic, these three lessons together cast an unexpected light on it, and must be considered carefully. They are orientations–where previously I saw no orientations.]

To continue with the ontologically autarkic mind, I give it no credence. Further, I give no credence to the schemes of self-aggrandizement which were based on uncovering one’s autarkic mind. (The Swami’s magic.) The new conception of possibility in my perspective is evident from my cumulated writings on meta-technology, etc., already mentioned in Part I. It has nothing to do with isolating an autarkic mind.

So we have the perspective of "spirit" found in the philosopher’s ethic. All the while, the vertical polarity of matter and spirit is a metaphysic of unfair choices, and one would ideally escape it. The preferential view of "the mind," then, is a rule of thumb motivated by what seemed realistic to past generations. Its importance stems partly from regrettable social reality and partly from magical beliefs.


b. infinity

There was a tradition which crystallized in neo-Platonism and reached an apex in early modern Europe. Following on the antithesis of instinct and refinement, the path to spiritual realization is pure philosophical cognition. The mind is turned from the horizontal to the vertical, to the sky, to higher and higher abstractions and to greater and greater compass; the mind looks higher and higher in the chain of causation. One understands that the ultimate of possibility is the completed infinity of actualization and puissance. The seeker cognizes God as infinite Being and power; that weds the mind to God.

There are differences between Vedanta, neo-Platonism, and Thomism which it is not my purpose to register here. Generically, the mind is turned toward the limit of abstraction and the totalization of possibility; that evokes an awe considered to be crucial for spirituality.

... infinity cannot be ascribed to God in respect of multitude, seeing that it has been proved that there is but one God, and that there is no composition either of parts or of accidents in Him. Nor may we say that He is infinite in respect of continuous quantity, since we have shown that he is incorporeal. It remains therefore to inquire whether infinity is becoming to Him in respect of spiritual magnitude. ... in God the infinite is understood only negatively, because there is no bound or end to His perfection, and He is the supremely perfect being ...

Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Ch. XLIII

The notion of vastness appears in various cosmologies and traditions of worship. The notions of completed infinity and of infinite puissance were themes in the modernist revolution of the seventeenth century.

As we see, the infinity in question was denied to be quantitative–until the modern era, when it was argued that infinity is necessarily quantitative. (Bolzano, Paradoxes of the Infinite.) That was the issue which belied the inspirational literature that wanted "the infinity of transcendence" to be spiritually intuitive.

The entire chapter was in fact a massive injection of neo-Platonism into theology–subsequently conditioned by Aristotelian and post-Aristotelian natural philosophy.

All schemes of elevating the mind through the contemplation of the infinite echo neo-Platonism. The ontological hierarchy of participations, culminating in some impersonal infinite, or in Being. (There was also modern Europe’s notion to the effect that the subject is an infinity, introduced by Kant? The inner infinity.) What the inspirational literature had in mind was meditation or spiritual reverie: autosuggestive delusion, a cultivation of humility, and of aspiration, via delusional fantasy.

It was preposterous, because any intellectual substantiation of infinity got trapped in sectarian positions in analytic philosophy.

In modern Europe, infinity becomes wedded to the mission of physico-mathematical science. (Galileo, Leibniz, Newton, etc.) (Already Greece had elaborated the fanatical mysticism of objectification.) As I say over and over, the spirituality of Leibniz and his contemporaries will drive relentlessly to the conclusion that we ourselves–the affections–are the imperfection which must be eradicated.


c. light

The notion that "light" is the principle of spirituality is a broad tendency in archaic thought. This notion that "light" is correlative to spirituality is defensible. Perceptual conditions strongly affect mood. And there is more to it than that: there are experiences of non-physical white light at moments when one is "transported" (as archaic English called it).

XII. Abstractly defined postures as opponyms

Abstractly defined postures which are traditionally held to matter spiritually can be presented either as virtues or as liabilities. It is a feature of natural language itself, which assigns the same or parallel phrases to phenomena of opposite import. Like the abstract metaphors for spirituality, I could have reviewed these postures along with the traditional modes of affection, but I preferred to wait until we had explored the subject-matter more widely.

The following are examples of abstractly defined affections traditionally held to matter spiritually, with their meanings as virtues and as liabilities.


to honor one’s uniqueness and possibility

a banality of grasping and mundane role


deliverance means increasing it

an illusion, bondage

emptiness [elimination of awareness?]:

escape from illusion; the unsayably significant

shallowness, hollowness, burn-out


instinct, knack

wanting reward gratuitously, without effort

purposiveness [striving]:

meaning, vigor

regimentation, submergence in the means, vain bustle


openness, escaping the mundane burden of personality

boredom and uselessness










balance in unstructured situations

imitativeness following from hollowness



foolish self-importance, self-sufficiency


respect for what faces you, acknowledging your limitations

cowardice, subservience

the mysterious or infinite:

awe and possibility, the endless

a belief in an inaccessible indifferent externality which makes you insignificant

mindfulness of death:

strips you of greedy goals, of mercenary, grasping wants

morbid fear: panics you into a search for quack compensation

Much of what is called spiritual wisdom counsels this or that "inhuman" extreme (e.g. extinction of self, attainment of emptiness)–by trumpeting one of the foregoing words as a slogan. Assuming that the virtue expressed by the slogan is self-evident. But natural language does not cooperate. The wisdom in question is facile or even a sham.

• • •

Epilogue: Proactiveness, exaltation, reciprocity of personhood


Luminous awareness

To develop at all, to try to accede to anything not already imposed or given, is not an impersonal act. So, there is a deep relationship between esteem and morale, and what one impersonally finds about factual reality. This is so problematic that it cannot be taken for granted; and must be spoken about explicitly. There is also a deep relationship between esteem and morale on the one hand, and the way in which one treats one’s faculties and one’s emotional sensitivity on the other.

Much can be learned from old cultures, but to me, luminous awareness, in itself, is not about tradition or nostalgia. Given the way that history’s ranking of reputations is rigged, one must consider "seceding from history," in the words of one of my earlier essays.

There is a worthy role for impersonal "knowledge" or thinking. A way of life should be confirmed by its resilience in an environment of testing, pluralism, and self-consciousness. "Personal liberation" is work; one has to work through life. Given these views, I find many of the supposedly sophisticated life-attitudes advanced by religions to constitute posturing. The seeking of insight should not be expected to be a selfish hygiene of happiness. It should not be expected to be a detachment from one’s own life, or to be the extinction of one’s self. Pious, cheery imperturbability is a facade. The willful, selfish cultivation of indifference–the numbing of loyalties and of caring–is shown up when it allows the individual to fulfill a conventional social role in which every mundane thing remains the same.

I reject that the benefit of luminous awareness should be a passive attitude or sensibility–or compensation or consolation (conjoined with acquiescence to today’s science, today’s technology, today’s mode of life).

But the inherited culture is not a waste of time; it is a stage that has to be worked through. Today, the possibility of metamorphosing reality will have to proceed from the disintegrating structures of a sophisticated civilization. The notion that utopia could come from a simple repeal of civilization and regression to a past mode of life only blocks our apprehension of human possibility.

The question of factual reality is interactive with human self-image and with the meaning of human action. It is important to personalize the question of one’s posture toward factual reality. In personal terms, self-consciousness about so-called factual reality means the opportunity in life to grapple with deceit, gullibility, insincerity–either as imposed by inheritance and conformism, or as allowed by one’s own compliance. (I don’t mean dissimulation at the level of prudence; I mean the embracing of self-deception as the principle of one’s life in some demonstrable way.)

There are any number of counteracting considerations–demoralization, fashion, loneliness. All the same, one has the opportunity to gain a considered and mature victory over gullibility, deceit, insincerity. At any time that it becomes possible to be self-conscious about the inherited view of factual reality, and to go beyond it in an operative way, we accede to the level of shaping the terms of life, and not only acquiescing to them. There is a mastery, or plasticizing, of the constraints imposed by so-called factual reality–and we accede to an uncanny life-world. For me, there is no question of apologizing for this as "worth doing."

In my perspective, factual reality is conceived also as being created by technology–by instrumental activity. But what this means for me is very different from what it means for past and present cultures. For me, it is a matter of the invention of new instrumental modalities which involves the invention of new mental abilities. The dispelling of deceit and gullibility enters concomitantly with the awakening of one’s faculties and with emotional sensitization: yielding intellectual techniques which supersede the compartmentation of faculties characterizing the present cultures. So it is that new mental abilities are invented.

A scheme for comparing different cultures will wish to conceive of the awakening of all of one’s faculties, and of the range of one’s emotional sensitization, as distinguishable from one’s posture towards factual reality. And the person who seeks to do what I envision here will find that there are faculties and sensitivities (involving mentation and involving personalistic relations to other people) which have the characteristics of windfalls to individuals. For the individual who has the faculty to begin with, life will progressively elicit it. Possession of such a faculty or sensitivity is evinced by highly distinguished communications to minorities who are receptive (in the "arts," for example). (If this constitutes an elite, it is unplanned and self-selected–and while there is no reason for it to remain invisible, neither is it guaranteed to achieve fame or wealth.) As for the nondescript person who lacks the faculty or the sensitivity, it cannot be given to that person from without, and it is not latent in that person. So the lack cannot be remedied. What is involved is not only "aptitude," but unalterable features of morale, commitment, etc.–seemingly the individual’s whole fate.

Apart from this, there are of course variations in what is called sensibility among people who are equally sophisticated.

Emotional sensitization and the awakening of faculties are also culturally correlated. When we apply the above scheme to past, achieved cultures, we find that the dispelling of gullibility, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the awakening of faculties, or emotional sensitivity, need not go together. The historical record suggests that democracy and rationalism may be accompanied by all-pervading commercialism, and thus by crassness and banality; and that nobility may accompany despotism, superstition, squalor.

Addressing this last point, to be aware of dimensions of human potentiality which hitherto were supported only by different cultures–and to hope to find a unitary experience which transmits many of them–may be an unprecedented undertaking. In any case, even if seeking to transmit all of these dimensions in a unitary experience is too ambitious, to nurture any of these dimensions in oneself (which also means forestalling demoralization) gives one a chance at something like a metamorphosis in the course of a life. What has been achieved by other people–in particular, in old cultures–selectively shows what is possible beyond the provincialism of one’s birth and one’s era. In an entire lifetime, one can follow up only some hints provided by what others have done: to awaken one’s faculties; to achieve the level of astuteness and integrity to break through so-called factual reality and to become an exemplary presence for illumination. It takes a lifetime because, after all, we spend so much energy in compromise, in just coping, in recuperation, in indulging ourselves.

One may ask about a given occupation or pastime, then, whether it is anything a sane person would freely do. Does it advance the metamorphosis, the illumination, which is before us as a possibility?

I may interject that this commentary may seem to stress intellectual integrity or lucidity over feeling. But one has to read carefully. Feeling is acknowledged here. As for my showcasing of intellectual integrity, there are good reasons for it. What I want to emphasize most is my call for the supersession of the dichotomy of thinking and feeling.

In personhood theory, I evolved a definition of ‘dignity’ in mindfulness of Hennix’s exhortation to visionary elevation. To elaborate, Hennix did not consent to mere waking consciousness (the mundane) as the arena, but wanted to speak of visionary elevation in whatever sense of that phrase we could justify. (The realizable visionary impulse.) When I adapted the word to my perspective, I could not avoid declaring that I have a very different conception from a contemporary scientist of what is materially possible. In my adaptation, self-actuation is relative to meta-technology.

Dignity is one's supportive expectation from oneself of responsible caring, emotional receptivity, independence, steadfastness, ability, honesty, astuteness (and such traits).–Relative to the perspective of personal faculties and personal possibility allowed by meta-technological dismantling of culturally correlated credulity and objectification.

The conception, then, was an interpretation of exaltation. It was not a contribution to a definition of ‘the dignity which all have in common’ – which appears in theology and is invoked in "human rights" doctrine. After all, the latter takes factual reality as an unexamined given.

All the same, Hennix paid tribute to the notion of the intrinsic worth of every person in saying, as quoted in §IX, that even shallow people are entitled to life.


Referring to the venture of plasticizing reality, "radical empiricism" is the vantage-point. One is enabled to rotate the determination of reality–through a combination of principled hypocracy (selecting one's arenas of engagement), and destabilization. Meta-technology: immanent destabilization of the ambient medium of thought, of "mundane consciousness." Then you engage the mundane world in order to press the consequences of its incoherences. Accommodate, or engage, the delusion in order to destabilize and metamorphose it. To move from one determination of reality to another. Intervene in the ordinary world to undermine and transform it.

But who and what is the doer? Meta-technology has no commitment to the social-thematic ego. But that does not settle the issue. Engaging the mundane world in order to rotate the determination of reality presupposes centered activation

–which is self-respecting and inwardly assured

–which admits "skeptical detachment"

–which is energized

–which is analytical

–which is persistent.

This self goes unexamined in meta-technology.

Engaged in meta-technology, you plasticize, metamorphose "reality." You gain access to what is beyond ordinary personhood by actively metamorphosing the ostensible world or ordinary person-world. You dissociate to plasticize/mutate; and then to eliminate the subject-object interface.–Always within the palpable (not necessarily the ostensible). You get rid of ordinary personhood to swim in uncanniness.

Visionary elevation–or exaltation deriving from escape from mundane credulity and from achieving manipulative power over the determination of reality. Engage the mundane in order to destabilize it. Fragment it, and use the fragments as raw material for alternative realities.

The extreme standpoint anticipated in §VII. Whoever has the capacity to "rotate" the ostensible world or cultural determination of reality is in a position to make him/herself disappear to him/herself–without reductionist half-fantasies.

From the vantage point of radical empiricism, your longitudinal identity would have to be a catalyst which would be discarded. You make yourself disappear to yourself in a non-depersonalizing way.

Let me contrast with older notions of "manifesting enlightenment" and "ecstasy." Meta-technology is not an enterprise of getting rid of matter, and then ego. You do not dissociate to escape to mind, and then to mind-beyond-mind. Rather, one accedes to a world and a technology (praxis) which are not things.

Reciprocity of personhood means that meta-technology will not be able to be comprehensively realized in a collectivity in which a privileged class lives off of goods and services provided by a servile class.

The new mode of life

excerpted from "Escaping ‘Social’ Reality" of 1992

We apply to the life-world (lived experience) an understanding shaped by the intellectual dissection of the framework of objectivity. We find the life-world (lived experience) to be an integration of:

–substantial, operative interdependencies of awareness and objectivity;

–the conventionalistic grading of experience (as to "realism");

–logically impossible situations (states of the world)–i.e. situations requiring simultaneous mutually exclusive descriptions in the medium of thought inherited from scientific civilization.

The principle of the personality's orientation in "reality" is: consciously to maneuver through the logically impossible world-states, manifesting instrumental mastery over objectivities inherited from the previous civilization. (I.e. scientific objectivities).

Self-subsistent objectivities, and affirmative consistent theories, are no longer sought as foundations of reality.


The foregoing cannot be achieved merely by adopting a neutral, inert mental state, by positioning oneself mentally relative to propositions. Sustainable inspiration (exalted centered activation and presence) and uncanny states of consciousness are required.

The principles of evaluational processing of experience (or grading of experience) which underlie a novel determination of reality are shared or collective. Only thus can novel determinations of reality be [exteriorized] promulgated in the life-world.

The novel determinations of reality are linked to intersubjective emotional gratification. Only thus can the novel determinations of reality appeal to a community.


The other persons have parity of "station in life" and parity of authority in the culture with "the self" ("this individual," myself). Only thus can they stimulate inspiration and uncanny states in "this individual."

It follows that the new mode of life is not compatible with a social order in which most people are consigned to material servitude. Not only would the sought-for inspiration not appear; the uncanny instrumental activity or praxis would not appear.

So it’s not like Pakistan and the atomic bomb (or the priesthood in ancient Egypt)–advanced technology coexisting with a population of paupers or slaves.


The community from which people concretely originate and "learn to feel" becomes the same community that pursues mastery over scientific objectivities and gains an uncanny or ecstatic sense of the world. Inasmuch as the required shared principles of grading experience, and the required intersubjective emotional gratification, connect, a person-configuration freed from demeaned pragmatism is evinced.

Here uncanniness and ecstasis are positioned as notions reactive to everyday banality. In the new mode of life, such counterposition would no longer be necessary.


The individual experiences "desirables" as qualitatively specific.

Individual and the collective entertain spontaneous "amusement" or "play" ("brend"), without seeking to displace or objectify it.

Sensuous-concrete vehicles for the collective expression of exalting values are encouraged.


Individual and collective are receptive to future novelty which is unpredictable and incomparable and yet is coherent or thematic.

To the present civilization, the new mode of life would seem a waking-dream-reality or enchanted reality.