Seeing Through

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Attached                      -                    Detached
Connected                    -                   Disconnected
Engaged                       -                    Disengaged
Absolute                       -                    Relative
Immanent                     -                   Transcendent
Literal                           -                   Figurative
'Is'                                 -                    'May be' 


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"If atoms are mostly empty space then how come we don't see through things?"


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To the Jews God said, 'you must play the game.' It was inferred that the meaning of life was in this activity: the game is life, and to avoid playing it - to say, 'its only a game' - is to avoid living life. This is perhaps why the Jews do not revere the ascetic life.

To others, it was said 'you must see through the game.' It was inferred that the meaning of life was to see beyond the falsehoods of Māyā and to penetrate to the spiritual truth of existence.

Crucially the Judaic philosophy has at its core a mystery or a secret; a curtain that must not be looked behind. The Jew can know too much, and so must refrain from flying too close to the sun. In this sense the Jew is forever destined to play the game and to find all of life's meaning within it. To see through everything is to see with the eyes of God; and so the Jew must accept that there are certain things that must remain opaque; that there are limits to his vision.

The ascetic sees through the veil of Māyā and so refuses to play the game. In attempting to avoid the endless cycle of desire and satisfaction, they have perhaps, from the Jewish perspective, gone too far; they try to see too much.

When you can see everything then choosing between things becomes arbitrary. Why choose one thing over another? This is God's view, and explains, perhaps, why God cannot intervene. If you can see far enough then you can see that every outcome is good, and also bad. When all outcomes are good, and all are bad, then there is nothing to recommend any option over any other. Thus God simply observes, and leaves the choosing to those who cannot see far enough.

Moses must learn to live in ignorance because seeing too far may lead to 'not feeling so bad about things,' and ultimately to complaceny. He may begin to tolerate darkness. Yet his role is to fight darkness, and to play his role well he must believe in the game.

This is perhaps part of Dr. Strange's dilemma in 'Civil War.' He refrains from playing the game - from choosing sides - and it is significant that he is joined at this time by another who is gifted with far-sightedness and who also chooses to remain non-partisan, Uata The Watcher. Both see too much to be able to involve themselves in the fray; as Strange says, there is no right or wrong, only differing perspectives. I'm putting a spin on this, because both also have other important reasons for not interfering; but I can't help think that in spite of these other considerations, their long-sightedness is a primary factor.

It can be hard to engage with things when you see through them. There are those who give their lives to a game, in spite of the knowledge that it is, in the end, 'only a game'. And there are those who would mock them for such short-sightedness.

I believe that all of us are born somewhere between the binary at the top of this page; that there are those of us whose tendency is to attach to things, and who struggle to disengage or to hold a detached viewpoint. And on the other hand there are those of us who tend to detach, and who struggle to engage and to take things seriously.

We can put a negative slant on Dr Strange's action (or inaction), characterising it as 'cowardice', or 'indecision'; and at the same time we can see it in a positive light, as coming from 'wisdom,' the same wisdom that leads certain spiritual types to embrace the ascetic life of withdrawal. The view we take, as Strange says, is a matter of perspective.

I believe that as individuals, and as a collective, we need both attachment and detachment. There are times when we must get close and commit ourselves, and there are times when we must stand back and see through. As with any binary, it is the job of one side to remind the other of what it is lacking. The balance, the health, of the individual or collective rests on this dialogue.


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Māyā connotes a "magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem".

Māyā is also a spiritual concept connoting "that which exists, but is constantly changing and thus is spiritually unreal", and the "power or the principle that conceals the true character of spiritual reality"


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Jews are familiar with the ascetic ideal inherent in the Christian tradition [...]

[and] they have come to know the hedonistic ideal inherent in the secularism of our day [...]

The Jewish attitude has in fact stood in sharp contrast to both extremes and the Jew has maintained an age-old resistance to both views and the practices they generate.

[The] image of the ascetic is not the Jewish idea of a holy person. On the contrary, there is reason to argue that although such asceticism is not forbidden, such a disassociation from life and the assumption of additional prohibitions is actually frowned upon in Judaism.

A Jewish definition of holiness may be put in these terms: Holiness does not lie in the ascetic, saintly withdrawal from life, or in excessive denial to oneself of all human pleasures, or in the repression of all human drives. 

It consists, rather, of full participation in the stream of human community life, sharing the joyous as well as the sorrowful experiences which life has to offer, denying to oneself no legitimate pleasures; but at the same time so developing one's sense of discernment as to be able to distinguish and choose the right from the wrong, the true from the false, the good from the bad, the sacred from the profane, the pure from the impure, and the clean from the unclean.

The common denominator between the Jewish concept of hoiness and that of other faiths is indeed expressed in the crucial concept of being removed.

[...] Views differ, however, when one proceeds to consider the question - [...] removed from what? To others it has meant being removed from life. To the Jew, it has meant being removed from idolatry; being removed from secularism; being removed from the vulgar and the profane.


[Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin]
To Be A Jew, p. 36-7, 122

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"But there is one thing that, as long as you live in this world, I cannot reveal to you, one thing for which I must only say, 'Silence! So I have decided that it should be!'"

"But tell me why, Eternal G‑d!" Moses pleaded.

"Moses," G‑d asked, "if you knew the answer, if you understood why there had to be suffering from an all-powerful, beneficent G‑d. What would you do then?"

"I suppose I wouldn't feel so bad about it then."

"Precisely. And that is just what I don't want. I don't want you to be complacent. I don't want you to tolerate darkness.

You must fight it with every sinew of your flesh, with all the capacity of your soul. Until you redeem every spark of light from its captivity, until you can bring sweetness to the most bitter places, until you have not left a corner of my world untouched with acts of kindness and compassion... until then you must hate the darkness as a blood-sworn enemy."

[Tzvi Freeman]
'The Lunar Files'


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Uatu the Watcher stands on the edge of Stephen Strange’s pentagram and asks him how long it has been since he has eaten.

The Sorcerer Supreme replies that he has had just a little water since the Civil War began. Uatu asks Strange if he isn’t tempted to simply end this - with his great power he could stop this quarrel with a gesture or whisper.

Dr. Strange replies that is exactly why he must remain above the fray, for there is no right or wrong in this debate, but it is simply a matter of perspective [...]

Uatu replies that, as a Watcher, he is more than familiar with such dilemmas. Uatu asks Strange to tell him why he is fasting if he favors no side - ‘What outcome are you meditating for?’ Strange replies ‘Whichever victory is best for all mankind, my friend…and spills the least amount of blood tonight!’

'Civil War #6'

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When there is full parity of the opposites, attested by the ego’s absolute participation in both, this necessarily leads to a suspension of the will, for the will can no longer operate when every motive has an equally strong countermotive.

Since life cannot tolerate a standstill, a damming up of vital energy results, and this would lead to an insupportable condition did not the tension of opposites produce a new, uniting function that transcends them. This function arises quite naturally from the regression of libido caused by the blockage.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychological Types (CW 6, 1991), p. 479


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Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel
All is Change
Solid Ground
Only playing
Boxed off 
The Perils of Radical Subjectivity
Nobody knows, and nobody can ever know
Radical Doubt
Infinite Doorways
Are You Sure?
Open Wound
The Healing Process
Guiding Fiction
Necessary Fiction
A necessary lie

The Middle Path

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Thesis                     Synthesis                Antithesis
Birth                           Life                       Death
Being                       Becoming                Nothing
Apollo                     Hermes                   Dionysus
Centripetal               Static                    Centrifugal
Active                     Neutral                   Passive
Positive                  Ambivalent              Negative
Left                           Centre                    Right
Upper                       Middle                   Lower
Manic                      Normal                   Depressive
Excessive                 Balanced                Deficient
Hot                          Warm                      Cold
Acid                        Neutral                    Alkali
Red                           Purple                    Blue
White                         Gray                      Black


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1 + 2 = 3


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[...] every tension of opposites culminates in a release, out of which comes the "third." In the third, the tension is resolved and the lost unity is restored.

It presents itself in a form that is neither a straight “yes” nor a straight “no.”

[C. G. Jung]
'A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity' (CW 11)
and, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (CW 9), par. 285


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In Hegel, the term Aufhebung has the apparently contradictory implications of both preserving and changing, and eventually advancement (the German verb aufheben means "to cancel", "to keep" and "to pick up").

The tension between these senses suits what Hegel is trying to talk about. In sublation, a term or concept is both preserved and changed through its dialectical interplay with another term or concept. Sublation is the motor by which the dialectic functions.

Sublation can be seen at work at the most basic level of Hegel's system of logic. The two concepts Being and Nothing are each both preserved and changed through sublation in the concept Becoming. Similarly, determinateness, or quality, and magnitude, or quantity, are each both preserved and sublated in the concept measure.

'Aufheben'


A thought is affirmed which on reflection proves itself unsatisfactory, incomplete or contradictory, which propels the affirmation of its negation, the antithesis, which also on reflection proves inadequate, and so is again negated.

In classical logic, this double negation ("A is not non-A") would simply reinstate the original thesis. The synthesis does not do this.

It has "overcome and preserved" (or sublated) the stages of the thesis and antithesis to emerge as a higher rational unity.

[Lloyd Spencer and Andrzej Krauze]
Hegel for Beginners


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Since "one" and "two" were considered by ancient mathematical philosophers to be the parents of numbers, then their firstborn, "three," the Greek Triad, is the first and eldest number. 

The birth of the number 3 and triangle enables opposites to balance and transcend to a new wholeness they couldn't achieve by themselves.  

A third leg makes a tripod stable, and a third strand of hair allows a braid to knot as one whole, just as neutral judges balance opposing parties, neutrons balance atoms, and the Supreme Court plays the role of the balancing, transcendent third force between the Executive and Legislative branches. The triangle is the strongest and most stable of shapes and so appears in the constructions of humans and nature.  

Speak aloud the word "three" in English [...] and you'll hear its relation to words like "through" and "threshold" and the prefix trans ("across," "penetrate"). The leap to "three," as its linguistic root tells us, takes us over a threshold and through past polarized limits of the Dyad.

[Michael S. Schneider]
A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, p. 39
and 'Number and Shapes: The Timeless Alphabet of Art and Life'


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Homeostasis is the property of a system in which a variable (for example, the concentration of a substance in solution, or its temperature) is actively regulated to remain very nearly constant.

'Homeostasis'


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Maimonides [taught] that an intelligent person should live a life based on reality, on what is true and false, while the average person who lacks the ability to do so should live according to “necessary truths,” morality.

Maimonides makes it clear in his Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot De’ot 1:4 and 5, that the moral “middle path” is the “necessary truth,” the guidance given to the general public who are not capable of evaluating every occurrence in their lives and making decisions each time how they should act based on reason, on what is true and false.

[He] introduces the concept of the “golden mean” and advises people to live a life in which they behave according to a middle path between two extremes.

For example, people should not be overly stingy nor should they be spendthrifts; they should not laugh excessively nor be sad and dispirited. He calls this derekh hachakhamim, “the path of the wise.”

[On the other hand] the ideal path, the method for the intellectual, is “the virtuous way,” the carefully considered rational behavior beyond the middle path, when reason dictates the need for such behavior.

An individual who is very careful about himself deviates somewhat from the mean to either side, and is called 'virtuous'. For example, the individual who distances himself from pride and turns to the other extreme and becomes very humble – this is the virtuous quality. If he only moves toward the middle and is humble, [whilst this is] not the best behavior, it is still considered wise behavior, [thus the individual] is called 'wise.' 

The virtuous people of old would arrange their behaviors away from the middle path toward the two extremes. There were times when the behavior would veer toward one extreme, while there were times when the behavior would veer toward the other. This is behavior that is beyond the legal requirement. We are required to take the middle paths.

Both the essential truth of morality and the real truth advocate proper conduct. However, the essential truth focuses only on what the average person is capable of doing, morality. The difference between the two can be seen in the example presented by Maimonides in his Hilkhot De’ot.

The average person following morality is advised to follow the middle path for it is easier than having to analyze every situation independently, while intellectuals, who are capable of using reason and considering the “true” results of their behavior, are told to deviate when advisable from the middle path.

[Israel Drazin]
'An Intelligent Person is not Moral' (minor adjustments have been made to the original text)


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Baker Roshi, during a little talk one day, remarked that ordinarily in our culture we have only two ideas: either we express or we repress. Either one represses anger, or one expresses it. For example, it could be said that Richard Strauss is repressing certain negative emotions, whereas punk rock is expressing them.

But expressing is not any more admirable than repressing. The Western man or woman lives in a typical pairing of opposites that destroys the soul. Either we defeat Communism or we are defeated by it. Either a man dominates women or he is dominated by them.

Joseph Campbell describes the two opposites as two horns; and if we get hooked on either, we die.

[Robert Bly]
A Little Book on the Human Shadow, p. 56


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[...] living beauty spreads her golden shimmer only when soaring above a reality full of misery, pain, and squalor [...] all experience goes to show that beauty needs her opposite as a condition of her existence.

"Whenever we turn our gaze in the the ancient world, we find taste and freedom mutually avoiding each other, and Beauty establishing her sway only on the ruins of heroic virtues.

If then we keep solely to what experience has taught us hitherto about the influence of Beauty, we cannot certainly be much encouraged in the development of feelings which are so dangerous to the true culture of mankind; and we should rather dispense with the melting power of Beauty, even at the risk of coarseness and austerity, than see ourselves, for all the advantages of refinement, consigned to her enervating influence."

[...] under no circumstances can the initial value of the higher form of energy be attained by the lower forms as well or be resumed by the superior function: an equilization at some intermediate level must inevitably result. For every individual who identifies with his one differentiated function, this entails a descent to a lower value as compared with the initial value.

This conclusion is unavoidable. All education that aspires to the unity and harmony of man's nature has to reckon with this fact.

[C. G. Jung, also Friedrich Schiller (in quotations)]
Psychological Types, p. 84-6


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If development proceeds well the individual becomes able to deceive, to lie, to compromise, to accept conflict as a fact and to abandon the extreme ideas of perfection and an opposite to perfection that make existence intolerable.

Capacity for compromise is not a characteristic of the insane.

The mature human being is neither so nice nor so nasty as the immature. The water in the glass is muddy, but is not mud.

[D.W. Winnicott]
Human Nature, p. 138


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Iphigenia sees her role in life as that of “making men mild.” 

She is always encouraging people to calm down and be merciful. She is committed to love, but a love marked not by wild passion, but by understanding, sympathy and a desire for harmony [...]

Goethe's first audiences, brought up on Romanticism, were slow to get the message. Was Goethe turning his back on Romantic love? Where was all the passion? They described the story of Iphigenia as like “watching grey mist.”

Goethe, now in middle-age, was undaunted. He’d had enough of Werther and expressed his own view emphatically – “Romanticism is sickness, Classicism is health.” 

But he encountered an elemental cultural problem: Romanticism feels more exciting. Goethe pinpointed one of the central problems of culture: how to make things that are good for us compete successfully for attention with the thrilling passionate stuff?

 

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Taoists believe that a meaningful life, the optimally meaningful life, is to be found on the border between chaos and order. 

And I would say that your nervous system tells you exactly when you are there and it’s a kind of place and you can tell when you’re there because you’re secure enough to be confident, but not so secure that you’re bored and you’re interested enough to be awake but not so interested that you’re terrified. 

And when you’re in a state like that, you find things interesting and meaningful, time slips by you and you’re no longer self-conscious.

[Jordan Peterson]
'Reality and the Sacred'


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The thing is, when I'm balanced I'm not here, and I don't like not being here. I like to feel myself rubbing against things.


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In the revisional concept of psychoanalysis in his first book, Perls called Friedlaender's polar philosophy "differential thinking" and considered it to be a "mental precision tool", since it can find the point of "predifference", as he also refers to creative indifference, as well as the zero-point, the center from which balancing equilibrium is possible and

"we could find a point from which the observer could gain the most comprehensive and undistorted view [...]

By remaining alert in the centre, we can acquire a creative ability of seeing both sides of an occurence and completing an incomplete half. By avoiding a one-sided outlook we gain a much deeper insight into the structure and function of the organism"

The center is a "magical" word for Friedlaender; likewise, for Perls, "to center one's existence", or centering, is the most basic goal of therapy, because we "acquire a creative ability of seeing both sides of an occurence" [...]

[Ludwig Frambach, quoting Fritz Perls]
Creative License: The Art of Gestalt Therapy, p. 121


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Friedlaender's “creative indifference" [...] became for Fritz Perls the “fertile void” [...] the usual meaning-making process of polar differentiation is set aside in a state of pure being, through a deliberate act of polar indifferentiation. The closer we come to simply being, the more we open a space in which fresh possibilities can arise.

The fertile void or place of creative indifference is the ground. The goal of Gestalt process is to “lead increasingly from the one-sided fixation [on] that which is in the foreground to the ground, from the periphery to the middle and center, by way of integrating rigid dualities into flexible polarities” 

Poles such as rage and gentleness "should not be isolated from each other as mutually exclusive contradictions, but should be experienced as a unit of opposites" [...]

It is possible to achieve this perspective by being "flexibly centered in [one's own] indifferent center." In this way, one can react freely and appropriately, either angrily or with gentleness, to the demands of the situation from a totality of experience.

Friedlaender’s goal, as Perls saw it, was the achievement of this lovely neutrality in which one no longer feels pulled toward one extreme or the other and is no longer the prisoner of one way of seeing the world, which inevitably blinds one to other possibilities.

[Herb Stevenson, quoting Ludwig Frambach]
'Paradox: A Gestalt Theory of Change'


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Self

As an empirical concept, the self designates the whole range of psychic phenomena in man.

Just as conscious as well as unconscious phenomena are to be met with in practice, the self as psychic totality also has a conscious as well as an unconscious aspect.

Empirically, the self appears in dreams, myths, and fairytales in the figure of the "supraordinate personality", such as king, hero, prophet, saviour, etc., or in the form of a totality symbol, such as the circle, square, quadratura circuli, cross, etc.

When it represents a complexio oppositorum, a union of opposites, it can also appear as a united duality, in the form, for instance, of tao as the interplay of yang and yin, or of the hostile brothers, or of the hero and his adversary [...]

Empirically, therefore, the self appears as a play of light and shadow, although conceived as a totality and unity in which the opposites are united. Since such a concept is irrepresentable - tertium non datur - it is transcendental on this account also.

[C.G. Jung]
Psychological Types (CW 6, 1991), p. 460


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Equilibration

This is the force which moves development along. Piaget believed that cognitive development did not progress at a steady rate, but rather in leaps and bounds.

When a child's existing schemas are capable of explaining what it can perceive around it, it is said to be in a state of equilibrium, i.e. a state of cognitive (i.e. mental) balance. 

However, an unpleasant state of disequilibrium occurs when new information cannot be fitted into existing schemas (assimilation).

Equilibration is the force which drives the learning process as we do not like to be frustrated and will seek to restore balance by mastering the new challenge (accommodation). Once the new information is acquired the process of assimilation with the new schema will continue until the next time we need to make an adjustment to it.

[Saul McLeod]
'Jean Piaget'


Assimilate - will fit into existing order - no change - dominate (change other)
Accommodate - will not fit into existing order - change - capitulate (change self)



Popper envisioned science as progressing by the successive rejection of falsified theories, rather than falsified statements. Falsified theories are to be replaced by theories that can account for the phenomena that falsified the prior theory, that is, with greater explanatory power. 

For example, Aristotelian mechanics explained observations of everyday situations, but were falsified by Galileo's experiments, and were replaced by Newtonian mechanics, which accounted for the phenomena noted by Galileo (and others). Newtonian mechanics' reach included the observed motion of the planets and the mechanics of gases. The Youngian wave theory of light (i.e., waves carried by the luminiferous aether) replaced Newton's (and many of the Classical Greeks') particles of light but in turn was falsified by the Michelson-Morley experiment and was superseded by Maxwell's electrodynamics and Einstein's special relativity, which did account for the newly observed phenomena.

At each stage, experimental observation made a theory untenable (i.e., falsified it) and a new theory was found that had greater explanatory power (i.e., could account for the previously unexplained phenomena), and as a result, provided greater opportunity for its own falsification.

'Falsifiability'


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Unqualified freedom, like unqualified tolerance, is not only self-destructive but bound to produce its opposite - for if all restraints were removed there would be nothing whatever to stop the strong enslaving the weak (or meek).

So complete freedom would bring about the end of freedom, and therefore proponents of complete freedom are in actuality, whatever their intentions, enemies of freedom.

[...] the maximum possible tolerance or freedom is an optimum, not an absolute, for it has to be restricted if it is to exist at all. 

The government intervention which alone can guarantee it is a dangerous weapon: without it, or with too little, freedom dies; but with too much of it freedom dies also. We are brought back to the inescapability of control [...] the maximum freedom is a qualified one [...]

[...] the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

[Brian Magee]
Popper, p. 80-2


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[Derrida's] essay on Levinas [...] takes an epigraph from Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy.

'Hebraism and Hellenism - between these two points of influence moves our world. At one time it feels more powerfully the attraction of one of them, at another time of the other; and it ought to be, although it never is, evenly and happily balanced between them' [...]

It is the desire to reconcile oppositions and differences through a movement of thought that would finally reduce them to aspects of a single, comprehensive vision.

[...] Derrida's epigraph from Arnold carries a considerable weight of implied ideology.

It stands for that power of logocentric thinking to absorb all differences into itself by viewing them as mere stages or signposts on the way to some grand conceptual synthesis.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 230-1


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Related posts:-
Lines and Circles
Land and Sea 
Balance
Shades of Gray
In-between
Open Wound
Everything and Nothing 
Searching Without/Searching Within 
Frozen in time 
Forget Your Self
Mono / Poly