Levels of meaning

Exoteric        -          Esoteric
Profane         -          Sacred  
Many            -          Few  

Unsophisticated minds will interpret things in unsophisticated ways. Information is interpreted at the level of the recipient, meaning that something complex and nuanced ('Level 4') is often received as simple and schematic ('Level 1'). The detail is removed, leaving only broad strokes. What emerges in one mind as an intricate conundrum, may be interpreted by another as little more than a basic affirmation of crude prejudices. 

Sophisticated minds often fail to consider this when transmitting their thoughts. Many will make broad prescriptions, without thinking how these prescriptions will be interpreted by the culture at large. Most people are looking for simple programmes that they can simply 'run', without the need to expend the kind of time and energy that complexity generally demands. 

Modernity insists on a radical free-flow of information, and so anything that may dam this flow is condemned or removed. The strata of tradition is reduced to rubble strewn along a plane, and all levels of meaning collapsed to a baseline; one meaning for everyone, everywhere.  

Globalism, attuned to universals, views translation as a superficial process - a mere re-skinning. Localism, attuned to context, recognises that translation always involves loss. Something that is 'high-context', like a ritual or ceremony, requires a deep grounding in the relevant tradition in order to tease out its various implicit and explicit meanings.

Girard: Over time, as society scales up and becomes more complex, all things are exposed. At scale, the esoteric domain becomes untenable. "The revelation may be slow, but it is not reversible."

Those of us living in a Western culture can today best understand a Nhunggabarra story in terms of four levels of meaning […]

A Nhunggabarra person, undergoing the traditional education, would gradually learn more and more meanings. Not everybody would learn them all; how many meanings one learned depended on one’s role.

The four-level model […] meant that all stories could be told freely to the whole community; the four levels and the education process ensured that each person understood the story on the level that fitted their individual level of development.

Children would understand the first level and have their curiosity satisfied, while the older people could reflect on the higher levels of meaning. And everybody, young and old, would enjoy the drama and the excitement of the performance.

First level

The first level is the text itself […] This level answers some of the fundamental questions that little children living in a natural environment probably pestered their parents with: why does the crow have black feathers and white eyes?

Typically, the first level is also exciting and entertaining.

Second level

The second level of meaning concerns the relationships between the people within the community. The second level meaning does not come straight from the story and it was never told explicitly. You had to extract the meaning as part of your education and you had to have some pre-knowledge about the law to be able to do this.

This level therefore remained hidden for non-initiated people.

Third level

The third level concerns the relationship between your own community and the larger environment - that is, the earth and other Aboriginal communities. Again, the third level does not come straight from the story and it is never told explicitly. You have to pull out the meaning yourself and you have to hold some pre-knowledge about the law.

Fourth level

Many, but not all, stories had a fourth level. The fourth level taught spiritual action and psychic skills; it was more doing than talking and listening. The fourth level included practice, ceremonies and experiences, which gave access to the special esoteric knowledge hidden in the story.

The wiringins were the only ones who learned the fourth level of the stories. 

They passed through very striking ceremonies and had experiences which gave them access to a special body of spiritual and esoteric knowledge. They had insight into the minds of their fellows, and by observation they built up a wealth of information about the members of their community, which they could draw upon when needed […] The wiringins were […] ‘men of high degree’.

[Karl-Erik Sveiby & Tex Skuthorpe]
Treading Lightly, p. 42, 45, 48-51, 148

Benjamin Boyce: Do you think that that's a fault in certain modes of discourse, that they try to constrain thought or sense-making to one level?

Jonathan Pageau: Yeah, definitely. I think that the levelling of thought has been one of the problems of the modern age. We see everything at the same level.

BB: What is it about modernity that has led us to this levelling of thought?

JP: I think it is, in a certain manner, the fact that scientific thinking has taken over the horizon of thought, and people want to approach everything as if it were equivalent to a scientific problem.

If you want to think at different levels you can't level everything like that, you have to be able to see hierarchies of purpose [...] hierarchies of beings even.

There's so much going on right now which is good - the fact that everybody is trying to talk about emergence, complex systems - all of this stuff is showing that the simplistic levelling of thought has run its course, and now we have to understand that the world has levels and manifests itself in hierarchies of beings, and we can't avoid that.

[Benjamin Boyce & Jonathan Pageau]
'Masculine Actualities, Feminine Possibilities'

Are they new friends of 'truth', these coming philosophers? In all probability: for all philosophers have hitherto loved their truths. But certainly they will not be dogmatists. It must offend their pride, and also their taste, if their truth is supposed to be a truth for everyman, which has hitherto been the secret desire and hidden sense of all dogmatic endeavours. 

'My judgement is my judgement: another cannot easily acquire a right to it' - such a philosopher of the future may perhaps say. One has to get rid of the bad taste of wanting to be in agreement with many. 

‘Good' is no longer good when your neighbour takes it into his mouth. And how could there exist a 'common good'! The expression is a self-contradiction: what can be common has ever but little value. In the end it must be as it is and has always been: great things are for the great, abysses for the profound, shudders and delicacies for the refined, and, in sum, all rare things for the rare. 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 43

One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood. It is not by any means necessarily an objection to a book when anyone finds it impossible to understand: perhaps that was part of the author's intention - he did not want to be understood by just "anybody." 

All the nobler spirits and tastes select their audience when they wish to communicate; and choosing that, one at the same time erects barriers against "the others." 

All the more subtle laws of any style have their origin at this point: they at the same time keep away, create a distance, forbid "entrance," understanding, as said above-while they open the ears of those whose ears are related to ours.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 381

It may be observed in passing that the danger of the misdirection of certain kinds of knowledge, of which this last is a very clear example, accounts for much of the secrecy that is quite natural in a normal civilization; but the moderns show themselves to be entirely incapable of understanding this, for they commonly mistake what is really a measure designed as far as possible to prevent the misuse of knowledge for a desire to monopolize that knowledge.

[René Guénon] 
The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p.189

Now, whatever is sensuously-near is understandable for all, and therefore of all the Cultures that have been, the Classical is the most popular, and the Faustian the least popular, in its expressions of life-feeling. 

A creation is “popular" that gives itself with all its secrets to the first comer at the first glance, that incorporates its meaning in its exterior and surface. 

In any Culture, that element is “popular" which has come down unaltered from primitive states and imaginings, which a man understands from childhood without having to master by effort any really novel method or standpoint — and, generally, that which is immediately and frankly evident to the senses, as against that which is merely hinted at and has to be discovered - by the few, and sometimes the very, very few. 

The commonplace eliminates differences of spiritual breadth as well as depth between man and man, while the esoteric emphasizes and strengthens them […] There are popular ideas, works, men and landscapes […] 

The Classical geometry is that of the child, that of any layman - Euclid’s Elements are used in England as a school-book to this day. The workaday mind will always regard this as the only true and correct geometry. All other kinds of natural geometry that are possible (and have in fact, by an immense effort of overcoming the popular-obvious, been discovered) are understandable only for the circle of the professional mathematicians. 

Everything that is Classical is comprehensible in one glance, be it the Doric temple, the statue, the Polis, the cults; backgrounds and secrets there are none [...] Consider what it means that every one of our epoch-making works of poetry, policy and science has called forth a whole literature of explanations, and not indubitably successful explanations at that. 

Herein lies the explanation of a set of phenomena which we have hitherto been inclined to treat - in a vein of moral philosophy, or, better, of melodrama - as weaknesses common to humanity, but which are in fact symptoms of the Western life-feeling, viz., the "misunderstood” artist, the poet "left to starve," the "derided discoverer," the thinker who is “centuries in advance of his time" and so on. These are types of an esoteric Culture. 

Every high creator in Western history has in reality aimed, from first to Last at something which only the few could comprehend. 

We find everywhere in the Western what we find nowhere in the Classical - the exclusive form. Whole periods - for instance, the Provençal Culture and the Rococo - are in the highest degree select and uninviting, their ideas and forms having no existence except for a small class of higher men. 

On the contrary, every Attic burgher belonged to the Attic Culture, which excluded nobody; and consequently, the distinctions of deeps and shallows, which are so decisively important for us, did not exist at all for it. For us, popular and shallow are synonymous - in art as in science - but for Classical man it was not so.

Consider our sciences too. Every one of them, without exception, has besides its elementary groundwork certain "higher" regions that are inaccessible to the layman - symbols, these also, of our will-to-infinity and directional energy. The public for whom the last chapters of up-to-date physics have been written numbers at the utmost a thousand persons, and certain problems of modern mathematics are accessible only to a much smaller circle still - for our popular science is without value, détraquée, and falsified. 

We have not only an art for artists, but also a mathematic for mathematicians, a politic for politicians (of which the profanum vulgus of newspaper-readers has not the smallest inkling, whereas Classical politics never got beyond the horizon of the Agora), a religion for the “religious genius" and a poetry for philosophers. 

Indeed, we may take the craving for wide effect as a sufficient index by itself of the commencing and already perceptible decline of Western science […] The few sciences that have kept the old fineness, depth, and energy of conclusion and deduction and have not been tainted with journalism […] address themselves to a very narrow and chosen band of experts. 

And it is this expert, and his opposite the layman, that are totally lacking in the Classical life, wherein everyone knows everything. For us, the polarity of expert and layman has all the significance of a high symbol, and when the tension of this distance is beginning to slacken, there the Faustian life is fading out.

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, p. 326-9

In Islam, long before nihilism, the initiatic Order of the Ismaelis used the very phrase “Nothing exists, everything is permitted." But it applied in this order exclusively to the upper grades of the hierarchy.

Before attaining these grades and having the right to adopt this truth for oneself, one had to pass four preliminary grades that involved, among other things, a rule of unconditional, blind obedience, taken to limits that are almost inconceivable for the Western mentality.

For example, at a word from the Grand Master one had to be prepared to throw one's life away without any reason or purpose.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 62

It is well known that Christian and Catholic attitudes are characterized by the antithesis between “flesh" and spirit, by a theological hatred for sex, due to the illegitimate extension to ordinary life of a principle valid at best for a certain type of ascetic life.

Not being able to ban sexuality altogether, Catholicism has tried to reduce it to a mere biological fact, allowing its use in marriage only for procreation. Unlike certain ancient traditions, Catholicism has recognized no higher value, not even a potential one, in the sexual experience taken in itself.

As a whole, whether through its conception of sexuality, or through its profanation of the marriage rite as something put in everyone's reach and even rendered obligatory for any Catholic couple, religious marriage itself is reduced to the mere religious sanction of a profane, unbreakable contract.

Thus the Catholic precepts about the relations between the sexes reduce everything to the plane of a restrained, bourgeois mediocrity: tamed, procreative animality within conformist limits […]

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p.190

The ability to see the Great Truth of the hierarchic structure of the world, which makes it possible to distinguish between higher and lower Levels of Being, is one of the indispensable conditions of understanding. Without it, it is not possible to find out where everything has its proper and legitimate place.

Everything, everywhere, can be understood only when its Level of Being is fully taken into account. Many things are true at a low Level of Being and become absurd at a higher level, and of course vice versa.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.22-23

Within the layers of an Indigenous language there are ways of speaking that will only be used on ceremonial occasions. Linguists have noted, for example, that the size of the vocabulary of what they call a shaman is considerably larger than the vocabularies used by other people within the same society.

Certain words have great power and should never be spoken unless the right people are present in a circle to contain the energies that circulate, evoked by that particular sound vibration.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.225

One old woman told me how an Elder would begin telling a story in the evening and continue right through to the following morning. People in those days, she said, were supposed to show respect and pay attention.

Of course, with a teaching that lasted that long she could not remember everything that happened; rather, she was expected to take only that part of the teaching that was appropriate to her level of understanding. As she grew up she would hear the story again and again, each time taking something more from it.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.73

The Ceremony accomplishes much more than the bringing together of the two biological elements; the Ceremony orders life as well. The Ceremony is high context.

A high-context communication or message is one in which most of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message … The level of context determines everything about the nature of the communication and is the foundation on which all subsequent behavior rests (including symbolic behavior). (Hall 1977)

[Claire R. Farrer]
‘Singing for Life: The Mescalero Apache Girls’ Puberty Ceremony’, Betwixt and Between, p.257

The difficulty implied in the contradiction between the necessarily secret character of the philosophic teaching and the necessarily public character of publications was overcome of a very simple discovery.

If a man tells a charming story, most people will enjoy the story—the imitated actions or events, the imitated landscape, the imitated speeches of the characters, and even the imitation itself—but only a minority of readers will recover from the charm, reflect upon the story and discover the teaching which it silently conveys. Silent or secret teaching is then certainly possible. That it is an actual fact of the past is shown, above all, by the stories and histories of Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plato.

One may add that this kind of literature disappeared only at a rather recent date: its disappearance was simultaneous with the disappearance of persecution, just as its reappearance is simultaneous with the reappearance of persecution.

It would, however, betray too low a view of the philosophical writers of the past if one assumed that they concealed their thoughts merely for fear of persecution or of violent death. They concealed the truth from the vulgar also because they considered the vulgar to be unfit to digest the truth: the large majority of men, the philosophers of the past thought, would be deprived of the very basis of their morality if they were to lose their beliefs.

[Leo Strauss]
'The Spirit of Sparta or the Taste of Xenophon'

For Strauss as for Nietzsche, the truth of mimesis and of the founding murder is so shocking that most people, in all times and places, simply will not believe it.

The world of the Enlightenment may have been based on certain misconceptions about the nature of humanity, but the full knowledge of these misconceptions can remain the province of a philosophical elite. The successful popularization of such knowledge would be the only thing to fear and it was in this context that the Straussian, Pierre Manent, launched a ferocious attack on Girard’s theory: “If human ‘culture’ is essentially founded on violence, then [Girard] can bring nothing other than the destruction of humanity in the fallacious guise of non-violence.”

Girard, in turn, would counter that salvation is no longer to be found in philosophical reticence, because there will come a day when there is no esoteric knowledge left:

"I do think it is necessary for us to engage in the discourse we have been pursuing here. But if we had chosen otherwise, others would have taken up this discourse. And there will be others, in any case, who will repeat what we are in the process of saying and who will advance matters beyond what we have been able to do.

Yet books themselves will have no more than minor importance; the events within which such books emerge will be infinitely more eloquent than whatever we write and will establish truths we have difficulty describing and describe poorly, even in simple and banal instances. They are already very simple, indeed too simple to interest our current Byzantium, but these truths will become simpler still; they will soon be accessible to anyone."

For Girard, the knowledge of the founding murder is driven by the historical working of the Judeo-Western revelation. The revelation may be slow (because it contains a message that humans do not wish to hear), but it is not reversible. For this reason, the decisive difference between Girard and Strauss (or Nietzsche) centers on the question of historicism.

[Peter Thiel]
‘The Straussian Moment’

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True Detective: Too Sure, and Not Sure Enough


"Rust knew exactly who he was, and there was no talking him out of it. And Marty’s single big problem was that he never really knew himself, so he never really knew what to want.”

['Maggie Hart']
True Detective 


Rust tends to extremes. He lives an austere lifestyle, spending too much time alone. He appears to be something of a mystic, in touch with a wild world, beyond the fringes of normality. He feels strange energies; sees and hears things that most others can’t.

In walking a singular path with conviction he has found himself in uncommon places; cresting mountains, and plumbing seas. Such things are the boons of the extremist. However, in walking to the periphery he has become estranged from the centre, from normality.

Marty is his link to the normal world, and normal people. No matter how much Rust may prefer his rarefied air, he cannot entirely cut ties with normality: he still needs the conventional world. He exists at the borderline of society, but is not so extreme as to have stepped beyond it (or so it appears). A large part of him pulls outward, away from the centre; but another, smaller, yet significant part, keeps him in its orbit. He is connected to society, and so lines of communication, strained as they may be, must remain open.

However, Rust’s time in strange lands has given him an equally strange dialect, one that most normal people can’t understand. They are repelled by his tones - he seems aloof, terse, obscure, idealistic. They cannot tolerate him long enough to see beyond their first impressions.

Not so for Marty, who acts as a mediator between Rust and the conventional world. With Marty by his side, Rust becomes just about palatable to normal people. He acts as translator, able to frame Rust’s needs in a common tongue, and through him Rust is able to act in the world of people, to make things happen. As he finds out following their estrangement, without Marty he cannot act as effectively: he lacks the language, the contacts.

As in any close relationship, an exchange takes place. Their friendship lights a path between them, allowing each to venture along it; Marty edges outwards, becomes a little more reckless, entertains wild theories and notions; Rust edges inwards, becomes conventionalised, to a degree - goes on a date, tries a romantic relationship. Without Marty he drifts back to the extremes, and to the few people whom he can tolerate, and who will tolerate him.

Chances are that Rust has always tended to extremes - I think certain people are naturally drawn to the frontiers - but we gather that at one time he was more conventional; a family man, with a wife and child. These things probably tethered him, to a certain degree, and prevented him from drifting too far out: without them there was nothing to stop him from floating off. It may have been at this point - free from a tempering influence - that he came to know ‘exactly who he was.’ Turning his back on normality, he retreated to the simplicity of extremism; a place without shades of grey, give and take, or compromise: a place where they speak a pure dialect, in a sure voice.

And so Rust became solid, like a statue: frozen forever in a single pose. He knows who he is, and doesn’t want to be any other way (or can't be any other way). His personality has very definite outlines; impassable boundaries with specific entry and exit points. He must be tackled in a certain manner, from a certain direction; it is easy to get it wrong, and to rub him up the wrong way.

As with anybody who is stuck in a definite position, Rust can only communicate effectively with very specific types of people: those who are like him, or those who fit his shape without too much of a rub. It is an unconventional shape, and not one most people are used to accommodating, but Marty has just enough flex to adapt to it, unusual as it is. And this, it seems to me, is to his credit.

Marty is not as solid as Rust. He has a little give in his system, is softer, more supple. He does not know what he wants - hasn’t settled into an exclusive position - and so flits between poses; now the burdened family man, now the carefree youth. The only problem is that one pose threatens the other: he cannot do both, at least not in the long run. He must decide.

And so the fact that he doesn’t know himself - that he can’t hold a single position - is a problem for Marty. However, whilst you could say, along with his wife Maggie, that Marty’s problem is his lack of self-knowledge, you could, on the other hand, say that Rust’s problem is that he does know himself, that he is too sure of who he is.

His lack of flexibility condemns him to the outskirts, to a frontier lifestyle that is, by conventional standards, toxic. It seems, then, that each could stand to learn something from the other; Maggie certainly seems to see it this way. She wishes her husband were a bit more like Rust, more able to commit to a single pose; and she wishes, although she may not see it this way, that Rust were a little more like Marty; more flexible, more inclined to come in from the fringes and lead something approaching a normal life.

Perhaps what Maggie's perspective misses is the positive aspect of these problems. Yes, Rust may be too extreme for his own good, but his extremity makes him an extraordinary detective. And yes, Marty may not know himself well enough, but his lack of sureity makes possible his relationship with Rust; a relationship that allows each to be more effective in certain ways.

Is it possible to know who you are whilst remaining open to other ways of being? Is it possible to be sure without becoming a statue?

Perhaps Rust’s main problem was not that he knew who he was, but that that there was no talking him out of it. If what life demands of us is to become solid and commit to a position, then perhaps what it also demands is that we allow ourselves to be talked out of it, at least every once in a while.


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Apollo / Dionysus

Apollo             -            Dionysus
Culture            -            Nature
Tighten            -            Loosen
Together          -            Apart
Modern           -             Postmodern
Construct         -            Deconstruct
Vertical            -            Horizontal
Narrow            -            Wide
Mono               -             Poly
Centre              -            Periphery
Reason             -            Intuition
Known             -            Unknown
High                 -            Low
Inflate               -            Deflate
Spirit                -             Soul
Conscious        -             Unconscious
Light                -             Dark 
Heaven            -              Earth

In The Birth of Tragedy Apollo and Dionysus, whatever character each of them possesses in other contexts and different bodies of lore, are defined as opposing forces.

Dionysus is a god of nature, associated with forces biological and violent, orgiastic mysteries, with everything that refuses to be civilised. Apollo is the god of civilisation: if he were linguistic, he would be the perfectly formed sentence, self-possessed in its transparency.

Dionysus wants not to possess himself but to lose himself in an ecstasy in which he and nature are one and the same: the methods of ecstasy are intoxication, sexuality, the Dionysiac music and dance, the dithyramb in which the barrier between man and nature are overwhelmed.

As he appears in the Bacchae, Dionysus is wild, god of maddened group, people who drive themselves out of civilisation by wine, drugs, dismemberment. Modern versions of the Dionysiac include the forces active in bullfights, cockfights, rock concerts, wrestling, charismatic revival meetings.

In Nietzsche, tragedy is the form in which Dionysus and Apollo are reconciled.

The Dionysiac music, by itself, would be unbearable, because it would defeat culture and shatter the necessary limits implied in character and individuality. The Apolline hero is a hero because he takes upon himself the Dionysiac experience and, not at all transcending it, incorporates it in himself, reconstituting his experience now as form and beauty.

[…] the Greeks allowed for an Apolline incorporation of Dionysus, and did not try to suppress him:

“The delight in drunkenness, delight in cunning, in revenge, in envy, in slander, in obscenity - in everything which was recognised by the Greeks as human and therefore built into the structure of society and custom: the wisdom of their institutions lies in the absence of any gulf between good and evil, black and white.

Nature, as it reveals itself, is not denied but only ordered, limited to specified days and religious cults. That is not the root of all spiritual freedom in the ancient world; the ancients sought a moderate release of natural forces, not their destruction and denial.”

We are not supposed to hanker after an aboriginal state of union with nature, as if culture had never happened. Drink and drugs are deemed to be harmful for many reasons but mainly because they remove the cultural distinction between a man and the nature from which he has been rescued. Apollo must win.

Each society recognises that there are Dionysiac forces at large, and it makes some provision for them. The carnival of Fasting in Germany is a few days of tumult and licence followed by Lenten rectitude. Public entertainments, sports, including blood sports, motor racing, and sporadic limited wars are provided, as far as possible under controlled conditions.

If we continue extending the definition of culture so that it covers virtually the whole of experience, leaving nothing to nature, we will make it impossible for ourselves to understand violence and obscenity except as failures of ‘the system’.

It would be wise to regard culture as a partial and improbable transformation of natural impulse rather than a comfortable norm. That way, manifestations of violence could be considered without the normal accompaniment of shock, horror, and insult.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 83-5

The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state.

It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek society: women, slaves, homosexuals and foreigners.

'Dionysian Mysteries'

Dionysus was called Lysios, the loosener.

[...] Lysis means loosening, setting free, deliverance, dissolution, collapse, breaking bonds and laws, and the final unraveling as of a plot in tragedy.

[James Hillman]
Mythical Figures, p. 29

Different from Immanuel Kant's idea of the Sublime, the Dionysian is all-inclusive rather than alienating to the viewer as a sublimating experience. The sublime needs critical distance, while the Dionysian demands a closeness of experience.

According to Nietzsche, the critical distance, which separates man from his closest emotions, originates in Apollonian ideals, which in turn separate him from his essential connection with self.

The Dionysian embraces the chaotic nature of such experience as all-important; not just on its own, but as it is intimately connected with the Apollonian. The Dionysian magnifies man, but only so far as he realizes that he is one and the same with all ordered human experience. The godlike unity of the Dionysian experience is of utmost importance in viewing the Dionysian as it is related to the Apollonian, because it emphasizes the harmony that can be found within one's chaotic experience.

'Apollonian and Dionysian'

The fragilista [...] defaults to thinking that what he doesn't see is not there, or what he doesn't understand does not exist. At the core, he tends to mistake the unknown for the nonexistent.

So thanks to the fragilista, modern culture has been increasingly building blindness to the mysterious, the impenetrable, what Nietzsche called the Dionysian, in life.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 9-10

[Nietzsche] sees two forces, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. One is measured, balanced, rational, imbued with reason and self-restraint; the other is dark, visceral, wild, untamed, hard to understand, emerging from the inner layers of our selves.

Ancient Greek culture represented a balance of the two, until the influence of Socrates on Euripides gave a larger share to the Apollonian and disrupted the Dionysian, causing this excessive rise of rationalism. It is equivalent to disrupting the natural chemistry of your body by the injection of hormones. The Apollonian without the Dionysian is, as the Chinese would say, yang without yin.

[Nietzsche] called [Dionysus] “creatively destructive” and “destructively creative.” […] Nietzsche understood something that I did not find explicitly stated in his work: that growth in knowledge - or in anything - cannot proceed without the Dionysian. 

It reveals matters that we can select at some point, given that we have optionality.

In other words, it can be the source of stochastic tinkering, and the Apollonian can be part of the rationality in the selection process.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 255-6

Where spirit lifts, aiming for detachment and transcendence, concern with soul immerses us in immanence: God in the soul or the soul in God, the soul in the body, the soul in the world, souls in each other or in the world-soul. 

Owing to this immanence, dialogue is not a bridge constructed between isolated skin-encased subjects and objects, I's and Thou's, but is intrinsic, an internal relationship, a condition of the souls immanence. The I-Thou is a necessity, a given a priori with the gift of soul. 

So soul becomes the operative factor in converting the it into a Thou, making soul of objects, personifying, anthropomorphizing through psychizing, turning into a partner the object with which it is engaged and in which it has implanted soul. Through our souls, as our dreams, projections, and emotions show, we are immanent in one another. 

That souls are ontologically entailed means that we are existentially involved. Whether we like this or not, whether spirit pulls away and above, we are involved as a psychic necessity. Thus involvement becomes the first condition for admission to the psychic realm, to the field of psychology.

[James Hillman]
The Myth of Analysis, p. 27

She pops put into the pond’s clearing. The starry sky erupts above her, all the explanation a person needs for why humans have waged war on forests forever. Dennis has told her what the loggers say: Let’s go let a little light into that swamp. Forests panic people. Too much going on there. Humans need a sky. 

[Richard Powers]
The Overstory, p. 275

Every return to nature is a regressive phenomenon, including any protest in the name of instinctual rights, the unconscious, the flesh, life uninhibited by the intellect, and so forth. 

The man who becomes “natural” in this way has in reality become denatured.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p.123

We ought to understand the indication that the “Titans” existed (and reigned) before the gods, sub specie aeternitatis, either as a logical continuity, or as an indication of their place in the structure of the synchronic topology of the noetic cosmos.

The Titans always existed, just as the Black Logos of Cybele or the regime of the mystical nocturne. “Before” means either “higher” or “lower” depending on the viewpoint of the zone of the noetic Universe where we stand. For Mother Earth, with respect to the Titans, “before” means “better.” For the Olympians, the converse is true, since they think of themselves as the “new gods” who have won eternity in contrast to the endless cycles of the Titans’ self-closing duration. From the standpoint of the Logos of Apollo, the Titans are “ancient” because they did “not yet” know eternity, and they dwell below because they will never know it.

The discrepancy between the interpretation of the “before” and “after” is not simply the consequence of relative positioning, but an episode – and a fundamental one – of the Titanomachy, which is an expression of nothing more nor less than the choice of side in the never-ending battle of eternity against time.

The war of the gods and titans is a war for the position of the “observatory point”, a war to control it. Those who determine the paradigm, the grille de la lecture, will rule.

We thereby find ourselves in the very epicenter of the wars of the mind. The titans seek to overthrow the gods of Olympus in order to assert their Logos as the exemplary and normative one, while the gods insist on the triumph of the diurne. Therefore, the nature of any mythical figure or account depends on from what sector of the noetic cosmos we view such, and to which army we ourselves belong.

It would be highly naive to suppose that all people choose the camp of the gods, the Logos of Apollo and the solar regime of the heroic diurne. If this was the case, the Earth would be Heaven. Some tend towards the chthonic forces of the Earth, in solidarity with the worlds of the Great Mother. Some intuitively or consciously see themselves as warriors of the army of Dionysus.

As follows, we have the right to expect from such different treatments of myths, philosophical notions, and corresponding figures of Love between the three human types.

[Aleksandr Dugin]
The Three Logoi: An Introduction to the Triadic Methodology of NOOMAKHIA, Chap. 2

Stranger: There appears to be a sort of war of Giants and Gods going on amongst them; they are fighting with one another about the nature of essence.

Theaetetus: How is that?

Stranger: Some of them are dragging down all things from heaven and from the unseen to earth, and they literally grasp in their hands rocks and oaks; of these they lay hold, and obstinately maintain, that the things only which can be touched or handled have being or essence, because they define being and body as one, and if any one else says that what is not a body exists they altogether despise him, and will hear of nothing but body.

Theaetetus: I have often met with such men, and terrible fellows they are.

Stranger: And that is the reason why their opponents cautiously defend themselves from above, out of an unseen world, mightily contending that true essence consists of certain intelligible and incorporeal ideas; the bodies of the materialists, which by them are maintained to be the very truth, they break up into little bits by their arguments, and affirm them to be, not essence, but generation and motion.

Between the two armies, Theaetetus, there is always an endless conflict raging concerning these matters.

The Sophist

Male bonding and patriarchy were the recourse to which man was forced by his terrible sense of woman’s power, her imperviousness, her archetypal confederacy with chthonian nature.

Feminism has been simplistic in arguing that female archetypes were politically motivated falsehoods by men. The historical repugnance to woman has a rational basis: disgust is reason’s proper response to the grossness of procreative nature. Reason and logic are the anxiety-inspired domain of Apollo, premiere god of sky-cult. The Apollonian is harsh and phobic, coldly cutting itself off from nature by its superhuman purity.

[...] western personality and western achievement are, for better or worse, largely Apollonian. Apollo’s great opponent Dionysus is ruler of the chthonian whose law is procreative femaleness. As we shall see, the Dionysian is liquid nature, a miasmic swamp whose prototype is the still pond of the womb.

The tension and antagonism in western metaphysics developed human higher cortical powers to great heights. Most of western culture is a distortion of reality. But reality should be distorted; that is, imaginatively amended. The Buddhist acquiescence to nature is neither accurate about nature nor just to human potential. The Apollonian has taken us to the stars.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.12-13

Everything great in western culture has come from the quarrel with nature. The west and not the east has seen the frightful brutality of natural process, the insult to mind in the heavy blind rolling and milling of matter. In loss of self we would find not love or God but primeval squalor.

This revelation has historically fallen upon the western male, who is pulled by tidal rhythms back to the oceanic mother. It is to his resentment of this daemonic undertow that we owe the grand constructions of our culture. Apollonianism, cold and absolute, is the west’s sublime refusal. The Apollonian is a male line drawn against the dehumanizing magnitude of female nature.

From the jammed glassy cells of sea roe to the feathery spores poured into the air from bursting green pods, nature is a festering hornet’s nest of aggression and overkill. This is the chthonian black magic with which we are infected as sexual beings; this is the daemonic identity that Christianity so inadequately defines as original sin and thinks it can cleanse us of.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.28

From the outset Dionysus is insistently presented as the affirmative and affirming god. He is not content with "resolving" pain in a higher and suprapersonal pleasure but rather he affirms it and turns it into someone's pleasure.

This is why Dionysus is himself transformed in multiple affirmations, rather than being dissolved in original being or reabsorbing multiplicity into primeval depths. He affirms the pains of growth rather than reproducing the sufferings of individuation.

He is the god who affirms life, for whom life must be affirmed, but not justified or redeemed.

[Gilles Deleuze]
Nietzsche and Philosophy, p.13

Related posts:-
Escaping Uncertainty
Balancing Art
Pressure Valve
Rational / Irrational


The idea that the second law of thermodynamics or "entropy law" is a law of disorder (or that dynamically ordered states are "infinitely improbable") is due to Boltzmann's view of the second law.

In particular, it was his attempt to reduce it to a stochastic collision function, or law of probability following from the random collisions of mechanical particles. Following Maxwell, Boltzmann modeled gas molecules as colliding billiard balls in a box, noting that with each collision nonequilibrium velocity distributions (groups of molecules moving at the same speed and in the same direction) would become increasingly disordered leading to a final state of macroscopic uniformity and maximum microscopic disorder or the state of maximum entropy (where the macroscopic uniformity corresponds to the obliteration of all field potentials or gradients)

The second law, he argued, was thus simply the result of the fact that in a world of mechanically colliding particles disordered states are the most probable.

Because there are so many more possible disordered states than ordered ones, a system will almost always be found either in the state of maximum disorder – the macrostate with the greatest number of accessible microstates such as a gas in a box at equilibrium – or moving towards it.

A dynamically ordered state, one with molecules moving "at the same speed and in the same direction", Boltzmann concluded, is thus "the most improbable case conceivable... an infinitely improbable configuration of energy."

'Ludwig Boltzmann'

“It’s still too early to tell how the debate over ‘increased interdependence’ will turn out,” concluded the Wall Street Journal. “But the concept plainly has far more minuses [disorders] than it seemed to have in the 1960s—and that may require more thought.” As it turns out, the Second Law of Thermodynamics gives us an insight into the situation.

Imagine a cube made of a transparent material whose volume is 250 cubic feet, with 250 compartments filled with liquids of different colors. What happens if we make a pinhole on each side of the compartments? The individual molecules, finding additional degrees of freedom, will start to move around within a larger volume. The entropy of the system will increase. When the entropy of a system increases, so does our ignorance about the system. Before, we knew that a green molecule was in the green compartment. Now it can be in any compartment.

With the passage of time, our ignorance about the system increases as the mixing process goes on. And if the size of the pinhole opening within the compartments should widen, the molecules will find more degrees of freedom to roam around, further increasing our ignorance—uncertainty—about the system.

The same principle applies to world affairs. Suppose those compartments were national boundaries. As barriers between nations begin to fall, each constituent (molecule) finds more degrees of freedom to move around in a larger volume. In our case, the molecules can be anything: people, ideologies, knowledge, religions, raw materials, goods, diseases, chemicals, information (or misinformation), cults, factories, jobs, terrorism, technology, money, food, drugs, or weapons. It is crucial to realize that once physical barriers fall, it becomes a practical impossibility to “control” the types of things that cross national boundaries.

[Jack Hokikian]
'Entropy and Growing Global Interdependence'

Roughly speaking, you could think about ‘being’ as what is currently, and ‘becoming’ as how that’s going to transform - but its more than how its going to transform, because its also how it should transform.

It seems to me that when you’re wrestling with the fundamental questions of your life, you have to wrestle with both of those propositions: you have to figure out, what it is that’s here and now, and where you are, and what you are; and then you have to figure out what you’re going to do about that. And hypothetically […] it seems that people are generally motivated to attempt to make it better. And so then you have to figure out what constitutes ‘better.’ And that means you’re into the domain of values.

Not only is there an impetus to make it better, there’s also the fact that while you’re trying to make things better, you’re also fighting against entropy itself - the tendency of complex things to fall apart - and so it requires energy to make things better; it even requires energy just to keep things the way they are. So in some sense, life is an uphill battle, because you’re pushing against great forces that act in opposition to your existence.

In some sense, that’s the fundamental basis of existential thinking. The existentialists make the claim that existence itself is a problem, and so that means that in some sense psychopathology is built right in to the nature of human existence, and its partly because we’re limited - and we suffer because of that - [...] and we’re working against forces that are in many ways greater than we are and that are pushing in the opposite direction.

Life is being and becoming, and its also the problem of being and becoming. And that’s what you’re stuck with. It’s useful to know what you’re stuck with, because it stops you from being isolated - because everybody’s also stuck with that - and it also makes you understand that if you have a problem, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you, it’s just that you’re alive - and that’s a problem!

People are inclined to think that life was operating optimally you’d be happy. I think that’s an unreasonable hope in some ways, because life itself is so complicated - because of its fundamental essence - that the idea that you can exist in some optimised state on a constant basis is … well, that’s just not how it is.

When you mature, and become wiser, you have to take into account what the actual limitations are, and then you have to figure out a way that you can exist […] while taking that into account.

[Jordan Peterson]
Jordan Peterson: 22. Psychology & Belief (Conclusion) Personality & Its Transformations

And so the impasse continued between the second law’s claim that everything is winding down, and evidence to the contrary presented by the increasing complexification in both cosmological and biological evolution […] For the thermodynamicists […] things fall more and more apart. Darwin’s ideas, on the other hand, appeared to account for the increasing order and organization in evidence in biological development and evolution. 

The increasing complexity of living systems, both onto- and phylogenetically, seemed to violate the second law of thermodynamics. But there it is. Open systems far from equilibrium show a reduction in local or internal entropy; they are able in other words, to create form and order. 

Human beings are more complex than amoebas, meaning, according to at least one denotation of "complexity," that the former can access a greater variety of states than the latter. The cosmos, too, is much more complex today than just after the big bang: different types of states are available to it now than then.

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p.108

Local sinks of order are bought at the price of increased total disorder. 

The self-organization of a new level of complexity renews the system's overall entropy production even as it uses some of the energy to create and maintain a local eddy of order and lowered internal entropy production. Per gram of biomass, an adult consumes less energy than does the blastula. The brain metabolizes almost as much glucose while in a deep sleep as it does while working on a difficult calculus equation.

Although total entropy production increases with the irreversible creation of order, the streamlining achieved through self-organisation reduces the rate of internal entropy production as some of that energy is diverted to maintain its own structure. You and I (as well as tornadoes and slime moulds) are just such local eddies of order. 

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p.145

As the evolutionary process continues, and a system is evolving and making copies of itself, and there’s this natural selection filter weeding out the dysfunctional designs, the organism is becoming more statistically correlated with its environment.

So there’s an increase in mutual information. This process is basically making a more predictive world model in the organism and it’s reducing its uncertainty about the world around it.

Terrence Deacon has described this as reducing Shannon entropy […] organisms are keeping internal entropy low by extracting energy. And they’re increasing environmental entropy by producing heat waste.

[Bobby Azarian]
‘EP 159 Bobby Azarian on the Romance of Reality’, Jim Rutt Show, YouTube

Related posts:-
Order and Chaos
Lines, Circles, and Spirals 

Centre / Periphery

Centre                               -                      Periphery
Consolidation                   -                      Exploration
Classicism                        -                      Romanticism
Order                                -                      Chaos
Communal                        -                      Individual
Narrow                             -                      Wide
Normative                         -                      Deviant
Monism                             -                      Pluralism
Known                              -                      Unknown
Explicit                              -                      Implicit
Universal                           -                      Relative

If we are to communicate with one another, and to live communally, then there must always be common ground -  a centre around which we orbit.

The centre is a single point.

As we approach it, experience becomes narrowed. Possibilities are shut off in favour of an increasingly limited number of actualities.

At the centre there is a set way of doing things; rules, standards, and conventions.

As long as there's conservatism and invisible consensus, there will be avant garde work to outrage it and make it visible.

'Documenta's over, but it just keeps getting better'

The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, is the range of ideas the public will accept.

Overton described a spectrum from "more free" to "less free" with regard to government intervention, oriented vertically on an axis. As the spectrum moves or expands, an idea at a given location may become more or less politically acceptable. His degrees of acceptance of public ideas are roughly:
  • Unthinkable
  • Radical
  • Acceptable
  • Sensible
  • Popular
  • Policy
The Overton window is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democracy's possible governmental policies. Proponents of policies outside the window seek to persuade or educate the public in order to move and/or expand the window. Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable.

After Overton's death, others have examined the concept of adjusting the window by the deliberate promotion of ideas outside of it, or "outer fringe" ideas, with the intention of making less fringe ideas acceptable by comparison. The "door-in-the-face" technique of persuasion is similar.

'Overton window'

There are many ways that we can frame symbolic patterns, but the frame that I will use most prominently is the geometric symbolism of centre and periphery. I’m going to use that structure because its easy to understand - we encounter it in our bodies, our rituals, our societies; and more abstractly in our language and concepts.

[…] identity, refugees, walls, immigration, technology: all of these things can be understood quite well using the basic frame of centre and periphery.

In general the problem of chaos is the problem of the margin, and whether we see the margin as an exciting potential by which we can further ourselves out into the world, or whether we see it as a dangerous threat to the things we care about.

[Jonathan Pageau]
Symbolism in Guardians of the Galaxy v.2

I always go to the rough edges, because that’s where you find things that are much more exciting than the structured aspect of the regular parts of a city.

[Tjalf Sparnaay]
Getting Closer’ (documentary)

[...] the world formed by art is recognised as a reality which is suppressed and distorted in the given reality.

[...] The truth of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality (i.e. of those who established it) to define what is real [...] 

Art is committed to that perception of the world which alienates individuals from their functional existence and performance in society - it is committed to an emancipation of sensibility, imagination, and reason in all spheres of subjectivity and objectivity [...] But this achievement presupposes a degree of autonomy which withdraws art from the mystifying power of the given and frees it for the expression of its own truth.

[Herbert Marcuse]
The Aesthetic Dimension

[Marcuse] values art, as I do, for its power of contradiction, its protest against a narrow definition of reality and the prescription of its forms.

In our time, reality is administered mostly by politics: the function of the arts is the critical interrogation of politics, the questioning of its certitudes.

André Malraux's The Voices of Silence is based on his understanding that 'great artists are not transcribers of the scheme of things; they are its rivals [...] all art is a revolt against man's fate.'

The image of the doomed artist has retained its power because of the association of the artist with transgression, genius, the role of scapegoat, the sacrificial victim. We don’t know what to make of this image.

On the whole, we try to include the artist in the forms of our knowledge, but if he rejects our embrace we know that in some profound sense he is right, he knows he is not really one of us. Art does not confirm the reality we normally think we know and possess.

In fact art is permanently antagonistic to our sense of reality because it makes a space for those images which our sense of reality excludes. 

There is in fact much to be said for bourgeois society even when we insist on degrading it by calling it bourgeois, but artists have rarely wanted to say any of it. One of the aims of modern art and literature has been to escape from the middle class and what Ezra Pound called its ‘accelerated grimace’.

So the arts have appealed to pleasure rather than duty, interrogation rather than conformity; they thrive upon suspicion rather than consensus, the creative speech of poetry rather than the stereotypes of daily life.

In avant-garde art, these gestures of dissociation have sometimes been maintained to the point at which many people can see nothing in them but spiritual terrorism, like the fractured face in a Picasso portrait.

In extreme cases, the gesture amounts to a rage for the absolute, as if nothing could satisfy so long as it remains finite.

The 19th-century artist kept his soul, as far as possible, by withholding assent to official purposes. As the price to be paid for that spiritual privilege, his art emphasised difference rather than continuity of experience; a certain purity of form, only to be achieved by transcending the ordinary world. There is always a risk of weightlessness in his images or in his voice, a suggestion of falsetto. He achieves form as a desperate choice, and we sense everything that has had to be kept out of the picture to make it become what it is.

The artistic vision is in some way ineffable, unspeakable; it deflects every attempt to pin it down by knowledge or to define it in speech. The stories say that art is not to be assimilated to the comfortable ways of a society. 

The artist is an eagle, not a dove.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 13, 15-16, 21, 27, 69

Let us attempt to see.

[Robert Delaunay]

Art is exploration: artists train people how to see.

The artists are the people who articulate the unknown. The role of art in a healthy culture is to bring to public awareness elements of being that have not yet entered the collective consciousness.

Here’s a way of thinking about artistic and creative people from a biological perspective: the world is basically an explored territory, inside an unexplored territory - every world is like that, everywhere you go is like that; there’s things you know, and things you don’t know.

The conservative people like to be in the middle of the things that are known. They can master that space, and are good at maintaining it.

The artists like to be right out on the edge, and that’s the edge between chaos and order. And they like to expand the domain of order out into the chaos. They do that first by transforming perception.

Artists have always been on the frontier of human understanding. The artist bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life.

The dream is the thing that mediates between order and chaos, it starts to make chaos into order. It’s half chaos, that’s why it’s not comprehensible. Artists play exactly the same role in society: they’re the visionaries that start to transform what we don’t understand into what we can [at least] start to see. They’ve always been at the vanguard, that’s their biological niche. They’re the civilising agents.

Imagine we’re all living on an island, and many of us are in the centre of the island - far enough away so that maybe we can’t see the shoreline, and the ocean. The artists are right on the edge, and they’re expanding the landscape, they’re moving the culture forward into the unknown.

They do that by translating what is as yet unimaginable, but sensed, into what is at least imaginable, and represent it in image, and drama, and literature. That’s the precursor to its full formulation in articulated philosophy and thought.

You can see them doing [it] in cities: it’s the open people, the artists, who go into parts of the cities that have degenerated to some degree back into chaos, and revitalise and recivilise them. [Then] the less artistic people, who are more conventional, move in, and that’s when you get gentrification. That usually chases the artists out, and they go somewhere else cheap and interesting and start the renewal process again.

That’s what artists do [...] They’re problem detectors and problem solvers [...] They’re transforming chaos into order, all of the time. That’s where they live, on that edge. It’s a very tough place to live, because you can fall into the chaos at any time.

[Jordan Peterson]
'July Patreon Q and A' and ‘Lectures: Exploring the Psychology of Creativity

Structuralist readers are urged to adopt an ironic or sceptical attitude towards whatever they read; they are to know that it is poisoned.

Barthes, in his later work, showed how such readers might behave themselves. They should cultivate caprice and excess, going against the grain of the writing, distrusting its rhetorical figures, reading at their own speed.

In this way they retain some measure of freedom, and break the conspiracy between author, publisher and the economy of the market which has produced the book as a commodity for sale.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 40

The point has been made that at any given time the overwhelming majority of scientists are not trying to overthrow the prevailing orthodoxy at all but are working happily within it. 

They are not innovating, and they seldom have to choose between competing theories: what they are doing is putting accepted theories to work. This is what has come to be known as 'normal science' [...]

It is true that Popper's writings are somewhat loftily exclusive in their references to the pathbreaking geniuses of science, whose activities his theories most obviously fit. And it is also true that most scientists take for granted, in order to solve problems at a lower level, theories which only a few of their colleagues are questioning.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 41

For Levinas, the course of Western philosophical tradition is determined from the outset by its ancient Greek heritage.

'Philosophy employs a series of terms and concepts - such as morphe (form), ousia (substance), nous (reason), logos (thought) or telos (goal), etc. - which constitute a specifically Greek lexicon of intelligibility.'

Like Derrida, he sees a systematic relationship or complicity between these terms, since they all point towards a moment of ultimate, self-present truth when reason would grasp the encompassing logic of its own nature and history.

What is intelligible to thinkers in this Greek tradition is whatever lends itself to the various 'totalizing' methods and strategies which thought has devised to maintain its grasp upon an otherwise recalcitrant world.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 231-2

Such thinking, as Derrida describes it, 'dreams of deciphering a truth or an origin which escapes play and the order of the sign, and ... live the necessity of interpretation as an exile' [...]

The other possibility is that of abandoning such nostalgic ways of thought and accepting that there can henceforth be no limit to the range of strong-willed interpretative options.

[...] To register the force of this critique would be to re-think the notion of 'structure', no longer seeking to limit the play of its differential elements by always referring them back, in the last instance, to some organizing 'centre' or thematic point of origin.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 139

The biggest problem of explicitness, however, is that it returns us to what we already know.

It reduces a unique experience, person or thing to a bunch of abstracted, therefore central, concepts that we could have found already anywhere else – and indeed had already. Knowing, in the sense of seeing clearly, is always seeing ‘as’ a something already known, and therefore not present but re-presented.

Fruitful ambiguity is forced into being one thing or another.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 180

What can we be said to owe to romanticism? A great deal.

We owe to romanticism the notion of the freedom of the artist, and the fact that neither he nor human beings in general can be explained by oversimplified views such as were prevalent in the eighteenth century and such as are still enunciated by over-rational and over-scientific analysts either of human beings or of groups.

We also owe to romanticism the notion that a unified answer in human affairs is likely to be ruinous, that if you really believe there is one single solution to all human ills, and that you must impose this solution at no matter what cost, you are likely to become a violent and despotic tyrant in the name of your solution, because you desire to remove all obstacles to it will end by destroying those creatures for whose benefit you offer the solution.

The notion that there are many values, and that they are incompatible; the whole notion of plurality, of inexhaustibility, of the imperfection of all human answers and arrangements; the notion that no single answer which claims to be perfect and true, whether in art or in life, can in principle be perfect and true - all this we owe to the romantics. 

[...] and yet, as a result of making clear the existence of a plurality of values, as a result of driving wedges into the notion of the classical ideal, of the single answer to all questions, of the rationalisability of everything, of the answerability of all questions, of the whole jigsaw-puzzle conception of life, they have given prominence to and laid emphasis upon the incompatibility of human ideals.

But if these ideals are incompatible, then human beings sooner or later realise that they must make do, the must make compromises, because if they seek to destroy others, others will seek to destroy them; and so, as a result of this passionate, fanatical, half-mad doctrine, we arrive at an appreciation of the necessity of tolerating others, the necessity of preserving an imperfect equilibrium in human affairs, the impossibility of driving human beings so far into the pen which we have created for them, or into the single solution which possesses us, that they will ultimately revolt against us, or at any rate be crushed by it.

The result of romanticism, then, is liberalism, toleration, decency and the appreciation of the imperfections of life [...]

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 146-7

The second condition of permanent political society has been the existence, in some form or other, of the feeling of allegiance, or loyalty.

This feeling may vary in its objects, and is not confined to any particular form of government; but whether in a democracy or in a monarchy, its essence is always the same, namely that there is in the constitution of the State something that is settled, something permanent, and not to be called in question; something that is generally agreed to have a right to be where it is and to be secure against disturbance, whatever else may change.

This feeling may attach itself—as among the Jews (and indeed in most of the commonwealths of antiquity)—to a common God or gods, the protectors and guardians of their State. Or it may attach itself to certain persons who are deemed to be the rightful guides and guardians of the rest, whether by divine appointment, by long prescription, or by the general recognition of their superior capacity and worthiness. Or it may attach itself to laws; to ancient liberties, or ordinances. Or finally (and this is the only form in which the feeling is likely to exist from now on) it may attach itself to the principles of individual freedom and political and social equality, as realised in institutions that don’t yet exist anywhere except perhaps in a rudimentary state.

But in every political society that has had a durable existence there has been some fixed point, something that men agreed in holding sacred.

[John Stuart Mill]
'Essays on Bentham and Coleridge'

The third essential condition of stability in political society is a strong and active force of cohesion among the members of the same community or state. 

I need scarcely say that I do not mean ‘nationality’ in the vulgar sense of the term:

•a senseless antipathy to foreigners,

•an indifference to the general welfare of the human race, or an unjust preference for the supposed interests of our own country;

•a cherishing of bad peculiarities because they are national, or a refusal to adopt what has been found good by other countries.

I mean a force of sympathy, not of hostility; of union, not of separation. I mean a feeling of common interest among those who live under the same government and are contained within the same natural or historical boundaries. I mean that one part of the community do not consider themselves as foreigners with regard to another part; that they set a value on their connection; feel that they are one people, that their lot is cast together, that evil to any of their fellow-countrymen is evil to themselves; and do not selfishly want to free themselves from their share of any common inconvenience by breaking the connection.

Everyone knows how strong this feeling was in the ancient commonwealths that attained any durable greatness.

[John Stuart Mill]
'Essays on Bentham and Coleridge'

[…] we cannot excel our way out of modern problems […] surviving our newfound god-like powers will require modes that lie well outside expertise, excellence, and mastery.

A single obviously stupid idea like 'self-regulating financial markets' now spreads frictionlessly among fungible experts inhabiting the now interoperable centers of excellence within newspapers, government, academe, think-tanks, broadcasting and professional associations. Before long, the highest levels of government are spouting nonsense about 'the great moderation' in front of financial disaster.

We have spent the last decades inhibiting […] socially marginal individuals or chasing them to drop out of our research enterprise and into startups and hedge funds. As a result our universities are increasingly populated by the over-vetted specialist to become the dreaded centers of excellence that infantilize and uniformize the promising minds of greatest agency.

If there is hope to be found in this sorry state of affairs it is in the rise of an archipelago of alternative institutions alongside the assembly line of expertise. This island chain of mostly temporary gatherings has begun to tap into the need for heroism and genius.

In the wake of the Challenger disaster, Richard Feynman was mistakenly asked to become part of the Rogers commission investigating the accident. In a moment of candor Chairman Rogers turned to Neil Armstrong in a men's room and said "Feynman is becoming a real pain." Such is ever the verdict pronounced by steady hands over great spirits.

[Eric Weinstein]

Exploration is movement from the knowable to the complex, selectively.

This movement is often mentioned in the literature on complexity as exploration versus exploitation.

Exploration is an opening up of possibilities by reducing or removing central control without a total disruption of connections.

There are some good reasons to move deliberately from order to chaos. There are times when it is necessary to break rigid structures in precipitation of a natural collapse (as one approaches the boundary), so that the transition can be managed more carefully; and there are times when a strong disruption is the only mechanism that will break up a strong but unhealthy stability.

The [...] chaotic space [can be used] for temporary disruption of all connections (possibly within a restricted context) as a stimulant to new growth.

Entrainment breaking is movement from the knowable to the chaotic to the complex, periodically. In entrainment breaking, we move from the knowable to chaos and thus stimulate the creation of new complex systems as the system rebounds into the complex domain.

This is a common approach to disrupt the entrained thinking of experts who, in our experience, tend to be the most conservative when it comes to radical new thinking. 

The move to complex space is not radical enough to disrupt those patterns; we need to challenge at a more basic level the current assumptions of order. By using the complex space as a staging post, we create a more fertile space of interactions from which we can select stabilization points for the movement to the knowable.

Organizations tend to assume that they can design the nature of new systems. For example, an organization that needs new expertise in an area might commission a university to carry out a study, recruit specialist staff, or identify individuals within the organization and assign them new responsibilities. This is a successful and effective strategy when the conditions are suitable for ordered approaches.

However, if the situation is uncertain, it is more useful to shift the problem from the domain of the known to the complex. Organizations need to increase both internal and external levels of contact to the point where new patterns can emerge.

Immunization is movement from the known to the chaotic, temporarily. Immunization in chaos is a smaller “visit” to chaotic space that shakes up “the way things are” enough to cause reflection but not enough to destabilize the entire system.

Immunization serves two purposes. First, it inures people to the devastating force of chaos so that they will be better prepared to face those forces in the future. A perfect example: it is said that the great director Buster Keaton was able to craft his death-defying stunts (such as a house falling around him, a rescue from a drenching waterfall, amazing pratfalls, and so on) because as a toddler he was lifted out of bed by a tornado and set down unhurt in the street.

Second, immunization brings new perspectives, which cause radical disruptions in stable patterns of thought and lead to new complex patterns. 

Examples of such events are scattered throughout literature, in the accident that changes a politician’s career, or the chance encounter that causes a lonely woman’s life to fill up with new meaning, or in many other kinds of radical departures that make everything on which one had relied seem meaningless and restricting.

Metaphors are particularly useful agents of immunization because they allow conversation about painful things, enable disruptive and lateral thinking, prevent entrainment of attitudes, and clear out the cobwebs of stagnant ways. 

[Cynthia Kurtz & Dave Snowden]
'The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world'

Typical statistics textbooks teach standard (Gaussian) distribution – “the bell curve” – in which things like means and standard deviations most matter.

Some domains (like the sums of thrown die) naturally cluster around an average between strictly constrained extremes. If you know that the total height of two randomly selected people is 12-and-a-half feet, chances are the two people are each very close to 6 feet, 3 inches.

But if you know the total wealth of two randomly selected people is $125 million, the chance that wealth is close to evenly distributed is quite small; there is a very high chance that one of them has total wealth of close to $125m.

Unlike the size of an organism, the size of a bank account does not have a natural limit, and wealth isn’t evenly distributed around a mean. 

It takes wisdom to know when we are in Extremistan rather than Mediocristan, so that we are not harmed by, and can even benefit from, a rare and unforeseen outlier.

This means that many of the analytic tools of social science—like correlation and linear regression—are much more limited than usually acknowledged, and often deceptive: one can always “fit” a line to random data and find spurious “correlations” in large enough data sets.

[Joshua P. Hochschild]
'Optionality and the Intellectual Life: In Gratitude for the Real World Risk Institute'

Postmodern theory is reinterpreted in order to argue that a postmodern perspective does not necessarily imply relativism, but that it could also be viewed as a manifestation of an inherent sensitivity to complexity. 

As Cilliers explains, the characterization of complexity revolves around analyses of the process of self-organization and a rejection of traditional notions of representation. The model of language developed by Saussure - and expanded by Derrida - is used to develop the notion of distributed representation, which in turn is linked with distributed modelling techniques. Connectionism (implemented in neural networks) serves as an example of these techniques. 

Cilliers points out that this approach to complexity leads to models of complex systems that avoid the oversimplification that results from rule-based models.

The taste of the higher type is for exceptions, for things that leave most people cold and seem to lack sweetness; the higher type has a singular value standard. 

Moreover, it usually believes that the idiosyncrasy of its taste is not a singular value standard; rather, it posits its values and disvalues as generally valid and thus becomes incomprehensible and impractical. 

Very rarely does a higher nature retain sufficient reason for understanding and treating everyday people as such; for the most part, this type assumes that its own passion is present but kept concealed in all men, and this belief even becomes an ardent and eloquent faith. 

But when such exceptional people do not see themselves as the exception, how can they ever understand the common type and arrive at a fair evaluation of the rule? 

Thus they, too, speak of the folly, inexpediency, and fantasies of humanity, stunned that the course of the world should be so insane, and puzzled that it won't own up to what "is needful.”—This is the eternal injustice of those who are noble.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 3

Not one of all these ponderous herd animals with their uneasy conscience (who undertake to advocate the cause of egoism as the cause of the general welfare – ) wants to know or scent that the 'general welfare' is not an ideal, or a goal, or a concept that can be grasped at all, but only an emetic 

– that what is right for one cannot by any means therefore be right for another, that the demand for one morality for all is detrimental to precisely the higher men, in short that there exists an order of rank between man and man, consequently also between morality and morality. 

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
Beyond Good and Evil, 228

The spell that fights on our behalf, the eye of Venus that charms and blinds even our opponents, is the magic of the extreme, the seduction that everything extreme exercises: we immoralists - we are the most extreme.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Will to Power, 749

Not truth and certainty are the opposite of the world of the madman, but the universality and the universal binding force of a faith; in sum, the non-arbitrary character of judgments. 

And man's greatest labor so far has been to reach agreement about very many things and to submit to a law of agreement - regardless of whether these things are true or false. 

This is the discipline of the mind that mankind has received; but the contrary impulses are still so powerful that at bottom we cannot speak of the future of mankind with much confidence. The image of things still shifts and shuffles continually, and perhaps even more so and faster from now on than ever before. 

Continually, precisely the most select spirits bristle at this universal binding force, the explorers of truth above all. Continually this faith, as everybody's faith, arouses nausea and a new lust in subtler minds; and the slow tempo that is here demanded for all spiritual processes, this imitation of the tortoise, which is here recognized as the norm, would be quite enough to turn artists and thinkers into apostates: It is in these impatient spirits that a veritable delight in madness erupts because madness has such a cheerful tempo. 

Thus the virtuous intellects are needed - oh, let me use the most unambiguous word—what is needed is virtuous stupidity, stolid metronomes for the slow spirit, to make sure that the faithful of the great shared faith stay together and continue their dance. It is a first-rate need that commands and demands this. We others are the exception and the danger - and we need eternally to be defended. 

Well, there actually are things to be said in favor of the exception, provided that it never wants to become the rule.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 76

All subjects, no matter how specialised, are connected with a centre; they are like rays emanating from a sun. 

The centre [...] is the place where [man] has to create for himself an orderly system of ideas about himself and the world, which can regulate the direction of his various strivings.

The centre is constituted by our most basic convictions, by those ideas which really have the power to move us. In other words, the centre consists of metaphysics and ethics, of ideas that - whether we like it or not - transcend the world of facts. Because they transcend the world of facts, they cannot be proved or disproved by ordinary scientific method. 

But that does not mean that they are purely “subjective' or 'relative' or mere arbitrary conventions. They must be true to reality, although they transcend the world of facts - an apparent paradox to our positivistic thinkers. If they are not true to reality, the adherence to such a set of ideas must inevitably lead to disaster.

Education can help us only if it produces 'whole men'. The truly educated man is not a man who knows a bit of everything, not even the man who knows all the details of all subjects (if such a thing were possible): the ‘whole man', in fact, may have little detailed knowledge of facts and theories, he may treasure the Encyclopaedia Britannica because ‘she knows and he needn't, but he will be truly in touch with the centre. 

He will not be in doubt about his basic convictions, about his view on the meaning and purpose of his life. He may not be able to explain these matters in words, but the conduct of his life will show a certain sureness of touch which stems from his inner clarity.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p. 77

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