Levels of Analysis

Science         -               Religion
Reason           -               Faith
Separate         -               Connected
Hate               -               Love
Head              -               Heart
Lower            -               Higher
Left brain       -               Right brain

In ‘A Guide for the Perplexed’, E.F. Schumacher makes reference to the ancient idea of the Great Chain of Being, suggesting that there are many levels of existence, from Mineral (Matter), to Plant (Life), to Animal (Consciousness), to Man (Self-consciousness), and beyond. There is truth at all levels and so life can be interpreted from any of them, but which you choose is always a matter of faith, not reason.

Religious faith is trusting/believing that there are higher levels, beyond the materialistic reality of science. Faith is a faculty of the heart, science of the head.

Brett Weinstein’s talk with Jonathan Pageau shows an interesting coming together of the different world-views. Weinstein wants to interpret everything through the head, through science, but to truly understand and dialogue with religion means taking it on its own terms and making a leap of faith. The leap itself is the entry requirement - you either leap, or you don’t - but the jump takes you out of science and into another realm entirely. The precepts of science, based as they are in proof and evidence, prevent the leap from being made, hence why the antagonism between religion and science can never really be reconciled.

Throughout the conversation both Weinstein and Pageau are keen to ‘agree’ with the other, which is really a way of showing that whatever argument the other advances has been prefigured and prevents no real threat to their respective world-views. What they are saying when they say ‘I agree’ is ‘my view contains yours.’ In many ways the entire conversation (as with most) was a struggle to assert the primacy of their respective view, albeit in a fairly good natured and non-aggressive way.

This brings to mind Integral and its notion that ‘second tier’ thought (‘Integral’ thought) contains all previous levels. Integral is ultimately a progressive scheme and as such is fundamentally opposed to tradition. There is no way that tradition can be ‘included’ within it because the two are mutually exclusive. Really this is the same as saying that religion cannot be contained within science. 

Integral supposes that as we progress upwards through the various levels of being we can transcend and include those below. Of course, there is some truth in this - if we adopt the modern, liberal, scientistic mindset (‘orange’) then we still contain traces of our more ancient and less civilised selves. However, it may be that these less civilised elements are in fundamental opposition to the later, ‘higher’ levels - there is nothing to say that they can sit together harmoniously within a unified whole.

We only see what our stories allow us to see. In the Great Chain of Being, higher levels are inherently more connected than those below, and in this way they contain them. What is separate at a lower level is seen to be connected at the higher level - indeed, to make connections is to shift to a higher level, to ‘go meta.’ ‘Making connections’ is another way of saying ‘telling a story.’ The validity of the connections that are made at higher levels - the truth of the story - can always be disputed by the level below because every connection is a leap of faith. It is at this point that the dialogue can go no further, because belief is ultimately grounded in faith - you either believe the story or you don’t. No amount of reasoning can facilitate the leap between levels.

Love sees connections. Perhaps Love is connections. This is why faith and love are inextricably linked. But always there is the problem of how to maintain criticality within this context. How to contain hate within love.

It seems to me that science must always be nested within a wider tradition, which is perhaps a way of saying that religion must always contain science, and not the other way around. There is an analogy here to Iain McGilchrist’s notion that the relationship between the brain hemispheres must be fundamentally asymmetrical - that the right must contain the left.

The level of significance to which an observer or investigator tries to attune himself is chosen, not by his intelligence, but by his faith.

The facts themselves, which he is going to observe, do not carry a label indicating the appropriate level at which they ought to be considered. Nor does the choice of an inadequate level lead the intelligence into factual error or logical contradiction. All levels of significance up to the adequate level - i.e. up to the level of meaning […] - are equally factual, equally logical, equally objective, but not equally real.

It is by an act of faith that I choose the level of my investigation; hence the saying 'Credo ut intelligam' - I have faith so as to be able to understand.

If I lack faith, and consequently choose an inadequate level of significance for my investigation, no degree of 'objectivity’ will ever save me from missing the point of the whole thing, and I rob myself of the very possibility of understanding. I shall then be one of those of whom it has been said: 'They, seeing, see not; and hearing, they hear not, neither do they understand.'

In short, when dealing with something representing a higher grade of significance or Level of Being than inanimate matter, the observer depends not only on the adequateness of his own higher qualities, perhaps 'developed’ through learning and training; he also depends on the adequateness of his 'faith’ or, to put it more conventionally, of his fundamental presuppositions and basic assumptions.

In this respect he tends to be very much a child of his time and of the civilisation in which he has spent his formative years; for the human mind, generally speaking, does not just think: it thinks with ideas, most of which it simply adopts and takes over from surrounding society.

Only through the 'heart' can contact be made with the higher grades of significance and Levels of Being.

For anyone wedded to the materialistic scientism of the modern age it will be impossible to understand what this means. He has no belief in anything higher than man, and he sees in man nothing but a relatively highly evolved animal. He insists that truth can be discovered only by means of the brain, which is situated in the head and not in the heart.

All this means that 'understanding with one's heart’ is to him a meaningless collection of words. From his point of view, he is quite right: the brain, situated in the head and supplied with data by the bodily senses, is fully adequate for dealing with inanimate matter, the lowest of the four great Levels of Being. Indeed, its working would only be disturbed and possibly be distorted if the ‘heart' interfered in any way.

As a materialistic scientist, he believes that life, consciousness and self-awareness are nothing but manifestations of complex arrangements of inanimate particles - a 'faith' which makes it perfectly rational for him to place exclusive reliance on the bodily senses, to 'stay in the head', and to reject any interference from the 'powers' situated in the heart.

For him, in other words, higher levels of reality simply do not exist, because his faith excludes the possibility of their existence.

Faith is not in conflict with reason; nor is it a substitute for reason. Faith chooses the grade of significance or Level of Being at which the search for knowledge and understanding is to aim. There is reasonable faith and also unreasonable faith. To look for meaning and purpose at the level of inanimate matter would be as unreasonable an act of faith as an attempt to explain the masterpieces of human genius as nothing but the outcome of economic interests or sexual frustrations.

The faith of the agnostic is perhaps the most unreasonable of all, because, unless it is mere camouflage, it is a decision to treat the question of significance as insignificant, like saying: 'I am not willing to decide whether […] a book is merely a coloured shape, a series of marks on paper, a series of letters arranged according to certain rules or an expression of meaning.'

Not surprisingly, traditional wisdom has always treated the agnostic with withering contempt: ‘I know thy works, that thou are neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.’

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.54-7

At all levels of analysis, the level above is unseen from the level below. 

If you’re analysing something at a molecular level you can never see the apple, you’ll see its constituents. If you go down, same problem; if you go up, same problem. If you’re talking about the apple and an orchard, then if you’re looking at the level of the apple you’ll never see the orchard.

Faith is that move between levels. 

From the level at which you are, if you only analyse the elements given to you at that level then there’s no jump to the higher identity. That jump is always a leap of faith. Once you’ve made it then you can analyse things at the higher level.

We can see parts of things, and we can see wholes - we can notice that things are made of parts, and also have unity. But the jump from the parts to the unity is one which is not accessible at the level of the parts.

[Jonathan Pageau]
'Ancient Wisdom, Modern World: Bret Speaks with Jonathan Pageau', YouTube

Evolutionism is not science; it is science fiction, even a kind of hoax.

It is a hoax that has succeeded too well and has imprisoned modern man in what looks like an irreconcilable conflict between 'science' and 'religion'. It has destroyed all faiths that pull mankind up and has substituted a faith that pulls mankind down. Nil admirari.

Chance and necessity and the utilitarian mechanism of natural selection may produce curiosities, improbabilities and atrocities, but nothing that can be admired as an achievement - just as winning a prize in a lottery cannot elicit admiration. There is nothing ‘higher’ and nothing 'lower'; everything is much of a muchness, even though some things are more complex than others – just by chance.

Evolutionism, purporting to explain all and everything solely and exclusively by natural selection for adaptation and survival, is the most extreme product of the materialistic utilitarianism of the nineteenth century. The inability of twentieth-century thought to rid itself of this imposture is a failure that may well cause the collapse of Western civilisation.

For it is impossible for any civilisation to survive without a faith in meanings and values transcending the utilitarianism of comfort and survival - in other words, without a religious faith.

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.133

It is not a question of good or bad thoughts.

Reality, Truth, God, Nirvana cannot be found by thought, because thought belongs to the Level of Being established by consciousness and not to that higher Level which is established by self-awareness. At the latter, thought has its legitimate place, but it is a subservient one.

Thoughts cannot lead to 'Awakening' because the whole point is to awake from thinking into 'seeing'.

Thought can raise any number of questions; they may all be interesting, but their answers do nothing to wake us up. In Buddhism, they are called 'vain thoughts'

[E. F. Schumacher]
A Guide for the Perplexed, p.85

Art comes before language in human evolution - we learned to draw on the walls of caves before we really spoke.

Like everything in evolution, its accident. Basically we draw because it has use for the hunt, but what it also does is allow us to shift up a level of abstraction. If you go up a level of abstraction you make novel associations. I have some of my best ideas either walking or at the opera, because I’ve moved up a level of abstraction. My mind associates things in a less concrete way. Abstraction is key to innovation.

It is one of the arguments most of us from a scientific background are making against the focus on STEM education, because if you don’t have art you don’t have innovation. It is this engineering culture coming through again. Engineers who appreciate art are more likely to be exaptive.

[Dave Snowden]

[William James’s] preoccupation with "optimism" and "pessimism," together with his identification of these qualities with "health" and "sickness," suggests a certain deterioration in the intellectual atmosphere of the times, from the effects of which even those who set themselves against the times could not altogether escape - a coarsening of thought, which would eventually reduce all spiritual questions to questions of "mental health."

At first sight, James's work appears not merely to foreshadow this therapeutic view of religion, the dominant view in our own time, but to present it in a fully developed form. James conducts his investigation of religion, after all, in the psychological mode.

In […] The Varieties of Religious Experience […] he endorses the religious insight that only forces outside a person's conscious control can bring about real changes in character and outlook, but he takes the position that these forces enter the self not from above but from below, from the subterranean depths of the mind.

He judges religious ideas, or at least appears to judge them, solely by their effect on mental health, waving aside the question of their truth. Thus he argues that Christian Science and other mind-cure movements should be taken seriously because they sometimes produce a "change of character for the better," whereas liberal Christianity "does absolutely nothing" for the believer.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p. 284

Niebuhr had reservations about the political implications of Barth's neo-orthodoxy, which seemed to him to write off the political realm as irredeemably corrupt; but he too came to accept original sin as an "inescapable fact of human existence," to reject the shallow optimism of liberal theology, and to acknowledge the impossibility of justifying religious belief on purely rational grounds.

In the face of “nature's ruthlessness” - of the "brevity and mortality of natural life" - feelings of trust and gratitude (in other words, a belief in God) could not be defended by an appeal to reason, as Niebuhr explained in An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (1935).

Just as an "impartial science” could not fully justify the “right to believe” in justice or in the possibility that justice would prevail in the political order, so it could not justify a belief in the goodness of God's wicked world.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.370-1

Self-organisation is impossible without some form of memory […] Without memory, the system can do no better than merely mirror the environment. A self-organising system therefore always has a history.

This diachronic component cannot be ignored in any description of the system since previous conditions of the system form vital influences on present behaviour. Memory, on the other hand, is impossible without some form of selective forgetting. Just piling up information without some form of integration renders it insignificant.

Integration is not 'performed' through some form of decision-making within the system. Information that is not used simply fades away.

This process not only creates space in memory, but, more importantly, it provides a measure of the significance of the stored pattern. The more something is used, the stronger its 'representation' in memory will be. Use it or lose it. Self-organisation is only possible if the system can remember and forget.

Since the self-organising process is not guided or determined by specific goals, it is often difficult to talk about the function of such a system. As soon as we introduce the notion of function, we run the risk either of anthropomorphising, or of introducing an external reason for the structure of the system, exactly those aspects we are trying to avoid.

When a system is described within the context of a larger system, it is possible to talk of a function of the sub-system only within that context.

We can talk about the 'function' of the endocrine system of a lion with reference to the lion, but then it is difficult to simultaneously talk about the function of the lion itself. We can talk about the 'function' of predators in an ecosystem, but then not of the function of the ecosystem.

The notion of function is intimately linked to our descriptions of complex systems. The process of self-organisation cannot be driven by the attempt to perform a function; it is rather the result of an evolutive process whereby a system will simply not survive if it cannot adapt to more complex circumstances.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.92-3

DeLanda uses this Deleuzian analysis of relations and capacities as the foundation for an immanent sociology that can yet analyse social production at multiple societal levels.

In place of a ‘deep level’ of social structures or underlying social mechanisms that provide conventional sociology with its explanations of phenomena, he offers a flat (DeLanda, 2005: 51) ontological ‘layering’ of assemblages from micro to macro; from interpersonal interactions such as a conversation (DeLanda, 2006: 53-55) to social organisation at the level of the state (2006: 113–16).

Every social entity – for instance, an industrial corporation – emerges from interactions occurring at a smaller scale, such as a network of managers, suppliers and distributors (2006: 75). However, at each level, entities retain a degree of autonomy, enabling social investigations to be undertaken while avoiding both micro- and macro-reductionism (2006: 119).

DeLanda’s work supplies an ontology of relationality, which reverses the conventional hierarchy, in which an entity’s relations are subordinate to the entity’s essence (Buchanan, 2000: 120); in this ontology an assemblage is not to be treated as an essence in its own right (DeLanda, 2006: 4), nor does it exert force over its assembled relations.

Rather, what relations can do within an assemblage depends entirely upon the forces or ‘affects’ that relations exert upon each other (Deleuze, 1988: 101). Meanwhile, Latour’s (2005: 24) admonition to resist ‘structural’ explanations suggests a starting-point from which to explore empirically the interactions of natural and social relations in events.

[Nick J. Fox & Pam Alldred]
‘Social structures, power and resistance in monist sociology: (New) materialist insights’

Latour (2005: 7) has argued that structural or systemic explanations are frequently invoked to make sense of perceived patterns or replications of particular social formations, often in relation to social divisions, inequality or social disadvantage, and to explain constraints or limits on human action or outright oppression.

These sociological ‘explanations’ include ‘capitalism’, ‘racism’, ‘patriarchy’, ‘neoliberalism’, ‘the state’, ‘science’, ‘religion’ and so on, phenomena which – in Latour’s view – are precisely the things that themselves require explaining (2005: 8).

Ruling out any recourse to overarching ‘social structures’ or ‘systems’ or underlying ‘mechanisms’ as explanations of continuity and change means that the task of sociological inquiry is no longer to reveal the hidden social forces at work in law, science, religion, organisations or elsewhere.

A materialist sociology must consequently analyse forces and social relations, power and resistance from within the immanent, relational micropolitics of events, activities and interactions themselves.

[Nick J. Fox & Pam Alldred]
‘Social structures, power and resistance in monist sociology: (New) materialist insights’

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