Categoriearchief: Charles Leroy ‘Charlie’ Palmgren Ph.D.

BLIJF WAKKER ! – DEEL II

HOE, ZOVEEL ALS MOGELIJK, JE ‘CREATIEVE ZELF’ BLIJVEN?

 

Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth,      But I got me a nice place in the stars.

And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car.

I hid in the mother breast of the crowd,when they said: “Pull down”, I pulled op

Ooh, ooh, growin’ up[i]

– Bruce Springsteen

 Growin’ Up – Greetings from Ashbury Park, N.Y. – 1973

 

Beste Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, we worden geboren als onze Creatieve Zelf. Deze noem ik om die reden soms ook de Originele Zelf. Praktisch eenieder wordt echter, in de loop der tijd, min of meer geconditioneerd tot haar of zijn gecreëerde zelf[ii]. Gelukkig zijn jullie nog voor een stuk, en zeker nog stukken meer dan ik zelf, jullie Creatieve Zelf[iii]. Graag zou ik dit bestendigd zien. Dit is de reden waarom de hamvraag van dit deel “Hoe, zoveel als mogelijk, je Creatieve Zelf blijven?” is.

Laat me starten met de basisbegrippen Creatieve Zelf en gecreëerde zelf zo goed mogelijk te duiden en te verbinden. Hierbij stel ik van meet af aan wat volgt. Enerzijds bestaan er geen twee separate zelven; er bestaan wel twee aspecten van één zelf. Zoals een muntstuk twee facetten heeft en toch één muntstuk is, zijn wij één zelf met twee facetten: de Creatieve Zelf en gecreëerde zelf. Anderzijds bestaan er ook twee soorten bewustzijn[iv]. Elke ‘zelf’ – de Creatieve en de gecreëerde – beschikt namelijk over een specifiek bewustzijn. Ik had het al in Deel I over dit tweespan: het helder en het gekleurd bewustzijn. Het heeft, zoals ik al schreef, lang geduurd vooraleer ik dit onderscheid goed inzag. Omdat a) het onderscheid tussen die twee zo belangrijk is voor jullie opdracht, wendbaar en weerbaar blijven (zie vorige column), en b) ik wens te vermijden dat jullie ook zo lang zullen moeten worstelen met dit inzicht, ga ik in deze column er dieper op in.

De Engelse taal beschikt over twee verschillende woorden om die twee soorten bewustzijn te duiden; dit zijn de begrippen ‘awareness’ en ‘consciousness’. In het Nederlands worden deze steevast vertaald als ‘bewustzijn’. Dat is één van de oorzaken dat het voor mij, Nederlandstalige, lang duurde voordat ik doorhad dat ‘awareness’ en ‘consciousness’ twee verschillende vormen bewustzijn zijn. Met name de bewustzijnsvormen van onze onderscheiden ‘zelven’. Om het voor mij, en hopelijk ook voor jullie, duidelijk te maken, heb ik een nieuwe Nederlandse vertaling van deze Engelse begrippen ‘ontdekt’. Awareness vertaal ik als helder bewustzijn. Onze Originele of Creatieve Zelf komt helder bewust (‘aware’) ter wereld. Dit helder bewustzijn wordt langzamerhand geconditioneerd tot het gekleurd bewustzijn van de gecreëerde zelf; dus vertaal ik ‘consciousness’ als gekleurd bewustzijn.

Je zou met een metafoor kunnen stellen dat het helder bewust-zijn van de Creatieve Zelf als helder ‘wit’ licht is dat door de gecreëerde zelf, fungerend als een prisma, gebroken wordt in de kleuren van de regenboog. Vandaar ook dat ik, voor het bewustzijn horend bij de gecreëerde zelf, koos voor de naam gekleurd bewustzijn. Opvallend is dat gedurende het conditioneringsproces (met o.a. de opvoeding, school, vrienden, gemeenschap …), de meesten onder ons hoe langer hoe meer gekleurd bewust worden en, dat is dan het ergste, zich gaan vereenzelvigen met het gekleurd bewust aspect van hun gecreëerde zelf. Kortom, mensen worden hoe langer hoe meer gekleurd bewust (‘conscious’) en hoe langer hoe minder helder bewust (‘aware’). Dit alles zou je dus kunnen voorstellen als een muntstuk met aan de ene zijde de Creatieve Zelf met z’n helder bewustzijn en aan de andere zijde de gecreëerde zelf met z’n gekleurd bewustzijn.

De hamvraag van dit deel II: “Hoe, zoveel mogelijk, je Creatieve Zelf blijven?” zou kunnen geparafraseerd worden als: “Hoe, zoveel mogelijk, Helder Bewust blijven?” Hiermee wordt, beste Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, ook duidelijk waarom deze column in deze serie “Blijk Wakker!” columns hoort!

Fasten seat belts! Het helder bewustzijn is non-duaal, onbevooroordeeld, niet-lineair en neutraal. Het heeft als kenmerken transcendentie[v], vrijheid, openheid en vertrouwen. Het is kalm en vredig. Heel jonge kinderen zijn nog hoofdzakelijk helder bewust. Dit is niet verwonderlijk, gezien zij nog hoofdzakelijk hun Originele Zelf zijn. Daar het pure helder bewustzijn een ervaring is van het heel jonge kind – een ervaring die volwassenen grotendeels kwijt gespeeld zijn – is het begrip helder bewustzijn moeilijk te verwoorden. Dit is de reden, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, waarom het voor mij, de zeventig voorbij, echt moeilijk is om het helder bewustzijnook helder te beschrijven. Het helder bewustzijn leent zich bovendien niet tot volzinnen, concepten, uitleg en/of definities. Toch zal ik, tegen beter weten in, het concept helder bewustzijn in wat volgt beschrijven. Omdat men nu eenmaal zo veel mogelijk haar of zijn Creatieve Zelf blijft in de mate dat men Helder Bewust blijft.

Het helder bewustzijn

Tegenwoordig maakt het begrip Mindfulness opgang als synoniem voor helder bewustzijn. Mindfulness wordt wel eens leven met aandacht genoemd. Het is een vorm van meditatie die zijn oorsprong vindt in het Boeddhisme. Het Boeddhisme is, eerder dan een religie, een spirituele en psychologische strekking die tot meer bewustzijn of verlichting (‘’enlightment’) leidt. Boeddha wordt overigens ook de Verlichte genoemd, want de naam betekent “hij die verlicht (ontwaakt) is.” Verschillende auteurs geven aan het concept ‘Mindfulness’ heel verschillende definities; dus helpt dit begrip ons niet echt om het helder bewustzijn te definiëren.

Om het helder bewustzijn toch enigszins in woorden te vatten, vraag ik jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, te denken aan een pasgeborene. Een pasgeborene is autentiek, helder bewust, open en vol vertrouwen. Een van de sleutel elementen van z’n openheid en vertrouwen is z’n capaciteit om te observeren. Van zodra de oogfunctie het toelaat, observeert de pasgeborene de omgeving met het helder bewustzijn. Zij of hij kleurt die werkelijkheid nog niet in, met andere woorden, het brein van een pasgeborene fungeert nog niet als een prisma.

Observeren[vi] kan worden onderscheiden van percipiëren[vi], maar is er niet van gescheiden. Perceptie steunt op observeren en voegt er, gekleurd bewust, onderwerp/object onderscheiden, positieve/negatieve oordelen, het lineair en ‘het één of het ander’ denken aan toe. Dit in een streven naar verschillende betekenissen, met als onderliggend doel zich aan te passen aan de sterk veranderende wereld en daarin goed overeind te blijven. Observatie van z’n kant blijft vrij van onderwerp/object onderscheiden, is onbevooroordeeld (oordeelt dus niet in positief/negatief), is niet-lineair en streeft niet naar het kleven van labels. Observatie streeft wel naar een klaar zicht krijgen op de dingen en het bekomen van ‘het één en het ander verschillend van’ denken.

Observeren blijkt voor volwassenen een aartsmoeilijke taak. Hoewel het observeren echt zien en echt luisteren mogelijk maakt, zaken die volwassenen brood nodig hebben. Toch staan volwassenen weigerachtig tegen goed observeren. Volwassen willen niet echt observeren omdat ze intuïtief aanvoelen dat ze daardoor zullen aangezet worden te veranderen. Men wordt inderdaad door observeren uitgenodigd het persoonlijk denkkader te veranderen. Daarbij komt nog dat door echt observeren we helder bewust worden en we daardoor de controle dreigen te verliezen over onze manier van leven. Een manier waar we ons toch zo krampachtig aan vastklampen. En toch, wat een volwassene blijvend nodig heeft, is haar of zijn bereidheid iets nieuws te leren. En dus te veranderen; want leren is veranderen en veranderen is leren. De mate dat een volwassene (terug) wakker wordt, is recht evenredig met de mate waarin zij of hij een portie ‘waarheid’ tot zich kan nemen zonder er van weg te vluchten. De vraag, die elke volwassene zich dient te stellen, komt neer op: “Hoeveel van waar ik mij aan vastklamp, kan door observatie worden losgeweekt vooraleer ik mij verschans in m’n gesloten denkkader?” De eerste reactie van een volwassene, wanneer die tegenvoets genomen wordt door echte observatie, is blijkbaar angst. Het is niet dat zij of hij angst heeft voor het onbekende. Men kan nu eenmaal geen angst hebben van iets dat men niet kent. Daarom ook is een heel jong kind zo onbevreesd. Wat de volwassene bij echte observatie vreest, is het mogelijk verlies van wat hij wel weet, waar hij zich aan vastklampt, en wat door echte observatie op losse schroeven dreigt te worden gezet.

Wanneer de pasgeborene ouder wordt en zich ontwikkelt, wordt perceptie, als onderdeel van z’n aanpassing aan de wereld, hoe langer hoe dominanter. Het kind richt zich hoe langer hoe meer op het gekleurd bewustzijn ten koste van het helder bewustzijn. Het adaptieve conditioneringsproces heeft bovendien de neiging onze intenties vorm te geven en bijgevolg te dicteren waar we onze aandacht dienen op te richten. Ouders, leraars, vrienden en de samenleving verwachten en eisen dat we onze aandacht richten op hoe, welke en van wie we waardering, applaus en lof kunnen oogsten. Dit is een zowel positief als negatief proces. In de poging van het kind om zich aan te passen aan de wereld, is de neiging sterk om dit te doen ten koste van het helder bewust blijven. Ten slotte verliest het kind het onderscheid tussen het helder bewustzijn en het gekleurd bewustzijn. Gelukkig zijn jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire als puntje bij paaltje komt, zich in de praktijk nog helderder bewust van dit onderscheid dan ik, jullie grootvader Johan.

Het helder  en het gekleurd bewustzijn zou ik ook kunnen duiden als het ‘Ik-bewustzijn’ en het ‘mij-bewustzijn’. “Ik”, de Creatieve Zelf observeert en “mij”, de gecreëerde zelf, percipieert. Wij zijn bekaam om beiden te doen: observeren en percipiëren. Nochtans, werden we geconditioneerd om ons voornamelijk te identificeren met het ‘mij-bewustzijn’, eerder dan men het ‘Ik-bewustzijn’.

Omdat de Creatieve Zelf het helder bewustzijn én het gekleurd bewustzijn omvat, kan deze zowel de percepties van de gecreëerde zelf als de observaties van de Creatieve Zelf bevatten. Deze extra kwaliteit van de Creatieve Zelf vormt de basis voor authenticiteit. Authenticiteit is beide, “Ik” én “mij”. Een en ander kan als volgt voorgesteld worden:

Er kan worden gesteld dat de Creatieve Zelf zich tezelfdertijd helder bewust is van “Ik” helder bewust zijnde en van “mij” gekleurd bewust zijnde. Anderzijds is de gecreëerde zelf er zich zelden gekleurd bewust dat “Ik” helder bewust ben van “mij” gekleurd bewust zijnde. Met andere woorden, gekleurd bewust zijn is slechts een deel van het verhaal.

Het helder zelf-bewustzijn

Het helder bewustzijn van de Originele Zelf of ‘Ik-bewustzijn’ wordt ingezet wanneer we ons denken, geloven, voelen, waarderen, en gedrag observeren zonder te oordelen. Met andere woorden, wanneer tijdens het observeren we ons oordeel opschorten. De eenvoudige handeling van het observeren is metacognitief[vii] en maakt ons denken, percipiëren, interpreteren, oordelen en beslissen intentioneel, en richt ook onze aandacht. Het helder zelfbewustzijn stelt ons in staat om het gewone gekleurd zelfbewustzijn of ‘mij-bewustzijn’ te overstijgen en daarmee ook het innerlijk gekakel van wat sommigen de ‘monkey-mind’ noemen.

Het helder zelfbewustzijn observeert ook hoe we interpreteren, anticiperen en reageren op een persoon, situatie of gebeurtenis. Zoals reeds gesteld, zijn de meesten onder ons zich niet meer bewust van hun vermogen om te observeren of, indien er zich wel van bewust, zijn ze te bang dit te doen. Wij richten onze aandacht op wat en hoe we iets zeggen, iets voelen en iets doen, eerder dan te bemerken hoe en waar we onze aandacht op richten. Wij identificeren ons met, en worden daardoor, onze gedachten, gevoelens, emoties en gedragingen. Wij zijn ons er bovendien niet meer van bewust dat we bekwaam zijn onszelf te observeren als diegene die zich identificeert met dit alles. Ons teveel identificeren met onze gedachten, emoties en gedragingen (acties) is bedrieglijk. Het is van groot belang zich blijvend voor te houden dat zowel het helderals het gekleurd bewustzijn een onderdeel is van wie we werkelijk zijn. Wij hebben het vermogen om te observeren waarop, en in welke mate, wij onze aandacht richten; edoch, dat vermogen gebruiken volwassenen meestal niet. Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, mijn aanbeveling is eenvoudigweg: “Blijf jullie observatie vermogen inzetten!”

Het helder zelfbewustzijn kan naar buiten gericht zijn op wat we uiten, zeggen, en doen én het kan naar binnen gericht worden op wat we denken, voelen, en zelfs op het helder bewustzijn zelf. Het is één zaak om zich helder bewust te zijn wat er zich afspeelt in ons gekleurd bewustzijn; het is andere koek zich helder bewust te zijn dat men helder bewust is!

Zoals reeds eerder gesteld, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, het helder bewustzijn en het gekleurd bewustzijn zijn twee facetten van een geheel. Het helder bewustzijn is los van en overstijgt zelfs de grenzen van ons mentaal model. Overstijgen betekent letterlijk “verder dan de limieten gaan.” Ons mentaal model of mindset legt limieten op door het filteren van data en informatie met behulp van vooronderstelde interpretaties, meningen, waarden en aannames. Deze filters limiteren en vormen onze perceptie. Het helder bewustzijn overstijgt deze limieten en maakt de werking van de filters ongedaan.

Het helder bewustzijn zet, met andere woorden, onze gebruikelijke overtuigingen, vooronderstellingen, betekenissen en waardeoordelen buiten spel. Het laat zich niet knechten door onze intenties, ons streven en onze beslissingen teneinde lof te oogsten. Het bevindt zich in de sfeer van intuïtie en de Creatieve Zelf. De Creatieve en gecreëerde zelf ondersteunen elkaar onderling door geïntegreerde creativiteit. Daardoor transformeert de gecreëerde zelf in de richting van de Originele Zelf. Het gekleurd bewustzijn krijgt informatie van het helder bewustzijn en de interpretatie wordt op een hoger peil getild door zuivere intuïtie. Het is enkel wanneer we ons te veel identificeren met onze gecreëerde zelf dat we niet meer helder bewust zijn van onze Creatieve Zelf. Er zelfs bang van worden. Daardoor wordt uiteraard het creatief wisselwerkingsproces belemmerd.

Het helder bewust zijn van anderen

Wat hiervoor werd besproken m.b.t. het helder zelfbewustzijn van zichzelf is ook van toepassing op het helder bewust zijn van anderen. Het is in dit verband belangrijk te beseffen dat wij eerder anderen percipiërendan dat we hen observeren. Dit betekent dat we eerder de anderen percipiëren zoals wij zijn en hen niet observeren zoals zijwerkelijk zijn. Dit interfereert met ons vermogen om empatisch te zijn en dus met ons denkkader of mentaal model teneinde de ander waarderend te begrijpen. Het zich helder bewust zijn van anderen houdt ons ‘objectief’ en authentiek. Dit voornamelijk wanneer wij onze zienswijzen met hen delen of luisteren naar die van hen. Hoe helderder wij ons bewust zijn van de interpretaties die wij maken, betekenissen die wij toekennen, de meningen die wij projecteren, en de conclusies die wij trekken, hoe nauwkeuriger ons begrip van de bedoelingen, woorden, en gedrag van anderen zal zijn.

Het is essentieel dat we niet onze motieven en/of intenties aan anderen toeschrijven of op anderen projecteren. Wij moeten ons terdege helder bewust zijn van onze tendens onze focus te verliezen en dat we daardoor geen aandacht meer geven aan hoe en wat anderen communiceren. We dienen echt te luisteren en ons helder bewust te zijn van het verschil tussen wat hun intentie werkelijk is en hoe wij die interpreteren, evalueren en er op reageren. Aanhoudende aandacht is moeilijk en vereist discipline. De ‘monkey-mind’ wordt eindeloos afgeleid en dit in een fractie van een seconde. Zeker wanneer die ‘monkey-mind’ een iPhone in de hand houdt. De meeste mensen hebben de gewoonte hun ‘monkey-mind’ klakkeloos te volgen. Ze zijn zich daardoor niet helder bewust van het feit dat ze niet meer horen wat en zien hoe iets gezegd wordt en wat er gaande is. Zij zijn niet langer ten volle aanwezig in de conversatie.

Het helder bewust zijn van situaties

Het verschil tussen observeren en percipiëren van gebeurtenissen, omstandigheden en situaties is een uitbreiding van het helder bewustzijnvan zichzelf en anderen. Verschillen observeren, zonder er direct een interpretatie aan vast te knopen, is uiterst moeilijk. Het is van het grootste belang om objectief te zijn en niet te vervallen in stereotypering en projecteren[viii]. Hoe beter we observeren, hoe groter de kans dat wij zullen responderen[ix] en niet automatisch reageren, gebaseerd op onze interpretaties. Die interpretaties komen mogelijks voort uit foutieve vooronderstellingen, veronderstellingen en veralgemeningen (en misschien zelfs vooroordelen).

In het geval van creatieve wisselwerking komt responderen vanuit een intentie om te ‘zien’ en te ‘horen’ wat er werkelijk gebeurt en wordt gezegd. Dit vooraleer over te gaan tot interpreteren, toekennen van een betekenis of evalueren wat er gebeurt. Responderen is een bewuste reactie om de werkelijkheid beter te kunnen ‘zien’ en ‘horen’. Reageren, daarentegen, is een reflexmatige reactie met geen of zeer weinig voorafgaande positieve intentie. Die reflex wordt eenvoudigweg geïnitieerd door een ingesleten gewoonte patroon. Responderen is een dialoog tussen het gekleurd en helder bewustzijn. Reageren is doorschieten naar beslissing en actie.

Het gekleurd bewustzijn

Het gekleurd bewustzijn omvat dus perceptie en geeft zaken een ‘label’: voordelig-nadelig, akkoord-niet akkoord, inclusief-exclusief, goed-slecht, en juist-fout. Let wel, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, perceptie is essentieel om zich te kunnen aanpassen en daardoor te kunnen overleven in deze steeds maar sneller veranderende wereld. Percepties zorgen er voor dat er voorkeuren, betekenissen en waarden ontwikkeld worden en kleuren daardoor ons bestaan.

Door interpretatie, evaluatie en beslissing wordt, wat bekomen wordt door observatie met het helder bewustzijn, getransformeerd. Dit door de perceptie van het gekleurd bewustzijn. Daardoor wordt de “één en het ander verschillend van” observatie van het helder bewustzijn vaak de “het een of het ander” perceptie van het gekleurd bewustzijn. We komen terecht in wat veelal het “in-the-box” denken wordt genoemd. Die ‘box’ (doos) wordt gevormd door de grenzen van onze ‘fixed’ (gesloten) mindset. Door ons gekleurd bewustzijn appreciëren we de werkelijkheid op een bepaalde manier en de aldus gewaardeerde werkelijkheid wordt als het ware in de doos van onze ‘mindset’ (denkkader, mentaal model) gestopt. In feite bepaalt die gekleurde appreciatie wat er in de doos terecht komt en, wat nog belangrijker is, wat er uit wordt geweerd. Anders gesteld, we voegen toe wat we waarderen en weren wat we niet waarderen. We zien de werkelijkheid niet zoals ze is, we zien deze zoals wij zijn!

Onze voorkeuren maken dat verschillen gepolariseerd worden. Het gekleurd bewustzijn werkt inderdaad polarisatie in de hand. Er is geen sprake meer van “het één en het ander”; inderdaad, de ‘en’ is een ‘of’ geworden. We leggen onszelf op te kiezen. Een van de twee tegenstrijdige polen wordt daarbij gekozen ten nadele van de andere pool. Dit werkt uiteraard polarisatie in de hand.

Deze splitsing, de verschuiving van ‘en’ naar ‘of’, heeft meerdere gevolgen; zowel positieve als negatieve. Een van de gevolgen is dat elk idee wordt gecatalogeerd als een goed of slecht idee. Dit niettegenstaande in werkelijkheid elk idee beide eigenschappen in zich heeft. Inderdaad, elk idee en elke situatie kan gepercipieerd worden als positief én als negatief. Het begrip ‘appreciatie’ wordt in veel gevallen geassocieerd met onze voorkeuren, dus wat we percipiëren als positief. We worden als het ware blind voor de andere zijde van de medaille en dus voor de niet voorziene, niet geanticipeerde en collaterale schade. We zien die laatste niet omdat we enkel percipiëren doorheen de gekleurde bril van onze voorkeuren. We zien enkel wat goed is in een idee, dus wat we als ‘goed’ catalogeren, en zijn blind voor de mogelijke negatieve effecten van het idee. Het tegenovergestelde is ook waar: we zien enkel wat slecht is een idee, dat we als ‘slecht’ catalogeren, en zijn blind voor de mogelijke positieve effecten van het idee. Dit alles zorgt er voor dat we afglijden naar een gekleurd denkkader ten koste van een helder én gekleurd denkkader.

Een bekend metaforisch verhaal heeft mij duidelijk doen inzien dat de vraag “Wat is correct a of b?” in alle gevallen, wat de a en b ook mogen zijn, met een klare JA! dient beantwoord te worden. Het is het aloude verhaal van ‘De Boer en zijn Zen Meester’ met de terugkerende vraag “Is dit goed of is dit slecht?” Van dit verhaal bestaan er tientallen versies. Ik vertel het als een Zen story hoewel het oorspronkelijk een Tao story zou zijn[x]. Ik hoorde het ooit in Atlanta vertellen door Guido Vander Aa die daar, gedurende zijn talloze omzwervingen, tijdelijk bij een kennis van Charlie Palmgren was beland. Ik ontmoette Guido toen ik in die periode bij Charlie op werkbezoek was.

De Boer en zijn Zen Meester

Een oude arme boer bewerkte jarenlang, geholpen door z’n enige zoon en z’n enig paard, z’n hectare grond en kon daardoor ternauwernood met z’n familie van drie het hoofd boven water houden. Op een dag liet z’n vrouw het hek van het erf openstaan en daardoor liep het paard naar de vrijheid. De boer was er het hart van in en ging om advies naar z’n Zen Meester. Na het horen van het trieste verhaal van de boer, vroeg de Zen Meester: “Is dat goed of is dat slecht?” en ging verder met z’n meditatie.

De boer ging beduusd naar huis en vertelde z’n vrouw wat de Zen Meester had gezegd. Ook zij begreep diens boodschap niet. Het was toch erg dat hun enig paard de benen had genomen, toch?!? Beiden concludeerden dat de tijd misschien raad zou brengen.

De volgende ochtend zag de zoon een stof wolk naar de boerderij komen. Hij opende intuïtief het hek en … hun paard, een hengst, was teruggekeerd vergezeld door twee wilde merries. De boer ging de dag daarop terug naar de Zen Meester. Die was diep verzonken in een Mindfulness sessie, maar keek toch op toen de boer binnenstormde en luisterde aandachtig naar diens euforisch verhaal. Nadien vroeg de Zen Meester: “Is dat goed of is dat slecht?” en ging verder met z’n meditatie.

De boer ging terug naar huis. Nog verbaasder dan de vorige keer. En ook nu konden de boer en z’n vrouw geen touw knopen aan de vraag van de Zen Meester. Het was toch goed dat ze nu drie paarden hadden, toch?!? Beiden concludeerden dat de tijd misschien raad zou brengen.

De dag daarop probeerde de zoon de ongetemde merries te berijden. Bij de eerste merrie ging het uitstekend. Edoch, de tweede merrie wierp hem af en de zoon brak z’n rug. De toegesnelde dokter besloot dat de zoon verlamd was van het middel af, en dat dit zo zou blijven. Nogmaals ging de boer naar z’n Zen Meester voor advies. Toen hij diens kamer binnen kwam was de Zen Meester in diepe meditatie verzonken. Licht geïrriteerd keek de Zen Meester toch op en luisterde aandachtig naar het dramatische verhaal van de boer. Ook nu herhaalde hij na het aanhoren van het verhaal dezelfde vraag: “Is dat goed of is dat slecht” en hervatte hij z’n meditatie.

Nu liep de boer erg boos de kamer van de Zen Meester uit, de deur met een harde smak achter zich toe klappend. Nu concludeerden de boer en z’n vrouw dat de Zen Meester z’n verstand verloren had en dat het geen zin meer had hem nog te gaan opzoeken. Dat hun kind voor het leven half verlamd was, was toch uiterst slecht ?!?

Enkele dagen later brak de oorlog uit. Militaire ambtenaren kwamen in het dorp alle jonge mannen opeisen om hen in het leger in te lijven en met hen ten oorlog te trekken. De zoon van de boer werd uiteraard ongeschikt voor de legerdienst verklaard en mocht bij z’n vader en moeder blijven. Hij zou niet verschrikkelijk omkomen in die oorlog.  De boer vertrok toch naar z’n Zen Meester om hem dit heugelijke nieuws te vertellen. Zoals gebruikelijk was de Zen Meester verzonken in een meditatie. Hij schrok op toen de boer binnenstormde en aanhoorde diens jubelend verhaal. Ook nu stelde hij, na het aanhoren van het verhaal, dezelfde vraag: “Is dat goed of is dat slecht” en hervatte hij z’n meditatie. 

Het gekleurde zelf-bewustzijn

Het gekleurde zelf-bewustzijn steunt voornamelijk op conditionering door externe feedback. Het is gebaseerd op de aangeleerde perceptie dat onze eigenwaarde stoelt op acceptatie, goedkeuring, lof, en applaus van anderen. Onze zelfwaardering steunt op de veronderstelling dat onze waarde verdiend dient te worden en afhangt van de evaluatie ervan door anderen. Helaas, wanneer we gekleurd zelfbewust worden en ons richten op onze extrinsieke waarde[xii] dan doen we dit ten koste van ons helder bewustzijnen van onze Intrinsieke waarde[xiii]. Extrinsieke waarde veronderstelt dat waarde kan gekocht, verworven of verdiend worden en dus ook kan worden geweigerd of afgenomen. In feite gaat het over eigenwaarde. Daardoor komt het dat menigeen zich tot doel stelt goedkeuring te verkrijgen en verwerping te voorkomen. Dit is in feite gedrag dat wij door onze Vicieuze Cirkel hebben aangeleerd. Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, dit soort gedrag zien we ook veel bij jongeren; bijvoorbeeld bij hun pogingen om op sociale media, zoals Facebook en Instagram, zoveel mogelijk ‘volgers’ en ‘likes’ te verzamelen.Intrinsieke en extrinsieke waarde worden gepercipieerd als zijnde wederzijds exclusief; alweer een geval van ‘het een of het ander’ denken. Op beide soorten waarden gaan we in een latere column dieper in.

Blijkbaar zijn we veel waard als we ‘het goed doen’ en niets waard als we ‘falen’; onze waarde blijkt voorwaardelijk. Voor de meesten onder ons wordt het leven gereduceerd tot alles goed voor elkaar krijgen en het beheersen van het risico verworpen te worden. En dit bij zowat alles wat we denken, voelen en doen. De potentiële pijn die we ervaren wanneer we ons zelf verwerpen, wordt een constante bedreiging en een onuitputtelijke bron van stress. Deze imminente dreiging noopt ons ertoe om onze aandacht te richten op het vermijden van afwijzing en te starten met een continue zoektocht extrinsieke waarde via anderen te verkrijgen. In dit proces van continu streven naar extrinsieke waardering worden we minder helder bewust van onze Intrinsieke waarde. Met andere woorden, we raken daardoor hoe langer hoe meer verstrikt in de gesloten mindset van onze persoonlijke Vicieuze Cirkel. Deze onophoudelijke drive naar het gevoel van (extrinsieke) eigenwaarde en het vermijden van afwijzing, is de basis voor de meeste van onze verslavingen, dwanggedachten, obsessies en fobieën[xiv].

Het gekleurd bewust zijn van anderen

Het gekleurd bewust zijn van anderen zou eigenlijk dienen te gaan over het waarderen van de Intrinsieke waarde van anderen. Elke mens heeft een Intrinsieke waarde en geen enkel mens kan z’n Intrinsieke waarde verhogen of verminderen. Ze kan niet worden bekomen of verdiend; we komen daar, zoals zojuist gesteld, nog op terug! Ook heeft iedereen een Creatieve Zelf en een actuele gecreëerde zelf. De Creatieve Zelf van de ander observeert zoals de onze en hun gecreëerde zelf percipieert vanuit hun uniek perspectief en unieke ervaring, zoals onze gecreëerde zelf dat doet vanuit ons uniek perspectief en onze unieke ervaring. Op het intrinsieke niveau zijn we allen gelijk en even waardig. Dezelfde levenskracht en helder bewustzijn vloeit in ons. Deze levenskracht is in feite het creatief wisselwerkingsproces dat doorheen elk van ons vloeit (Cf. Flow[xv]). Op het extrinsieke niveau is geen enkel van ons gelijk aan een ander. Wij zijn allen vergelijkbaar en toch verschillen we danig; elk van ons is uniek. (maar ik ben iets unieker dan jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire… grapje!). Indien we ons enkel identificeren met onze actuele gecreëerde zelf, richten we ons voornamelijk op de verschillen tussen onszelf en de anderen. Wanneer we helder bewust zijn en ons identificeren met onze intrinsieke Creatieve Zelf, kunnen we ons zowel richten op onze wederzijdse overeenkomsten als op onze unieke distincties[xvi](verschillen).

Een vereiste voorwaarde voor Creatieve wisselwerking is ons engagement om helder bewust én gekleurd bewust te zijn van zowel onze intrinsieke waarde als de Intrinsieke waarde van anderen. Indien we onszelf of de anderen om één of andere reden ‘ontwaarden’ (devalueren), wordt het creatief wisselwerkingsproces zwaar gehinderd. Creatieve wisselwerking vereist wederzijds respect en een engagement tot het creëren van manieren om eventuele extrinsieke verschillen wederzijds te aanvaarden en inclusief te maken. Een gevolg van dat wederzijds respect is de intentie om te luisteren naar en waarderend te begrijpen van het perspectief van de ander; perspectief dat ontsproten is uit haar of zijn uniek referentie kader (denkkader, mindset en mentaal model). Idealiter luisteren en begrijpen wij niet vanuit onze eigen voorkeuren, waarden, meningen en overtuigingen; dus niet vanuit onze eigen mindset. Wanneer we de bedoeling hebben om anderen op een authentieke manier te begrijpen en te appreciëren, bevorderen we de werking van het creatief wisselwerkingsproces. Het is een doorgedreven inspanning om echt empatisch te worden en anderen te observeren zoals ze zijn en niet zoals wij zijn. Het is effectief helder bewust worden van wat wij denken over, interpreteren van, voelen, beslissen en reageren op wat wij observeren. Wat wij waarnemen dient, vooraleer we er op reageren, eerst uitgezuiverd te worden in een dialoog tussen ons helder en gekleurd bewustzijn. Deze dialoog kan zelfs een ‘cruciale’ zijn.

Het gekleurd bewustzijn apprecieert de anderen. Appreciëren betekent zowel de positieve als de negatieve elementen zien in de ideeën, perspectieven en situaties. Let wel wat ‘positief’ en ‘negatief’ wordt genoemd is op zich ook een inkleuring! Het is, op z’n best, het vermogen om te denken en te evalueren in zowel “het één of het ander” als “het één en het ander” termen. Alleen door het kijken naar het volledige spectrum van positieve en negatieve aspecten van een persoon, idee, zaak of situatie kan men authentiek waarderend begrijpen. Het gekleurd of ‘mij-bewustzijn’ splitst verschillen in tegenstellingen, paradoxen[xvii] en polarisatie[xviii]. Bij polarisatie worden de verschillen gezien als exclusief, met andere woorden ze sluiten elkaar uit; eerder dan als potentieel inclusief (ze kunnen potentieel in elkaar opgaan en elkaar versterken). Creatieve wisselwerkingis inclusief, behalve in die gevallen dat het opnemen van een idee, mening, zaak of persoon, de voortschrijdende integratie en transformationele verandering zou belemmeren.

 Het gekleurd bewust zijn van situaties

Situationele waardering van situaties met het gekleurd bewustzijn gebruikt idealiter een “het één en het ander” observatie, perceptie en cognitie. Dus een volledig spectrum evaluatie en interpretatie van situaties en gebeurtenissen. Dit veronderstelt ook dat er variërende graden van nauwkeurigheid en onnauwkeurigheid in alle evaluaties en interpretaties zijn. Men aanvaardt dus dat elke interpretatie mogelijks foutief en dus voor correctie vatbaar is. Een dusdanige situationele waardering is verbonden met de idee van wetenschappelijke objectiviteit. Het doel is de bias[xix] in iemands perceptie, denken, voelen, beslissen en gedrag te verminderen. Men zoekt naar de ‘feiten en waarheid’ betreffende de ‘werkelijkheid’ in elke bepaalde situatie.

Besluit

De hamvraag van dit deel : “Hoe, zoveel mogelijk, je ‘Creatieve Zelf’ blijven?” heeft dus als antwoord: “Door, zoveel mogelijk, helder bewust te blijven!”. Dit komt neer op terug, zoveel mogelijk, als jong kind onbevangen naar de werkelijkheid te kijken. Dus te observeren wat er werkelijk aan de hand is. Dit alles door Creatieve wisselwerking blijvend van binnen uit te beleven en zich niet te laten ringeloren door de Vicieuze Cirkel. Theoretisch kinderlijk eenvoudig, want elke baby en peuter doet het moeiteloos; praktisch … wel, dat is andere koek! De volgende delen zullen jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, heel wat bijkomende inzichten geven die jullie kunnen helpen jullie taak tot een goed einde te brengen. Het aansluitend werk zullen jullie zelf blijvend dienen te doen!

___________________________________________________________________________

[i]Bruce Springsteen, Quote uit song Growin’ Up uit album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Columbia Records, 1973

[ii]Conditioneren is gedrag of gewoonten aanleren door straf of beloning (de gekende stok en wortel – dit gebeurt al vanaf de prille jeugd: denk maar aan het zinnetje van een aloud Sinterklaasliedje: “wie stout is krijgt de roe”). Ik noem de actuele zelf de gecreëerde zelf en zou hem ook de geconditioneerde of aangeleerde zelf kunnen noemen. Om het verschil tussen creatieveen gecreëerde in de verf te zetten heb ik voor gecreëerde zelf gekozen als naam voor onze actuele zelf.

[iii]De Creatieve Zelfis op de keper beschouwd onveranderlijk en zit nog altijd ergens in ons, maar meestal heel diep; wij vereenzelvigen ons namelijk veeleer met onze actuele gecreëerde zelf.

[iv]Bewustzijn: staat van zijn, bekwaam zijn om verschillen te onderkennen.

[v]Transcendentie is een filosofisch begrip dat kan gedefinieerd worden als het overstijgen van de mens; het zich verheffen boven de dualiteit van het zich vereenzelvigen met de werkelijkheid, het hier en nu bewustzijn; het gekleurd bewustzijn.

[vi]Observeren: Het aandachtig en nauwkeurig bekijken (waarnemen) van dingen zonder te oordelen.

[vii]Percipiëren: Waarnemend begrijpen door te beoordelen wat geobserveerd werd.

[viii]Metacognitief:Metacognitie betekent letterlijk “denken over denken” (meta = over, cognos = denken). Metacognitie is het actief monitoren (meten & evalueren) en daarop gebaseerd sturen (regelen) van cognitieve processen om cognitieve doelen te bereiken. Het begrip cognitief doelt op alle informatieprocessen die zich afspelen in de hersenen.

[ix]Projectie (psychologie): Van projectie kan sprake zijn wanneer men eigenschappen of emoties van zichzelf tracht te ontkennen, verbergen of verdringen door deze toe te schrijven aan iets of iemand anders. De klassieke opvatting en uitleg van projectie is dat het een afweermechanisme is tegen negatieve emoties.

[x]Responderen: Behoedzaam antwoorden, dus eerst nadenken en afwegen vooraleer te antwoorden.

[xi]Alan Wilson Watts. Tao: The Watercourse Way. New York NY: Pantheon Books, 1975

[xii]Extrinsieke waarde: de waarde die [iemand] aantrekkelijk en bruikbaar maakt; de kwaliteit die kan gekocht, verworven of verdiend worden.

[xiii]Intrinsieke waarde: de kwaliteit die [iemand] waardevol maakt; de kwaliteit binnenin de persoon die waardering of respect afdwingt.

[xiv]Fobie: een (irreële) angst voor situaties waar geen aanwijsbaar groot gevaar aanwezig is. Voorbeelden: bloedangst, pleinvrees en angst voor spinnen.

[xv]Flow: refereert aan een mentale toestand waarin een persoon volledig opgaat in zijn of haar bezigheden. Belangrijkste theoreticus achter dit concept is de Amerikaanse psycholoog Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

[xvi]Distinctie: verschil, onderscheid; vb. De distinctie tussen lage en hoge klassen. Quote Peter M. Senge: “Do we hear with our ears? Do we see with our eyes? Or do we see and hear with our distinctions?”

[xvii]Paradox: Schijnbare tegenspraak. Stijlfiguur die op het eerste gezicht op een tegenstelling of tegenspraak lijkt, maar die bij nader inzien toch een waarheid lijkt te bevatten. Bijvoorbeeld: “Ik leg mij toe op het schrijven van begrijpelijk Nederlands. Maar ik ben een ingenieur.” (Johan Roels – Multatuli parafraserend)

[xviii]Polarisatie: (politiek): het veroorzaken van een conflict of het versterken van tegenstellingen tussen bevolkingsgroepen

[xix]Bias: vertekening van de evaluatie; een systematische fout door het gekleurd bewustzijn. De vertekening kan bedoeld zijn (dan spreken we van manipulatie) of niet bedoeld (te wijten dus aan de ‘gekleurde bril’).

BLIJF WAKKER ! – DEEL I

HOE WENDBAAR EN WEERBAAR BLIJVEN?

For what are we
Without hope in our hearts
That someday we’ll drink
From God’s blessed waters
And eat the fruit from the vine?
– Bruce Springsteen

Across the Border – The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995) [i]

Dit is de cruciale vraag! In dit eerste deel zal ik die, zo goed en zo kwaad ik kan, beantwoorden. Edoch, deze vraag zal slechts volledig beantwoord zijn nadat alle hoofdstukken (columns) zijn geschreven. Ik ben er mij bovendien van bewust dat dit deel niet eenvoudig is en dat jullie deze tekst heel waarschijnlijk niet direct ten volle zullen begrijpen. Dat is niet erg, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire! Het gaat hier om materie waar ik zelf een twintigtal jaar voor nodig had om ze enigszins te begrijpen. En wat meer is, mijn begrijpen ervan verbetert nog stelselmatig. Het gaat, ook voor mij, om een voortschrijdend inzicht in de opdracht die we eigenlijk allemaal hebben: wendbaar en weerbaar blijven/worden. En ik dien ergens te beginnen, toch?!?

Laat ik, gevolg gevend aan het eerste van het tweeledig engagement van Henry Nelson Wieman, beginnen met het beste van m’n weten:

Om wendbaar en weerbaar te blijven dienen jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, een tweeledige beslissing te nemen, dit teneinde blijvend:

  1. jullie ver van de Vicieuze Cirkel te houden en

  2. het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces van binnen uit te beleven.

Ik ben mij er van bewust dat ik in raadsels spreek. Om die raadsels op te lossen, verwijs ik naar gedeelten van m’n vorige boeken. Zo is de Vicieuze Cirkel een concept dat ik leerde van Charlie Palmgren. Charlie beschreef dit concept uitvoerig in ‘The Chicken Conspiracy’[ii]. Zelf beschreef ik de Vicieuze Cirkel in m’n reeds geciteerde boeken en heb er letterlijk uren lezingen over gegeven. Ik raad jullie aan om eens hoofdstuk 3 van ‘Cruciale dialogen’[iii] te lezen. Wat het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces betreft: dit is het levensproces – ook leer- en transformatieproces genoemd – waarmee jullie alle drie geboren zijn. Het is het natuurlijk proces dat in elk gezond kind bij de geboorte wordt ‘ingebed’. Jullie hebben ondertussen wel al begrepen dat cruciale dialogen een praktische toepassing zijn van Creatieve wisselwerking. Het lijkt mij dan ook nuttig dat jullie Deel III van ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’ [iv] ooit eens zouden lezen.

Neem daar gerust jullie tijd voor. Wat er ook van zij, deze gedeelten dienen, ook door mij, af en toe eens nagelezen te worden. Ik noem die boeken daarom naslagwerken. Ik heb er zelf naar gegrepen telkens het leven me ‘tegenvoets’ nam of er iets gebeurde dat ik niet direct kon plaatsen. Zoals jullie weten ligt er voor elk van jullie een exemplaar van elk boek klaar.

Hoe je het draait of keert, het is en blijft geen makkelijke materie. Ook niet voor mezelf. Het meeste verwonderlijke is dat we als baby en peuter met die materie helemaal geen moeite hadden. Dat ik er jullie, via deze column, nu mee lastig val, is omdat ik het zo belangrijk vind jullie deze kennis, die niet in scholen onderwezen wordt, nu mee te geven. Ik kan echt niet wachten tot het moment dat jullie deze materie makkelijker zullen kunnen vatten. Want dan zal ik er denkelijk zelf niet meer zijn. Ik doe het, eerlijk gezegd, ook voor mezelf: het geeft mij een goed gevoel!

Indien gewenst, kan ik jullie drie ook een lezing geven over deze twee belangrijke onderwerpen; dit op jullie simpele vraag (smiley).

Hoe blijvend uit de greep van de Vicieuze Cirkel blijven?

Blijvend uit de greep van de Vicieuze Cirkel blijven, komt eigenlijk neer op het verbonden blijven met uw Intrinsieke Waarde. Dit begrip heb jij Eloïse dit najaar (2018) in de Godsdienstles op het SUI[v] geleerd!

Eerst en vooral dient men daartoe het gevaar – met name de gevangene te worden van z’n persoonlijke Vicieuze Cirkel– te onderkennen. Men dient als het ware de eigen ‘kooi’ te herkennen en te erkennen dat men er in dreigt te verzeilen.

Een van de grootste talenten van de mens is dat zij of hij helder bewust kan zijn van zichzelf en ook bewust kan zijn van het inkleuren (‘consciousness’) van dat helder bewustzijn (‘awareness’). Zoals jullie zien, gebruik ik regelmatig de Engelstalige begrippen ‘awareness’ en ‘consciousness’. Dit omdat het mij belangrijk lijkt dat jullie het verschil tussen die twee termen leren kennen; termen die in het Nederlands steevast als ‘bewustzijn’ vertaald worden. Ik kom er zeker in volgende columns (hoofdstukken) nog op terug.

Het gaat om het waarderend begrijpen van z’n eigen unieke individualiteit en denkkader (‘mindset’). Dit wordt ook soms de eigen identiteit genoemd. Het waarderend begrijpen van de eigen identiteit komt neer op zich helder bewust (‘aware’) zijn van het feit dat men gedreven is z’n zelfachting te beschermen tegen negatieve evaluaties, door anderen, van haar of zijn gecreëerde zelf. Deze zelfbescherming is een de hoofdoorzaken van de vertekening van het waarderend begrijpen van de realiteit. Deze vertekening leidt onvermijdelijk naar een vals inzicht van de werkelijkheid. De werkelijkheid betreffende zichzelf, anderen, omstandigheden en ervaringen is dus vertekend. Men dient bovendien te begrijpen dat, wegens deze vertekening, het eigen waardesysteem niet op dezelfde golflengte zit met de werkelijkheid. Dit heeft effecten op de waarachtigheid van iemands intuïtie.

Wanneer men (h)erkend dat men de gevangene dreigt te worden van de Vicieuze Cirkel, wordt men er zich bewust van dat de eigen perceptie ontwricht is. Men ziet met andere woorden in dat men de werkelijkheid niet ziet zoals die is. Men ziet daarbij ook in dat men de werkelijkheid ziet zoals men zelf is. Dit dubbel inzicht kan de start worden van het proces om uit de Vicieuze Cirkel te blijven. Met andere woorden, door het risico te herkennen is het al onderweg beheerst te worden. Dit betekent dat men bekwaam is om eigen oordelen, reacties en gedrag (i.e. eigen acties) kritisch te beoordelen, waardoor betrouwbaardere observaties doorheen het ‘ego systeem’ (i.e. de eigen mindset) kunnen breken. Kortom, iemand kan min of meer bevrijd worden van het risico van een gesloten denkkader (‘closed mindset’) en dit denkkader blijvend open houden, zodat men betrouwbaardere inzichten bekomt.

Een tweede onderdeel van het proces om uit de Vicieuze Cirkel te blijven, is dat men zich bewust blijft van het gevaar beïnvloed te zijn door de cultuur van de sociale groep waartoe men behoort. Het perspectief van de gemeenschap waarin men is opgegroeid, beïnvloedt het persoonlijk oordelen. Anders gesteld, iemands persoonlijk denkkader (mindset) wordt sterk beïnvloed door het collectieve denkkader van de gemeenschap en dus de cultuur waartoe men behoort.

Men kan zich daar tot op zekere hoogte uit bevrijden door te herkennen en erkennen dat men zich bevindt in deze situatie van culturele beïnvloeding. Dit kan dan de start zijn voor het stellen van kritische vragen omtrent de geldigheid van oordelen die men, of de eigen gemeenschap, maakt betreffende de ‘ander’. Wanneer men diep overtuigd is van dit feitelijk gegeven, betreffende zichzelf en z’n cultuur, kan men blijvend zoeken naar feiten en bewijzen aangaande de werkelijkheid. En dit met een opener geest, dan het geval zou zijn indien men deze waarheid niet zou erkennen.  Met andere woorden, het ogenblik dat men zich volledig bewust is dat iemands inzichten en daardoor conclusies wazig kunnen zijn door diens denkkader – denkkader dat sterk beïnvloed wordt door het collectief denkkader (d.w.z. de cultuur waartoe men behoort) – kan men het aldus gekleurd bewustzijn openbreken en in vraag stellen. Ik noem dit een dialoog tussen het gekleurd en helder bewustzijn. Op die manier, is het helder bewustzijn terug aan zet en wordt het ondergaan van een creatieve transformatie, naar correctere inzichten en oordelen betreffende iemands eigen cultuur en de collectieve cultuur waartoe zij of hij behoort, mogelijk!

Het derde onderdeel van deze ontwijkingsaanpak vloeit voort uit het feit dat eenieders actuele ‘zelf’, eigenlijk onaf en in transitie is. Ik noem die actuele zelf steevast de gecreëerde zelf. Menselijke wezens zijn nu eenmaal onvoltooid. Zij zijn op weg om te transformeren tot een ‘hogere’ zelf, ten minste indien ze zich niet vastklampen aan hun actuele zelf. Met andere woorden, als jullie Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, uw Creatieve Zelf (waarmee jullie geboren zijn en nog voor een behoorlijk stuk zijn) z’n werk laat doen, zal jullie gecreëerde zelf een voortdurende transformatie ten goede ondergaan. Op die manier wordt jullie gecreëerde zelf een continu evoluerende zelf in de richting van de Originele Zelf.

Gezien elke mens in transitie is, dus nog niet het wezen dat zij of hij zou kunnen worden, dient zij of hij – indien zij of hij überhaupt wil blijven ten goede evolueren – te streven naar het bekomen van een denkkader dat continue transformatie omarmt. Dat geldt uiteraard ook voor jullie. Deze continue creatieve transformatie mag geenszins stoppen. Indien dit gebeurt, blijft de gecreëerde zelf op een bepaald ‘onvoltooid’ niveau steken en sterft de aangeboren creativiteit. Waardoor het individu achterblijft met een op dat niveau vastgeroest, niet-veranderend denkkader. Anders gesteld, het individu wordt de gevangene van z’n eigen mindset. Men wordt de gevangene van z’n eigen Vicieuze Cirkel.

Het is dus erg belangrijk dat jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, waarderend begrijpen dat continue creatieve transformatie de sleutel is tot het verbeteren van jullie (nog) niet complete gecreëerde zelf. Ook dienen jullie die sociale relaties en later een werkomgeving te zoeken, waardoor het tweeledig engagement – dat zo dadelijk aan bod komt – jullie creativiteit naar een hoger niveau tilt. Dit zowel in jullie eigen persoon als in jullie sociale relaties.

Hoe blijvend het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces van binnenuit te beleven?

De tweede beslissing betreft een persoonlijk tweeledig engagement[vi] om het creatief wisselwerkingsproces, waarbij iemands talenten ten volle worden ingezet, blijvend van binnen uit te beleven. Maar hoe doe je dat in de praktijk?

Bij een dusdanige beslissing wordt er, beste Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, eerst en vooral van uitgegaan dat men z’n studies en later z’n werk kiest in lijn met z’n talenten. Daarbij zullen jullie ook dienen na te gaan of de organisatie waar jullie zullen studeren en werken zorgt voor (ten minste een aantal van) de condities die nodig zijn voor de transformatie van de mens. Als dit niet het geval is, dienen jullie die organisatie links te laten liggen en uit te kijken naar een alternatief. Dat klinkt cru. Men moet toch de eerste beste job aanpakken? Nee, dat moeten jullie niet. Uit ervaring weet ik dat het moeilijker is van job te veranderen – wanneer later blijkt dat er te weinig van de nodige condities op het werk (nog) voor handen zijn – dan wat meer tijd te steken in de keuze van een goede werkplek.

Over deze condities kunnen jullie veel lezen in m’n boek ‘Cruciale dialogen’. Ik beperk me hier tot de opsomming ervan. Ik kom er later nog uitvoerig op terug. Het zijn wel condities die jullie initieel van de natuur mee kregen en die spijtig genoeg binnen nogal wat organisaties beknot worden:

  • Vertrouwen
  • Openheid
  • Nieuwsgierigheid
  • Kunnen omgaan met onzekerheid
  • Het kunnen verbinden van ogenschijnlijk los val elkaar staande zaken
  • Creativiteit
  • Doorzettingsvermogen
  • Interafhankelijkheid

Ten tweede,  jullie dienen zich ‘volledig’ te geven. Dit betekent dat jullie, waar het gaat om het beleven van het creatief wisselwerkingsproces, niets mogen achterhouden. Ook niet jullie miskleunen, tekortschieten, schaamte en uiteraard niet jullie kernkwaliteiten en sterktes. Door zowel het ene als het andere te onderkennen, zullen jullie nederig blijven en zich verre van arrogantie houden. Door nederig te blijven, kent men zichzelf beter, stelt men de juiste vragen en tolereert men beter ambiguïteit en onzekerheid. Dit zorgt ervoor dat jullie niet direct de ‘waarheid’ inkleuren en doorschieten naar niet erg gefundeerde conclusies. Daardoor voelen jullie zich ook niet ‘beter dan’ of ‘superieur aan’ anderen en blijven jullie dankbaar dat jullie creatieve wisselwerking blijvend van binnen uit kunnen beleven. Dit alles betekent dat jullie ten volle Reinhold Niebuhr’s ‘Gebed om Kalmte’ beleven:

God, schenk mij de kalmte om te aanvaarden wat ik niet kan veranderen,
de moed om te veranderen wat ik kan veranderen
en de wijsheid om het verschil tussen beide te zien.

Nogmaals, dit alles komt neer op het erkennen van het gevaar van z’n eigen Vicieuze Cirkel en op het zich ten volle inzetten voor het levensproces waarmee men geboren is: Creatieve wisselwerking.

Ten derde,  heeft dit engagement, tot het blijvend beleven van Creatieve wisselwerking van binnen uit, nood aan intensiteit en volharding. Jullie dienen van binnen uit het beleven van Creatieve wisselwerking te beheersen. En dus open te staan voor het nieuwe, het betere en het vollere. Daartoe bestaat er geen stappenplan of een sluitend theoretisch concept. Overigens indien een dusdanige richtlijn zou bestaan, zou dit neerkomen op controle ‘van buiten naar binnen’. Om effectief te zijn, dienen jullie het van binnen uit beleven van Creatieve wisselwerking niet ‘tweedehands’ over te nemen van een derde. Ook niet van jullie grootvader! Integendeel, dit beleven dient ontwikkeld te worden door eenieder van jullie op een manier die passend is voor jullie eigen specifieke talenten en noden.

L’homme est une aventure dont il peut être le créateur

Het doel van dit engagement is jullie Creatieve Zelf in te zetten voor actie met als doel een nieuw denkkader te creëren en zich te verbinden met de belangrijkste opdracht die er is, met name de creatieve transformatie van jullie gecreëerde zelf. Daardoor blijven jullie wendbaar en weerbaar.

Albert Camus schreef ooit: “… l’homme n’a pas de nature humaine donnée une fois pour toutes, … il n’est pas une créature achevée, mais une aventure dont il peut être le créateur [vii] (in het Nederlands wordt dit: … de mens heeft geen definitieve menselijke natuur … hij is geen afgewerkte creatie, maar een avontuur waarvan hij de schepper kan zijn).“ Ook Friedrich Nietzsche, JP Sartre, G.B. Shaw en anderen hebben dit idee geopperd. Deze schrijvers hadden niet hetzelfde idee over welke soort transformatie de mens op het hoogste niveau zou brengen. Ze verschilden ook van mening betreffende de procedures die gevolgd dienden te worden om dit te bewerkstelligen. Ze kwamen wel overeen dat het menselijk wezen a) niet compleet en b) een wordingsproces is. Anders gesteld, de mens dient zich continue te transformeren teneinde (hopelijk) uiteindelijk de finale staat te bereiken. Ook hier is het proces belangrijker dan het doel!

Het transformatie proces, dat ik Creatieve wisselwerking (Creative Interchange) noem, transformeert de geest – die zichzelf niet kan transformeren – zodat de aldus getransformeerde geest accurater helder bewust (aware’) kan zijn van ervaringen. De geest is zich dus helderder bewust van de werkelijkheid en kan daardoor meer leren. De transformatie gebeurt door het vormen van steeds correcter gekleurd bewuste (conscious) niveaus van de geest. Die transformatie – van het gekleurd bewustzijn (duaal bewustzijn in de zin van consciousness) door gebruik te maken van het helder bewustzijn (niet duaal bewustzijn, zijnde awareness) – is noodzakelijk voor a) het correct omgaan met ‘donkere’ realiteiten, zoals ongevallen en ziekte, b) het vormen van betrouwbare intuïtie waardoor effectieve handeling mogelijk wordt, c) in actie brengen van alle beschikbare talenten en middelen, en tot slot, d) het voldoen van zichzelf in de heelheid van haar of zijn wezen.

Kortom, het doel van dit persoonlijk tweevoudig engagement voor het van binnenuit beleven van Creatieve wisselwerking is de transformatie van de gecreëerde zelf, en deze van anderen, in de richting van de Originele Zelf. Edoch, de beslissing nemen is slechts een eerste stap. De beslissing effectief uitvoeren is de volgende en dat is, eerlijk gezegd, andere koek. Jullie werkelijk blijvend uit de Vicieuze Cirkel houden én het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces van binnen uit beleven is inderdaad de cruciale tweede stap. Beslissend om werkelijk wendbaar en weerbaar te blijven.

Living Richly with Dark Realities [viii]

Nog een stukje over het omgaan met de donkere realiteiten van het leven, zoals de dood of een onvoorziene ramp. Het gaat hierbij om het omgaan met realiteiten die niet kunnen worden beheerst. Dit brengt mij terug, lieve Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, tot het ‘Gebed om Kalmte’ van Reinhold Niebuhr en tot het feit dat men, bijvoorbeeld in het geval van de dood, die realiteit onmogelijk kan veranderen. De dood is nu eenmaal een intrinsiek onderdeel van het leven. Men kan echter wel zijn perceptie (d.w.z. het inkleuren) van de werkelijkheid beheersen. Inderdaad kan men, enerzijds, de dood niet elimineren, noch ontwijken in het menselijk leven en, anderzijds, kan de dood wel degelijk geïntegreerd worden in de heelheid van iemands wezen.

Het zich volledig realiseren wat goed is kan maar ten volle gebeuren indien ook wat niet goed is (‘de donkere realiteiten’) waarderend begrepen wordt. Die donkere realiteiten worden ten volle zichtbaar wanneer de geest er zich helder van bewust is. Die donkere realiteiten zijn ‘niet goed’ op zich zelf én dit negatieve wordt versterkt wanneer men weigert hen te zien zoals ze werkelijk zijn.

Men kan maar creatieve transformatie beleven tijdens periodes van diepe miserie, waarin men geconfronteerd wordt met donkere realiteiten, indien men het tweeledig engagement voor Creatieve wisselwerkingheeft beleefd voordat het uur van die donkere realiteiten toeslaat.

Het ergste wat jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, kunnen doen wanneer jullie geconfronteerd worden met een donkere realiteit, zoals de dood van iemand die jullie  lief is of een ongeneeslijke ziekte, is die werkelijkheid ontwijken. Met ontwijken bedoel ik hier de weigering om de donkere realiteit in de ogen te kijken. Dat deed ik niet toen ik het verdict van darmkanker kreeg. Gezien ik Creatieve wisselwerkingreeds in goede tijden van binnen uit had beleefd, kon ik dit ook toen ik geconfronteerd werd met deze donkere realiteit. Ik keek de kanker in de ogen en ging er mee in dialoog. Weliswaar een ‘cruciale’ en gebaseerd op het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces. Ik beleefde m’n eigen boek!

Wanneer we, ten volle helder bewust, een donkere realiteit ontwijken, dan ondermijnen we ook het zich ten volle gekleurd bewust zijn van al het andere, dus ook van het ‘goede’. Kortom, niemand kan ten volle en uitbundig leven, tenzij zij of hij in staat is om de duistere realiteiten waarderend te begrijpen. Zo kan men uitbundig leven in onzekerheid. Deze donkere realiteiten zijn niet ‘goed’ als zodanig, verre van, en toch leidt het volledig waarderend begrijpen ervan tot een uitbundiger leven. Daarin domineert Creatieve wisselwerking de Vicieuze Cirkel. Die laatste draait als het ware terug door de kracht van de eerste, zodat men terug in verbinding komt met z’n Intrinsieke Waarde. Een ruwe versie van deze metafoor werd mij door jullie moeder Daphne aangereikt in Atlanta, toen we daar samen ‘op toer’ waren (1995). De uiteindelijke versie in het Nederlands (de Engelse versie zien jullie bovenaan mijn website):

Wanneer dit plaatst vindt – en alleen in dat geval – zullen deze donkere realiteiten uiteindelijk een positieve waarde hebben. Wees er echter klaar van bewust, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, dat de donkere realiteit niet noodzakelijkerwijs tot de noodzakelijke transformatie leidt. Dat zal ze niet, tenzij de donkere realiteit een aanzet is voor het van binnen uit beleven van jullie tweeledig engagement inzake Creatieve wisselwerking. Dit engagement is geen garantie voor succes én het is – voor zo ver ik, jullie grootvader Johan, weet – de enige weg voor het vrijmaken van alle talenten en middelen van jullie (Originele) Creatieve Zelf ten behoeve van constructieve, dus opbouwende, actie.

___________________________________________________________________________

[i] Bruce Springsteen, Across the Border uit The Ghost of Tom Joad, Colombia Records, 1995 (Geïnspireerd door ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, John Steinbeck’s epos, 1939; John Ford’s film adaptatie, 1940; alsook Woody Guthrie’s The Ballad Of Tom Joad, 1960 – Tom Joad de hoofdfiguur zijnde van het boek van John Steinbeck). Wanneer ik het begrip ‘God’ gebruik, bedoel ik daarmee – zoals Henry Nelson Wieman – het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces.

[ii] Stacie Hagan & Charlie Palmgren. The Chicken Conspiracy, Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity, Baltimore, MA: Recovery Communications, Inc., 1998.

[iii] Johan Roels. Cruciale dialogen, Het dagdagelijks beleven van ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’, Antwerpen-Apeldoorn, Garant, 2012. pp. 103-121.

[iv] Johan Roels. Creatieve wisselwerking, Nieuw business paradigma als hoeksteen voor veiligheidszorg en de lerende organisatie, Leuven-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2001, Deel III, pp. 257-296.

[v] SUI: afkorting van het Sint-Ursula-Instituut, een katholieke school voor secundair onderwijs van de zusters Ursulinen in Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Waver.

[vi] Dit is het tweeledig engagement van Henry Nelson Wieman en luidt als volgt:

  1. Geef steeds het beste van jezelf;
  2. Blijf daarbij open voor het proces dat dit beste verandert in iets dat nieuwer, beter en voller is (dit proces is uiteraard het Creatief wisselwerkingsproceszelf).

[vii] Albert Camus. L’Homme Révolté, Paris: Gallimard, Collection nrf, 1951.

[viii] Henry Nelson Wieman. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958, Chapter 3.

 

BLIJF WAKKER ! – INLEIDING

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all
– Joni Mitchell

Both Sides Now – Clouds – 1969 

1969 – het wonderbaarlijkste jaar van m’n leven – totnognu

Jarenlang zocht ik naar de basiscondities en vaardigheden die het dagelijks beleven van het creatief wisselwerkingsproces[i] daadwerkelijk ondersteunen. Uiteindelijk begreep ik dat dit beleven plaats vindt bij het succesvol voeren van moeilijke gesprekken; gesprekken die ik uiteindelijk ‘Cruciale dialogen’ noemde. Het boek ‘Cruciale dialogen’[ii] beschrijft dan ook de acht basiscondities en zestien vaardigheden die ingezet dienen te worden bij het voeren van succesvolle stevige babbels; dit onder meer bij het oplossen van problemen en het beantwoorden van belangrijke vragen. Langzamerhand werd, gedurende deze tien jaar durende queeste, de vlinder – het Cruciaal Dialoogmodel – geboren. Eens zich met grote moeite uit z’n cocon vrijgemaakt, kon ook deze vlinder heerlijk vliegen!

Dat ‘Cruciale dialogen’ eerder een doe boek dan een leesboek is, werd mij pijnlijk en glasscherp duidelijk toen ik nog geen jaar na de publicatie ervan geconfronteerd werd met een tweede levensbedreigende ziekte in nog geen vijf jaar tijd: darmkanker stadium III. Gelukkig bleek ik bij deze tegenslag wendbaar en dus pro-actief. Zo gaf ik m’n huisarts van bij het begin m’n vermoeden mee dat de oorzaak van m’n klachten dikke darmkanker was. M’n huisarts verwierp deze diagnose, zich steunend op m’n medisch dossier, dat via z’n grootvader en vader bij hem terecht gekomen was en dat hij al een tiental jaar bijwerkte. Gedurende ettelijke maanden beweerde hij bij hoog en bij laag dat dikke darmkanker in mijn geval onmogelijk was. Nadat medicatie geen soelaas bracht, besloot hij na een maand toch een paar onderzoeken te laten doen: longfoto’s, een paar CT-scans en uiteindelijk, op m’n verder aandringen, ook nog een MRI onderzoek. Dat laatste bracht ‘iets’ aan het licht dat volgens de beschrijving van de specialist “datgene was waardoor m’n huisarts het MRI onderzoek had voorgeschreven.” M’n huisarts begreep de cryptische taal van de specialist niet en las die mij voor. Ik vertaalde dat ‘iets’ als ‘darmkanker’. Op dat moment ging hij eindelijk overstag en schreef een onderzoek voor bij een internist. Het werd mij later overduidelijk dat m’n huisarts toen geleid werd door z’n gekleurd, vastgeroest denkkader (of mindset) en te weinig open stond voor dissidente data en dus voor het klaar bewustzijn; dit laatste omschrijft de Engelse taal kernachtig met het begrip ‘awareness’. Daardoor geloofde m’n huisarts m’n ‘innerlijke zekerheid’ (een begrip dat ik van Paul de Blot SJ leerde) niet en werd m’n pro-activiteit vier maanden lang de mond gesnoerd. Hij was tenslotte dokter, ik een leek en hij beschikte over m’n medisch dossier dat een halve eeuw overspande. Zelf had ik ook nogal wat moeite om onder mijn aangeleerde loyaliteit t.o.v. m’n huisarts uit te komen en dus m’n eigen gekleurd bewustzijn af te zweren. Ook dat werd uiteindelijk een ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’ levensles!

Dus na heel wat getreuzel stuurde m’n huisdokter Dirk Bafort mij – op m’n nadrukkelijk aandringen en na vier maanden darmklachten – door naar een specialist. Ik volgde – wat de specifieke dokter die hij voorstelde betrof – z’n advies niet en koos zelf voor dr. Bruno Vermeersch. Ik had ondertussen geleerd dat ik zelf in de zogenaamde ‘drivers seat’ diende plaats te nemen en m’n toekomst zelf in handen te nemen en had dus m’n huiswerk, voordat het verdict viel, al gemaakt (had er ook voldoende tijd voor gekregen). Op 19 augustus 2013 duurde het welgeteld een minuut om een joekel van een gezwel via endoscopie in beeld te brengen.

Had dr. Dirk Bafort een zogenaamde ‘touché’ toegepast, was het gezwel al vier maand daarvoor ‘boven water’ gekomen. Blijkbaar wordt deze techniek niet meer door huisartsen toegepast. Door specialisten, zoals ik in de maanden nadien ondervond bij dr. Vermeersch, dr. De Meester en dr. Feryn, nog wel!

Bruno stelde mij gerust: “er is nog niets zeker…, het is mischien niet kwaadaardig…”. Hij had een biopsie van het gezwel genomen en schreef direct een serie bijkomende tests voor. Bruno vroeg mij om geduldig de ‘uitslag’ – die ik al met innerlijke zekerheid wist – af te wachten; veertien dagen later zouden namelijk alle puzzelstukjes samenvallen. Op 3 september 2013 hoorde ik uit de mond van dr. Bruno Vermeersch wat ik al maanden vermoedde: darmkanker; nog niet uitgezaaid, edoch bijna! Toen ging alles in een stroom versnelling: twee dagen nadien werd een port-a-cath geplaatst en een combinatie van chemo sessies en bestralingen vastgelegd. Doel was het terugdringen en verkleinen van de tumor. Daarna zou een operatief ingrijpen volgen. Gezien de plaats van de tumor was een permanente stoma meer dan waarschijnlijk. Ik ging niet in op z’n voorstel om het finale operatief ingrijpen door een collega van AZ Alma in Sijsele te laten uitvoeren en maakte hem de slotsom van m’n huiswerk bekend. Die operatie zou worden uitgevoerd door dr. Tom Feryn van het AZ St. Jan te Brugge, waar ook de voorafgaande bestralingen zouden doorgaan. Hij beloofde de nodige contacten voor bestraling en operatie aldaar te maken.

Nu was het hoog tijd om weerbaar te zijn. In het geval van darmkanker is volharden in de boosheid van het gekleurd denkkader en dus het niet inzetten van het helder denkkader (‘awareness’) echt geen optie. Wel een optie is jezelf de cruciale vraag: “Hoe wil je dat jouw kleinkinderen je later zullen herinneren?” stellen. Want hoewel mij, niettegenstaande Stadium III, een grote overlevingskans werd toegedicht, vergeet ik nooit het empathisch schouderklopje dat dr. Geertrui De Meester, hoofd van de dienst radiotherapie van AZ St Jan in Brugge, mij gaf na het eerste consult dat we met haar hadden. Het was werkelijk ‘vijf voor twaalf’!

Ondertussen had ik een Cruciale dialoog met mezelf gevoerd en tot het besluit gekomen én beslist dat ik direct zou opveren en doorgaan. En dat ik dit met een ‘opgeruimd gemoed’ zou doen. Dit is wat ik bedoel met weerbaar zijn; niet bij de pakken blijven zitten en transformerend handelen. Het hoeft geen betoog dat ik bij het beantwoorden van vorige cruciale vraag enorm geholpen werd door m’n eigen boek ‘Cruciale dialogen’. Quad erat demonstrandum … m’n boek is wel degelijk een doe-boek en het hielp mij om gans die periode – met daarin: een kleine chirurchische ingreep-chemo-bestraling-invasieve chirurchische ingreep-permanente stoma-dertig dagen verblijf in AZ St Jan-nachemo en herstel – het hoofd koel en meer dan boven water te houden. Dat ik ondertussen m’n boek ‘Cruciale dialogen’ aan het vertalen was naar het Frans – een belofte aan m’n Franse vriend Guy Bérat nakomend – maakte dat m’n boek ook letterlijk nooit veraf was. Hoe langer hoe meer zag ik in wat ik nog voor m’n kleinkinderen zou kunnen betekenen. Naast het zijn van een sparringpartner bij hun schooltaken en alles wat een normale grootvader zoal doet, begon ik hoe langer hoe meer met hen over creatieve wisselwerking en de toepassing ervan, Cruciale dialogen, te praten. Uiteindelijk rees langzamerhand in mij het plan om de serie columns te schrijven, waarvan deze de inleiding is.

Normaal zijn het de kinderen die hun meter en peter nieuwjaarsbrieven schrijven. Met m’n serie columns draai ik de rollen om. Edoch, ik schrijf m’n kleinkinderen geen nieuwjaarsbrieven met m’n beste wensen. Ik schrijf hen een serie doe-columns met m’n beste adviezen waarmee ze wendbaar en weerbaar en dus wakker zullen blijven! Met andere woorden: ik ben er rotsvast van overtuigd dat wanneer jullie, Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, deze adviezen ter harte zullen nemen jullie wendbaar en weerbaar zullen blijven in deze VUCA[iii] wereld. Ik zal jullie echter niet bestoken met oude consultant wijsheden in nieuwe zakken, maar eerder jullie gids zijn op wat ik de ‘Mahatma Ghandi’ manier noem.

Mahatma Gandhi leefde, wanneer hij niet politiek ergens in de wereld doende was, heel sober in z’n hut ‘Sevagram Ashram’; dit vanaf het moment van de afwerking van die hut (1936) tot aan z’n gewelddadige dood (1948). Wanneer Mahatma Gandhi in Sevagram toefde kreeg hij voortdurend bezoek. Zeer gekend zijn de bezoeken die Jawaharial Nehru, de latere eerste minister-president van onafhankelijk India (overigens met de daadwerkelijke steun van Gandhi), hem daar bracht. Ghandi had onder meer ook veel kennis over alles wat met gezondheid te maken heeft. Daarom kwamen heel wat mensen bij Mahatma over de vloer met hun gezondheidsvragen. Over een van die vragen en Ghandi’s antwoord daarop gaat volgende anekdote, die Charlie Palmgren mij zo’n vijfentwintig jaar geleden vertelde:

Op een dag kwam er een welstellende familie afgezakt naar Sevagram Ashram met de vraag of Mahatma Gandhi hun zwaarlijvige dochter kon helpen weer fit en gezond te worden. Mahatma stelde heel wat vragen en luisterde aandachtig, af en toe parafraserend om het probleem waarderend te kunnen begrijpen. Toen Ghandi het probleem op die manier begrepen had, vroeg hij z’n bezoekers een paar maand later terug te komen. Hij noteerde de nieuwe datum zonder enig advies te verstrekken. Ietwat beduusd vertrokken de bezoekers. Twee maand na het eerste gesprek meldde het echtpaar zich terug in Sevagram Ashram vergezeld van hun, uiteraard, nog steeds obese dochter. Nu was het Mahatma Gandhi die het woord voerde en die het heel strikt dieet, dat de dochter zou moeten volgen, uit de doeken deed. Daarbij zorgde Mahatma ervoor dat ook hij waarderend begrepen werd. Indien de dochter daadwerkelijk de adviezen van Gandhi strikt zou opvolgen, verzekerde Mahatma, zou zij binnen de korste keren terug fit en gezond zijn en dus verlost van haar obesitas. De vader had opgewonden naar Mahatma Gandhi geluisterd en bleek helemaal niet tevreden. Hij vroeg op een nogal scherpe manier waarom Mahatma Gandhi dit advies niet twee maand eerder gedurende hun eerste bezoek had gegeven. Dan hadden ze ten minste geen twee maand verloren en bovendien een peperdure reis uitgespaard! Mahatma Ghandi bleef z’n faam gestand en antwoordde kalm: “Twee maand geleden wist ik dit alles nog niet. Na ons vorig gesprek heb ik diep nagedacht over uw dochters probleem en kwam ik tot een mogelijke oplossing. Dit dieet heb ik dan zeven weken lang zelf strikt gevolgd om te zien of m’n oplossing de goede was. Nu kan ik u, ‘met de hand op het hart’, verzekeren dat dit wel degelijk het geval is!”

De mens is pas mens als hij tot zelfbeheersing in staat is                   en eigenlijk pas als hij haar in de praktijk brengt.

– Mahatma Gandhi

Get started!

Graag start ik deze serie columns met het verhaal ‘De Gouden Arend’ van Anthony de Mello SJ[iv]. Toen ik het voor het eerst hoorde, Eloise, Edward en Elvire, dacht ik dat Anthony dat verhaal voor mij geschreven had. Het is het verhaal hoe we, geboren als arend door conditionering (lees opvoeding en dus de werking van de Vicieuze Cirkel) hoe langer hoe meer een ‘kieken’ worden.

The Golden Eagle

A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them.All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old.

One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat of its strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. “Who’s that?” he asked. “That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” said his neighbor. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth—we’re chickens.” So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.

Anthony  de Mello SJ  ‘The song of the Bird’

Een Nederlandse vertaling van het verhaal:

De Gouden Arend

Een man vond een ei van een arend en legde het in het nest van een boerenerf hen. Het arendsjong werd uitgebroed samen met een heel nest kuikens en groeide met hen op.Omdat hij geloofde dat hij een boerenerf kip was, deed hij net als zij. Hij scharrelde in de aarde om te zoeken naar wormen en insecten. Hij klokte en kakelde.Hij spreidde zijn vleugels en vloog een paar stappen de lucht in, net zoals het een kip betaamt.

Jaren verstreken en de arend werd erg oud.Zekere dag zag hij een prachtige vogel boven hem in de wolkenloze hemel. Die gleed met gracieuze majesteit op de krachtige windstromingen, met nauwelijks een slag van z’n sterke goude vleugels.De arend keek vol ontzag naar omhoog.“Wie is dat?” vroeg hij zijn buur.“Dat is een arend, de koning van de vogels”, antwoordde die. “Hij behoort tot de hemel, wij behoren de aarde – wij zijn kippen.” Dus de arend leefde en stierf als een kip, want hij dacht dat hij er een was.

Anthony  de Mello SJ  ‘Het lied van de vogel’

Carl Puccio, een kennis van jullie mama en vriend van Charlie Palmgren, maakte van dit verhaal een mooie video clip. Daarin vertelt Charlie het verhaal. Je kan de video clip hier vinden:

Eigenlijk zijn, in de ogen van Tony de Mello, alle mensen ‘gouden arenden’; wel zijn de meesten zich niet helder bewust van de hoogten die ze zouden kunnen bereiken. Anthony de Mello stelde zich tot doel de mensen wakker te maken voor de realiteit van hun grootheid.

Een ander verhaal dat aangeeft dat we eigenlijk beter zijn dan we beseffen, is een tekst die op het internet veelal verkeerdelijk toegeschreven wordt aan Nelson Mandela. Nelson zou, althans volgens ‘het internet’, die uitgesproken hebben tijdens een van z’n inauguratie redes toen hij, na tientallen jaren gevangenschap, als president van z’n land werd ingezworen. Edoch, er is een klein probleem: Nelson gebruikte die tekst niet in z’n inauguratie redes. Een prachtig voorbeeld van een zogenaamde internet hoax. Een hoax is in het Engels een woord voor poets nep, bedrog, truc en oplichterij . Het als begrip ‘internet hoax’ is ondertussen zo goed als ingeburgerd in het Nederlands. Volgende tekst komt wel uit een boek van Marianne Williamson[v]:

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who Am I to be brilliant, Gorgeous, talented, Fabulous?

Actually, Who are you NOT to be?

You are a child of Spirit.

Your playing small Does not serve the World.

There is Nothing enlightened About shrinking so that Others won’t feel Insecure around you.

We were born to Manifest the glory Of Spirit which is Within us. It is not Just in some of us; It is in everyone.

And as we let our Light shine, we give Others permission to Do the same.

As we Are liberated from Our own fear, our Presence liberates Others

Een mogelijke vertaling:

Onze grootste angst

Onze grootste angst is niet dat we onvolmaakt zijn.

Onze grootste angst is dat we mateloos krachtig zijn.

Het is ons licht, niet onze schaduw, die ons het meest beangstigt.

We vragen onszelf: wie ben ik om briljant te zijn, prachtig, talentvol, fantastisch?

Edoch, wie ben jij om dat NIET te zijn?

Jij bent een kind van God.

Je onbelangrijk voordoen bewijst de wereld geen dienst. Er is niets verlichts aan je klein te maken opdat andere mensen zich bij jou niet onzeker zouden voelen.

Wij zijn geboren om de glorie van God die in ons is, te openbaren. Deze is niet alleen enkel in sommigen onder ons; deze is in iedereen!

En als wij ons licht laten stralen, geven we onbewust andere mensen toestemming om hetzelfde te doen.

Eens van onze angst bevrijd, bevrijdt onze aanwezigheid anderen.

De serie columns, waarvan deze column de inleiding is, had overigens ook als titel “Blijf Arend!” kunnen krijgen of ook nog: “Blijf het Kind in U!”.

Beide verhalen gaan, dat hadden jullie begrepen, over het Creatief wisselwerkingsproces (‘de glorie van God’) dat het kind in zich heeft en ten volle beleeft en waar de volwassene bang van (geworden) is… mede omdat het beleven van dit levensproces neerkomt op zichzelf continu bijschaven, veranderen, transformeren. Van dat alles zijn de meeste volwassenen nu eenmaal bang van; blijkbaar blijven ze liever in de ‘gouden kooi’ van hun Vicieuze Cirkel[vi].

Ik weet dat jullie Eloïse, Edward en Elvire, nogal eens surfen op het internet en dat Youtube daar één van jullie pleisterplekken is. Daar vond ik ook volgende clip dat het citaat uit het boek van Marianne Williamson dat ik hierboven gebruikte nog uitbreidt. Deze clip geeft voor mij ook aan waarom de ontdekker van Creatieve wisselwerking, Henry Nelson Wieman die een religieus filosoof was, uiteindelijk schreef dat voor hem God geen super natuurlijke persoon was, maar het proces dat hij Creative Interchange had genoemd.

___________________________________________________________________________

[i]Het Creatief Wisselwerkingsproces is de naam die ik (in navolging van m’n mentor Charles Leroy ‘Charlie’ Palmgren) geef aan het natuurlijk leer en transformatie proces, waar alle kinderen mee worden geboren. Ik beschreef het voor het eerst in m’n boek ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’, Leuven-Apeldoorn: Garant (2001).

[ii]Johan Roels, Cruciale Dialogen, het dagelijks beleven van Creatieve wisselwerking. Antwerpen-Apeldoorn: Garant, 2012.

[iii]VUCA is een acroniem dat oorspronkelijk door Amerikaanse militairen is bedacht voor het beschrijven van het slagveld. VUCA wordt nu hoe langer hoe meer gebruikt  staat voor: de huidige “snelle, onzekere, complexe en vage” wereld:

  • V= volatility: de onvoorspelbaarheid en snelheid van veranderingen
  • U= uncertainty: onzekerheid over wat er staat te gebeuren
  • C= complexity: veelheid aan krachten, chaos en verwarring rondom ons
  • A=ambiguity: oorzaak en gevolg zijn onduidelijk en moeilijk verklaarbaar

[iv]Anthony de Mello, S.J. The Song of the Bird.New York, NY: Doubleday, 1984.

[v]Marianne Williamson. A Return to Love:  reflections on the principles of a course in miracles. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.

[vi]De Vicieuze Cirkel is de naam die ik (in navolging van m’n mentor Charlie Palmgren) geef aan het aangeleerde proces dat Creatieve wisselwerking hindert en afremt en waar alle kinderen tijdens hun opvoeding mee te maken krijgen. Ik beschreef het voor het eerst in m’n boek ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’.

BLIJF WAKKER ! – VOORWOORD

Well if I had one wish for you
in this god-forsaken world, kids
It’d be that your mistakes will be your own
That your sins will be your own
It’s been a long time comin’, my dear
It’s been a long time comin’, 
but now it’s here.
 – Bruce Springsteen

Long time Coming – Devils & Dust – 2005

 

Mijn vorig boek, ‘Cruciale dialogen’ (2012), beschrijft een model om dagelijks handen en voeten te geven aan het creatief wisselwerkingsproces. Dit laatste was dan weer het hoofdthema van het boek dat ik daarvoor schreef: ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’ (2001). Toen dit boek werd gepubliceerd had ik nog geen kleinkinderen. In de tijdspanne tussen de publicaties van die twee boeken werden onze drie kleinkinderen – Eloïse, Edward en Elvire – geboren. Ook in die periode bleef de wereld hoe langer hoe sneller veranderen. Die veranderingen nopen ons – en vooral onze kleinkinderen – hoe langer hoe meer ‘wendbaar en weerbaar’ te worden. Die uitdrukking wordt onder meer vaak gebruikt door Fons Leroy, directeur van de VDAB (2005-2019), zoals in een interview op het vrt één journaal van 7 oktober 2016, daags na de aankondiging van het massa ontslag van medewerkers bij ING België. Fons stelde in dat interview dat we in de toekomst ons de sleutelvaardigheden, om in een snel veranderende omgeving wendbaar en weerbaar te zijn, dringend eigen dienen te maken. Het werd mij toen direct duidelijk dat, om wendbaar (i.e. pro-actief) en weerbaar (i.e. re-actief) te zijn men creatieve wisselwerking (Creative Interchange) van binnen uit dient te beleven.

In dezelfde week besloot ik een punt achter m’n vierde professionele leven te zetten en plotseling werd mij m’n laatste persoonlijke missie overduidelijk:

Helping my Grandkids Creating their Lives while Staying their Original Self through Consistent Living Creative Interchange from Within.

Het is dus het van binnenuit beleven van Creatieve wisselwerking dat ik, zo goed en zo kwaad dat ik dit kan, sedert eind 2016 bewust aan m’n drie kleinkinderen meegeef. Ik zal dit doen zolang dit mij gegeven is. Ik ben er mij maar al te goed van bewust dat op een dag ook daar een einde zal aan komen. Het leven – ook het mijne – is eindig, dat is een natuurwet. Wat wel voortleeft, is het creatief wisselwerkingsproces. Het wordt namelijk steeds opnieuw in elk geboren kind ingebed. Hopelijk blijven m’n drie kleinkinderen – dit is m’n vurigste wens – dit proces continu beleven en blijven ze niet steken in het denkkader van hun persoonlijke Vicieuze Cirkel.

Om hen een blijvend ruggensteuntje te geven, start ik deze serie columns. Deze zouden uiteindelijk een heus boek kunnen vormen. Hoogst waarschijnlijk zal het nooit gepubliceerd worden; want, zoals reeds gesteld, ik schrijf deze teksten vooral voor m’n kleinkinderen. Vandaar ook de titel: ‘Blijf Wakker!”, omdat zij nog steeds verbonden zijn met hun Originele Zelf. Indien ik dit boek ook voor anderen zou schrijven, dan zou de titel “Word Wakker!” luiden. Voor Eloïse, Edward en Elvire gebruik ik dus “Blijf Wakker!” omdat ik er van overtuigd ben dat zij nog steeds uit de ijzeren greep van de Vicieuze Cirkel gebleven zijn en dus nog steeds verbonden zijn met hun Intrinsieke Waarde (Intrinsic Worth).

Gezien voor alle drie E’s (zoals ik m’n drie kleinkinderen soms noem) exemplaren van mijn reeds geciteerde boeken klaar liggen, zal ik in deze serie columns verwijzen naar passages uit die boeken. Anderen die onverhoopt deze columns – die ik op m’n webstek publiceer – onder ogen krijgen, beschikken waarschijnlijk over hun eigen exemplaar van die boeken. Zo kunnen ook zij mijn nieuwste ideeën in verband met de Vicieuze Cirkel (Vicious Circle) en Creatieve wisselwerking (Creative Interchange) linken aan wat er in ‘Creatieve wisselwerking’ en ‘Cruciale dialogen’ staat geschreven.

Eind oktober 2016 sloot ik m’n professionele leven af met een spetterende vijftiende bijeenkomst van het Cruciale Dialogen Genootschap. Na vier professionele levens (ik ben inderdaad zelf wendbaar en weerbaar gebleken) – waarover uitvoerig werd geschreven in m’n reeds geciteerde boeken – vond ‘ons Rita’ dat het welletjes was geweest. Het Cruciale Dialogen Genootschap werd dan ook ontbonden en, zoals dat zo vaak gaat in het leven, verloren de leden ervan mij min of meer uit het oog. Van mijn kant schreef ik hen maandelijks nog wel een e-mail met de link naar m’n nieuwste column. Eind 2018 liet ik hen weten dat ook aan deze gewoonte een einde kwam. Ik zal uiteraard wel verder blijven schrijven aan ‘Blijf Wakker!’ Wat ook blijft zijn m’n veertiendaagse skype gesprekken met Charlie Palmgren. Charlie van zijn kant is, naast heel wat andere activiteiten, nog steeds aan het schaven aan z’n ultieme beschrijving van Creative Interchange; terwijl ik aan dit ‘boek’ ten behoeve van Eloïse, Edward en Elvire hoofdstukken (columns) zal blijven toevoegen. Het is de bedoeling dat dit met de regelmaat van een klok gebeurt. Het dient gezegd dat ik hoop dat die klok niet rap stilvalt …

Een speciaal woord van dank gaat uit – naast uiteraard de drie kleinkinderen waarvoor deze teksten bedoeld zijn – naar m’n echtgenote Rita, beter gekend als ‘ons Rita’ – en dochter Daphne, moeder van de drie E’s. Zij geven mij de noodzakelijke ruimte en voornamelijk het onuitputtelijk terrein om m’n nieuwste ideeën aan de werkelijkheid te toetsen.

 

Johan Roels

Creative Interchange and pop songs

 

Since January this year I go out for a walk every day. I’m living near a little wood and this daily exercise regulates my blood sugar level, makes me less stressful and gives me lots of ideas. Most of the time, while walking at a reasonable speed (6 km per hour), I’m listening to pop music, mostly of my younger days. It struck me that a lot of those songs make me think of the Creative Interchange process. I’ve learned years ago – from books and videos of the late Stephen R. Covey – that one does not appreciate reality as it is; one appreciates reality as one’s mindset allows one to. Since my mindset is Creative Interchange ‘colored’, my thus way colored spectacles see Creative Interchange almost everywhere; even in the lyrics of pop songs, as you can read in the following pages.

Sometimes Creative Interchange is hidden in an expression or a line, at other times in a verse or the chorus. On a rare occasion the whole song brings my thoughts back to the process we’re all born with and to which we should be ultimately committed (cf. Henry Nelson Wieman, ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment[i]).

 

A song that describes the struggle of being and staying committed to Creative Interchange is Billy Joel’s “The River of Dreams”. In this song the wording of the chorus changes slightly each time it’s sung and the song starts with a first version of it:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep

Indeed, one has to have faith to commit oneself to live Creative Interchange because living this life giving process is far from easy.

The first verse explains why Billy Joel goes to the deep river:

I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

The metaphor Billy Joel uses here to explain the goal of his action is “crossing a deep river, to find what he’s looking for” and what he’s looking for is ‘something sacred” he “lost”. In my mind that “something” is what Charlie Palmgren calls one’s Intrinsic Worth. The second verse digs deeper in the task:

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for

Living Man’s Ultimate Commitment (cf. Henry Nelson Wieman’s book) from the inside out is not only far from easy and does need courage; it’s a never-ending story (“every evening”) that demands persistency in action.

Then the second version of the chorus follows:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep

“The valley of fear” sounds to me as the danger of the Vicious Circle, which has to be overruled in order to be able to stay committed to Creative Interchange.

Verse three digs still deeper regarding what he’s been looking for:

And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

As already pointed out, what’s “taken out of my soul” is one’s Intrinsic Worth that one “would never lose and has been stolen.” That “somebody” is the Vicious Circle. Looking to regain one’s Intrinsic Worth, i.e. living Creative Interchange from within, makes one tired and frustration is looming around the corner according to the next verse:

I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for

Indeed, living Creative Interchange does not equal immediate success. Yoda would say: “May the Force be with you!” In the next version of the chorus:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
through the jungle of doubt
to a river so deep

The changed line – “Through the jungle of doubt” – underlines the fact that one has to tolerate ambiguity while living Creative Interchange! This is explained in the next verse:

I know I’m searching for something
something so undefined
that it can only be seen
by the eyes of the blind

In the middle of the night

The “Something so undefined, that it can only be seen by the eyes of the blind” is, to me, Creative Interchange itself. This verse makes me think of the end paragraphs of Henry Nelson Wieman’s ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment’, book that describes Creative Interchange in all its forms:

“I know that I cannot be in error in holding the belief that I am at least partially in error concerning the character of the reality to which I am ultimately committed. Hence I know with certainty that I am ultimately given to what is more than, and in some respects different from, everything affirmed in this book. With this triumph over error I make my last commitment: I cast my error, my failure, and my guilt into the keeping of creative and transformative power.”[ii]

The next verse:

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land

This means to me: don’t count on a life after this and the “unbearable lightness of being” resides in living Creative Interchange from within, here and now in order to reach, perhaps, the “promised land”.

The last version of the chorus:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
through the desert of truth
to the river so deep

Points out that, to find the Promised Land, one has to cross “the desert of truth”. Truth means here, to me, not the truth with a major ‘T’: it means seeing reality as it is. Which makes me think of a famous quote of Marcel Proust, which I used in the introduction of my book Creatieve Wisselwerking [iii](Creative Interchange):

“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands,

but in seeing with new eyes.”

The last verse closes Bill Joel’s description of Creative Interchange:

We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams

In the middle of the night

“We all start in the streams” means, to me, we’re all born with this process; the process Henry Nelson Wieman discovered seeing with new eyes and which he coined Creative Interchange. We all start in the Flow, so to speak, having the Forceto “be carried along by the river of dreams.”

 

An example of a song having a chorus related to Creative Interchange and the living of it is Bob Seger’s “Against the wind”. As you know, and as we’ve seen above, the chorus of a song is not only the most repeated section; it is there where you can find the real meaning of a song. The chorus is supposed to be the most memorable part of the song and is almost always of greater musical and emotional intensity than the verses. That’s definitely the case in “Against the wind”:

Against the wind

We were running against the wind

We were young and strong,

we were running Against the wind

Someone who’s committed to live Creative Interchange is someone who Friedrich Nietzsche calls a “Free Spirit”[iv]; one “who goes against the herd” and “onwards along the path of wisdom” in order to “improve society.” Henry Nelson Wieman calls this the Creative Selfwho transforms the created self towards the Original Selfand in doing so one improves one’s culture. Such a one is definitely “running against the wind.”

As some of you know, I’m still writing columns and essays around Creative Interchange for the sake of my three grandchildren. If life taught me one thing, it is that we have the responsibility to prepare them to be able to cope with the difficulties of life. In other words that they become agile and resilient. One of the side effects of accepting this responsibility is that one will be remembered positively by one’s own kind and therefor will live longer. To me, my ‘end’ task is that I introduce my three grandchildren to Creative Interchange, the Process of Life. Of course, they are at the moment on the one hand too young to grasp the real meaning of Creative Interchange, its conditions and the needed behaviors and, on the other hand, I will probably not live long enough to explain them the process in detail. Therefor I live Creative Interchange as good as I can, use every opportunity to talk and write about it and store my ramblings in the cloud, by publishing them on my own website and on public sites as Slideshare, YouTube. This is also the reason that this particular column will be my last one written on behalf of a lager ‘public’. From today on I’ll only write columns for the sake of Eloïse, Edward and Elvire. I’ve started already and the columns I’ll write in the course of let’s say a year could be published (but will not) as a book with the title ‘Stay Awake!”.

 

A song about helping others to discover and live Creative Interchange is Billy Joel’s “Innocent man”. Let’s take a close look at the lyrics of that song, and I give you some personal interpretations:

Some people stay far away from the door
If there’s a chance of it opening up
They hear a voice in the hall outside
And hope that it just passes by

Which means to me that some people stay away from Creative Interchange and hope that “it just passes by”. They want to stay at the level of their current created self; they don’t want to make it an evolving self.

Some people live with the fear of a touch
And the anger of having been a fool
They will not listen to anyone
So nobody tells them a lie

This explains the reason for their behavior. They live in the cage of their Vicious Circle and do not want to break free; they do not want to listen to anyone, let alone to appreciative understand what others try to convey:

I know you’re only protecting yourself
I know you’re thinking of somebody else
Someone who hurt you
But I’m not above
Making up for the love
You’ve been denying you could ever feel
I’m not above doing anything
To restore your faith if I can

I understand why people can be victim of their Vicious Circle and hide themselves in their closed mindset, the ‘demands and expectations’ frame of reference that they won’t let being changed Charlie Palmgren would argue.

Some people see through the eyes of the old
Before they ever get a look at the young
I’m only willing to hear you cry
Because I am an innocent man
I am an innocent man
Oh yes I am

Indeed, people look through their colored glasses en don’t see reality in a fresh young way. Since I’m not responsible of the fact that the other is prisoner of their Vicious Circle; “I am an innocent man” and “ I’m only willing to hear you cry.”

Some people say they will never believe
Another promise they hear in the dark
Because they only remember too well
They heard somebody tell them before

People who hide in their closed mindset don’t want to believe anything that would rescue them from that mindset, since “they heard somebody tell them before.”

Some people sleep all-alone every night
Instead of taking a lover to bed
Some people find that it’s easier to hate
Than to wait anymore

Those people are not really interconnected anymore with others and therefor Creative Interchange with others has no chance.

I know you don’t want to hear what I say
I know you’re gonna keep turning away
But I’ve been there and if I can survive
I can keep you alive
I’m not above going through it again
I’ve not above being cool for a while
If you’re cruel to me I’ll understand

I appreciatively understand the mindset of the people victim of the Vicious Circle, since I’ve been there too and I know how I survived, so thus know by experience what can keep others alive. “I’m not above going through it again” and help others to discover Creative Interchange. And if the other does not accept my offer I’ll understand.

Some people run from a possible fight
Some people figure they can never win
And although this is a fight I can lose
The accused is an innocent man
I am an innocent man
Oh yes I am
An innocent man

I know the flight syndrome all too well and thus know that “some people figure they can never win” and although I know that helping others to discover Creative Interchange – which is according to the lyrics here “a possible fight” – is never easy, and the risk is always there that I won’t succeed, I’ll go ahead with it, since “I am an innocent man.”

You know you only hurt yourself out of spite
I guess you’d rather be a martyr tonight
That’s your decision
But I’m not below
Anybody I know
If there’s a chance of resurrecting a love
I’m not above going back to the start
To find out where the heartache began

Still knowing that some people won’t leave their cage (i.e. Vicious Circle), if “there’s a chance of resurrection a love” (i.e. resurrection Creative Interchange), “I’m not above going back to the start to find out where the heartache began”, which means fueling the Creative Interchange process, so that the Vicious Circle spins backwards until one is reconnected with one’s Intrinsic Worth; pictured here as the two spinning raders:

Some people hope for a miracle cure
Some people just accept the world as it is
But I’m not willing to lay down and die
Because I am an innocent man

I am an innocent man
Oh yes I am
An innocent man

Living Creative Interchange from within is not a miracle cure, it’s “accepting the world as it is” and “I’m not willing to lay down and die” because of my Vicious Circle. “I am an innocent man” who lives Creative Interchange from within as good as he can; rising strong each time he stumbles and falls because of his own Vicious Circle.

 

Another, more recent, pop song that has a chorus that is, to me, related to Creative Interchange and the living of it is Mumford & Sons: “Sigh no More”. This chorus is even repeated three times, so you can’t miss it.

Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be

Since one of the synonyms for Creative Interchange is unconditional love, you understand that this chorus caught my ear. The fact that it’s repeated three times helped of course. I know from experience that Creative Interchange will a) “not betray you, dismay or enslave you” and that b) “it will set you free”. And although I know that I’m not there yet (and most probably never will be), Creative Interchange helps tremendously to “be more like the man you were made to be” i.e. your Original Self. That Original Self is Mumford & Sons “design”, “an alignment to cry, of my heart to see”. So one has to be aware of “the beauty of love as it was made to be.” Indeed, “Sigh no More”, that’s the way, it’s not an easy path (it’s “an alignment to cry”) and it’s the only path I know. In other words: Becoming a Leader is Becoming Your Original Self [v].

 

Another song of Mumford & Sons is, to me, about the eternal struggle between Creative Interchange and the Vicious Circle. Let me present how I appreciatively understand Roll Away Your Stone:

Roll away your stone I will roll away mine
Together we can see what we will find
Don’t leave me alone at this time
For I am afraid of what I will discover inside

“Roll away your stone I will roll away mine”, means to me: ‘Take of your mask, I’ll take of mine’ or ‘let’s take down the barriers of our Vicious Circle and let’s reconnect with our Original Worth. “Together we can see what we will find”, being authentic and aware we will discover our truth together. “Don’t leave me alone at this time, for I am afraid of what I will discover inside”; let’s continue to stay in creative interchange, since I am afraid what I will discover through awareness. What I will discover are the ‘demons’ of my Vicious Circle and I do not want to face them alone and awareness will make clear that I have to transform myself, which is scaring.

You told me that I would find a home
Within the fragile substance of my soul
And I have filled this void with things unreal
And all the while my character it steals

‘You’ in this verse is ‘God’, thus Creative Interchange (according to Henry Nelson Wieman) and without God/Creative Interchange our soul is a void, which is filled up “with things unreal”, due to the Vicious Circle. “And all the while my character it steals”: the Vicious Circle is deluding us and only Creative Interchange can bring us true happiness.

And darkness is a harsh term don’t you think
And yet it dominates the things I see

We’re unwilling to transform ourselves and although “darkness is a harsh term” for staying in our present state (the created self), we appreciatively understand that this state dominates the things we see. If we really want to transform, we “shall have to pay to pay the price” (of living Creative Interchange) in order to be able “to keep the change” (my preferred quote of Charlie Palmgren).

It seems that all my bridges have been burned
But you say ‘That’s exactly how this grace thing works’
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart
But the welcome I receive with every start

The singer realizes it seems that God/Creative Interchange is the only real answer, even though it doesn’t make sense to him that he would deserve God/Creative Interchange after all he has done, being prisoner of his own Vicious Circle. But grace isn’t something you earn, it’s given freely, that’s “how it works”. “It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart” refers to the Bible story ‘The Prodigal Son’, which demonstrates that the journey home is long and hard and comes before the joy. The story is about a son who dishonors his father and takes his inheritance and moves out of the house. He ends up gambling away all his money and having to humble himself to go home and beg his father to take him back. His journey home is hard and he doesn’t think his father will welcome him home. “But the welcome I receive with every start”, refers to the welcome of the father in this Biblical story, who gives a feast to welcome the return of his son. This means that after each time we fell, due to our Vicious Circle, we can rise up again; which makes me think of Brené Brown’s book ‘Rising Strong’ [vi]

Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think
And yet it dominates the things I see
Darkness is a harsh term don’t you think
And yet it dominates the things I see

See above for my interpretation of the chorus.

Stars hide your fires
For these here are my desires
And I will give them up to you this time around
And so I’ll be found
With my stake stuck in this ground
Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul

(x2)

“Stars hide your fires, for these here are my desires ” is a reference to Macbeth: “Stars, hide your fires; let not light see my black and deep desires” showing that the singer is ashamed of his sins and does not want them seen in the light. “And I will give them up to you this time around” meaning that he surrenders to God/Creative Interchange. “And so I’ll be found, with my stake stuck in this ground, making the territory of this newly impassioned soul” meaning that through Creative Interchange one is reborn an has an enhanced passion, which one did not have before.

And you, you’ve gone too far this time
You have neither reason nor rhyme
With which to take this soul that is so rightfully mine

The ‘You’ in these sentences is the old you, prisoner of the Vicious Circle. The ‘new you’ takes over the control of his soul from the inside out through his ultimate commitment to Creative Interchange.

 

In fact, a lot of songs of the group Mumford and Sons make me think of Creative Interchange. It would take many more pages to discuss them all. For obvious reasons I finish this column presenting Awake My Soul. This song is, to me, about wanting desperately to live Creative Interchange, which is far from easy, knowing that a) I can’t live it as much as I need it and b) I’m too often stuck in my personal Vicious Circle, which prohibits my living Creative Interchange. The song starts with the chorus:

How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally sho

“How fickle my heart” means to me, I often can’t make up my mind and “how woozy my eyes,” makes me think of how often I felt the pain that has been inflicted upon me through my personal Vicious Circle.”I struggle to find any truth in your lies”: my Vicious Circle has lied that many times to me, so that now I don’t know any more what to trust. “And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know, this weakness I feel I must finally show”: I’m struggling with the truth that has come out and I must learn to tolerate my ambiguity. If I want to be authentic, I must admit and show, without fear, my confusion and don’t be ashamed of it.

Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all
But lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall
Lend me your eyes I can change what you see
But your soul you must keep, totally free
Har har, har har, har har, har har

“Lend me your hand and we’ll conquer them all, but lend me your heart and I’ll just let you fall”: is about collaboration the Creative Interchange way, this can be seen as Love in the sense of Agape, not in the sense of ‘falling in love’. I need authentic interaction, and through ‘falling in love’ we’ve learned to play the Vicious Circle games.
“Lend me your eyes I can change what you see, but your soul you must keep, totally free”: I can show you the world, I can show you things beyond your wildest imagination, but you have to keep your soul free from me. I can make you see and what you make of what you see is up to you. I refuse to ‘control’ you (from the outside in); you’ll have to control yourself (from the inside out).

Awake my soul
Awake my soul

(followed by the chorus):
How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes
I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know
My weakness I feel I must finally show
Har har, har har, har har, har har

“Awake my soul” is a plea for Creative Interchange and makes me think of Anthony de Mello SJ’s “Wake up!”[vii].

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life
In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die
And where you invest your love, you invest your life

We’re body and soul. “In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die” that’s right, and “where you invest your love, you invest your life”. Investing in your life means investing in Creative Interchange: your created self becomes an evolving self, towards the Original Self. In order to do that, the following is necessary:

Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
For you were made to meet your maker

(2x)

Wake up to Creative Interchange, become aware of Creative Interchange, break free from the Vicious Circle and commit yourself to Creative Interchange: “For you were made to meet your maker”, you were made to become the leader you were born.

 

I could go on with ‘Learning to Fly’ by Pink Floyd, ‘Psycho Chicken’ by The Fools, ‘What if God was one of us’ by Joan Osborn and my other songs. Let’s conclude with a wish: next time you’re listening to a song, listen well and do appreciatively understand the lyrics, perhaps they will learn you something about Creative Interchange, like I do.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[i]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Lanham, MA : University Press of America®, Inc. 1991 (Originally published: Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958).

[ii]Ibid. pp. 305-306.

[iii]Roels, Johan. Creatieve wisselwerking. Nieuw business paradigma als hoeksteen voor veiligheidszorg en de lerende organisatie.Leuven-Apeldoorn: Garant. 2001. p. 13.

[iv]http://www.creativeinterchange.be/?p=972

[v]Moxley, Russ S. Becoming a Leader Is Becoming Yourself.Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2015.

[vi]Brown, B., Rising Strong. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau. 2015.

[vii]De Mello, A., Awareness: a de Mello spiritual conference in his own words.Edited by J. Francis Stroud. New York, NY: Image Books, Doubleday. 1992.

The Decision Required of Us

 

Henry Nelson Wieman states in his book ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment’ [i] that a two-fold decision is required of us. He indicates that one has to decide to:

  • Liberate oneself from the Vicious Circle [ii] and;
  • Practice a personal commitment to Creative Interchange [iii].

 

Liberate oneself from the Vicious Circle

In order to reconnect oneself with one’s Original Worth one has to break free from one’s personal Vicious Circle. To realize this following prerequisites are necessary:

First of all, one has to recognize that she or he is prisoner of one’s personal Vicious Circle; this means that one has to recognize one’s own ‘cage’.

One of the supreme endowments of the human being is that it can be aware of itself and be conscious of one’s coloring of one’s awareness. It’s about appreciatively understanding one’s own unique individuality and mindset. This boils down to being aware that, unfortunately, one is driven to protect one’s own self-esteem against evaluations made by others of one’s created self. This protection is one of the main causes of the distortion of one’s appreciative understanding of reality. This distortion leads inevitably to a false vision of reality regarding oneself, others, circumstances and experiences. One has to appreciatively understand that, due to this distortion, one’s own value system is of sync, which has its effects on the rightness of one’s intuitions.

When one recognizes that she or he is the prisoner of the Vicious Circle cage, one becomes aware of the fact that one’s evaluations are distorted and this can be the start of the liberation process. In other words, an error which one recognizes being an error is already on its way to correction. This means that one is able to examine critically one’s judgments, reactions and behavior (i.e. one’s own actions), so that more reliable observations can break through the ‘ego system’. Thus one can be liberated more or less from one’s own closed mindset and rise toward an opening of it, so that one becomes more trustworthy insights.

The second feature of this liberation process is that one becomes aware of one’s dependence upon one’s particular social group and culture. The perspective of the community in which one has been reared influences human judgments. In other words, one’s personal mindset is strongly influenced by the collective mindset of the community and thus by the culture to which one belongs.

One can be liberated to some degree by recognizing that one is in this condition of cultural influence. This can be the start of critically questioning the validity of judgments made by one-self and one’s own community regarding the ‘other’. If one is profoundly convinced of this fact about human beings, including one-self, one can start to search for evidence about reality with a mind more open than in the case that one does not know and recognize this own particular condition. In other words, the moment one is fully aware that one’s insights and (therefor) conclusions can be blurred by one’s mindset – mindset being strongly influenced by the collective mindset (i.e. the culture to which one belongs) – one can open up his thus colored consciousness and question it. In this way, one restores one’s awareness and might gradually undergo creative transformation towards insights and judgments more correct concerning one’s own culture and the culture to which others belong.

The third feature of this liberation arises out of the unfinished, transitional quality of each human being’s actual state, i.e. one’s actual created self. Human beings are an unfinished lot. They are on their way to become another kind of being, provided that they not cling themselves to their actual state of being. In other words, if they let the Creative Self do its work, the created self will undergo a continual transformation. In this way the created self becomes a continuous evolving self.

Since each human being is in transition, not yet the being one could become, and – if  she or he wants to continue to exist at all – one has (to strive) to obtain the kind of mind that embraces undergoing a continuous creative transformation. This continuous creative transformation should not stop. If it does, the created self stays at a certain ‘unfinished’ level and creativity dies, leaving the individual with a fixed, non-evolving, mindset; in other words the individual becomes a prisoner of that mindset; the prisoner of the individual’s Vicious Circle so to speak.

So, first is needed that the individual appreciatively understands that continuous creative transformation is the key to enhance one’s incomplete created self. Secondly, the individual has to seek out those social relations, kind of work so that practicing the kind of commitment – that will be described next – which will bring creativity to a higher level of reality in one’s own person and in one’s social relations.

 

Practice a personal commitment to Creative Interchange

The second decision concerns practicing a personal commitment to Creative Interchange during which one’s resources are most fully brought into action.

Commitment to this end assumes first of all choosing work in line with one’s own talents and work that provides (at least some of) the conditions required for the creative transformation of man. If this is not the case, one should look for other work.

Secondly, it assumes a complete self-giving. This means in particular that one gives, to the service of Creative Interchange, one’s failures, guilt, shame and anger, as well as one’s virtues and strength. This enables the individual to stay humble and far from arrogance. Humility knows itself and tolerates ambiguity and uncertainty
.One does not feel oneself ‘better’ than, or ‘superior’ to others; one is thankful that one has discovered Creative Interchange and is committed to live it from the inside out. This means that one lives Reinhold Niebuhr’s ‘Serenity Prayer’:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

and wisdom to know the difference.

All this boils down to accept one’s own Vicious Circle and gives oneself in the wholeness of one’s being to Creative Interchange.

Thirdly, this commitment to Creative Interchange needs intensity and persistence in its practice. One controls from the inside out the practice of the commitment to Creative Interchange. There is no guidebook to that, since if such a book existed this would be control from the inside out. To be effective, this practice should not be taken secondhand from any other person but developed by each to fit one’s own need.

The goal of this commitment is to unify the Creative Self for action in order to create a newer mindset and to join oneself with the most important reality there is, which is the creative transformation of the human being.

Albert Camus once said: “… man has not been endowed with a definite nature … is not a finished creation but an experiment of which he can be partly the creator.” [iv] Friedrich Nietzsche, JP Sartre, G. B. Shaw, G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx and many others have expressed the same idea. These men do not agree on the kind of transformation that will bring the human being to the level needed to thrive; nor do they agree on the procedures to be followed to this end. They all did agree that the human being is a) not complete; b) in the process of becoming, thus being created and must be further transformed before attaining its definitive nature.

The transformation through Creative Interchange transforms the mind – which cannot transform itself – so that the thus transformed mind can be more accurately aware of more experience, i.e. more of reality and can therefor learn more, i.e. transform ever more, through the conscious levels of the mind.

The transformation of the conscious (dual consciousness) and unconscious (non dual awareness) levels of the human beings is necessary in order to a) cope with dark realities or mishaps, b) form reliable intuitions that make one act effectively, c) bring all the resources into action and finally d) satisfy oneself in the wholeness of one’s being.

The goal of this personal two-fold commitment to Creative Interchange is to bring about this creative transformation of one’s own self and the selves of others.

Dealing with the dark realities of life as death or an unforeseeable disaster, for instance, are realities that cannot be controlled. This brings us back to the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr and to the fact that, for example in the case of death, one can not change the reality that death is an intrinsic part of life; one can only modify his perception (i.e. coloring) of that reality. Indeed, on one hand, death cannot be eliminated or avoided in human life and, on the other; death can be integrated in the wholeness of one’s being. For sure, these dark realities are not ‘good’ in themselves and the full appreciative understanding of them leads one to a more abundant life in which Creative Interchange dominates over the Vicious Circle; when this happens – and only in this case – these dark realities have a positive value of their own.  Be aware though, dark realities do not necessarily bring about the needed transformation. They will not, unless they are a trigger for practicing one’s two-fold commitment towards Creative Interchange. This commitment is not a guarantee for success and it is the only way, as far as I know, to release all the resources of the Original Self  for constructive action.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[i]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Lanham. MA: University Press of America®, Inc., 1991. pp. 284-306.

[ii]Hagan, Stacie and Palmgren, Charlie. The Chicken Conspiracy. Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity.Baltimore. MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998.

[iii]Palmgren, Charlie. Ascent of the Eagle. Being and Becoming Your Best.Dayton. Ohio: Innovative Interchange Press. 2008.

[iv]Camus, Albert. The Rebel. An Essay on Man in Revolt.New York. NY: Vintage Books (Alfred A. Knopf), 1954. p. 106.

Friedrich Nietzsche vs. Henry Nelson Wieman (IV)

 

Part 4: The Übermensch (Superhuman)

  

Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Übermensch’

 

Towards the Superhuman

The antithesis of the last human being is the Overman. A word first on the lexicon used by Nietzsche and its translation in English. The German concept is “Übermensch”. “Mensch” is man in the sense generic – man and woman, the human being. For a long time “Übermensch” was translated in English as Overman, and later as Superman, but today we prefer to translate Übermensch by Superhuman, both to defuse a connotation too masculine, even macho and to avoid a too fast association with a figure of superhero or man of superior race.

The misunderstandings and racist interpretations of the concept have been numerous, as one knows. However, if the concept of Übermensch concerns humanity in its various polarities, we cannot deny that Nietzsche makes a rather virile representation of his concept of Superhuman. All examples of great personalities he cites in his work, which gives an idea of the type of human achievement that Nietzsche calls for (artists, politicians, writers), are men.

 

What is the Superhuman, according to Friedrich Nietzsche?

In Zarathustra’s Prologue [i], when Zarathustra is speaking to the crowd, he gives several definitions:

In the prologue chapter 3: “I teach you the superhuman. Human being is something that must be exceeded. What did you do to overcome him? “.

Or, in the prologue, chapter 4: “Mankind is a rope fastened between the animal and the superhuman – a rope stretched over an abyss.”

How to understand Zarathustra’s idea of ​​‘overcoming”?

This overcoming is above all a work on oneself, a creation of oneself, a self-discipline, which consists mainly of the elimination of negative affects: resentment, the desire for revenge.

For that mankind be redeemed from revenge:  that to me is the bridge to the highest hope and the rainbow after long thunderstorms. [ii]

Nietzsche formulated this requirement already in the 1870s. It is a common thread in fact in his life and work; and this thread is strongly tinged with biographical considerations. Thus, he wrote to an Italian correspondent in 1874 (10 years before the Zarathustra): “I can not set myself higher goals than to become one day, one way or another, an “educator” in a higher sense: but I am very far from this goal. I must first eradicate from myself any controversy, any negation, all hatred, all malice, and I tend to think that to be free we must first of all sum up what we flee, fear, hate: but then, never look back for the negative and the sterile! From then on it will be no-thing more than to plant, to build and create!” Letter to Emma Guerrieri-Gonzage (May 10 1874).

Nietzsche therefore conceives the education of himself as an internal struggle to extirpate resentment. This self-transcendence is not only an individual affair. Because what you need to neutralize, is more generally the ascetic morality conveyed by our Christian culture, the morality of renunciation and contempt, contempt for life and body. This implies expelling ascetic values, so a good deal of inherited culture.

This re-education of the self exposes a danger, the danger of isolation, of being alone against all (the danger for an exceptional human being who tries to rise above the mass), danger of inner emptiness – we have to replace the old values, the old illusions, which were perhaps partly harmful, but which structured us despite everything.

This reeducation and transformation requires necessarily time. It’s a slow process, a passage, a progress. From there this image of a rope stretched towards the superhuman, above of an abyss: the abyss is the risk of cynicism, nihilism, a relapse in bestiality. This passage, this tension is at the same time transition and decline: Übergang and Üntergang.

What is great about human beings is that they are a bridge and not a purpose: what is lovable about human beings is that they are a crossing over and a going under.

I love those who do not know how to live unless by going under, for they are the ones who cross over.[iii]

Indeed, we must accept to decline, to deny a part of oneself, to perish (this is the Üntergang idea) to cross the bridge that separates the human being from the Superhuman (this is the Übergang idea) and Zarathustra love those who can only live if they can perish, because by perishing they go beyond themselves.

The Superhuman is in fact the one who fully acquiesces in life. To life in all its aspects: destruction and creation, suffering and enjoyment, malice and goodness. In this respect, one of the most fantastical incarnations of the superhuman is undeniably Dionysus. This reference allows us to visualize what Zarathustra means when he says in chapter 3 of the prologue (still a defining element):

The superhuman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the superman shall be the meaning of the earth! [iv]

So the Superhuman is the meaning of the earth (“der Sinn der Erde”). This means in fact a sanctification of life here below, earthly, corporal, of its pleasures, of his sensual, sexual, instinctual truths. And, the reverse, it is the rejection of all the metaphysical, idealistic projections that construct imaginary worlds; “back-worlds,” [“Hinterweltern”] says Nietzsche, to better despise this world, the only one yet truly existent. Let me refer to the speeches of Zarathustra: “Of the Hinterworldly”, “On the Despisers of the Body” or even “On the Bestowing Virtue” (Book I):

I beseech you, my brothers, remain faithful to the earth and do not believe those who speak to you of extraterrestrial hopes! They are mixers of poisons whether they know it or not. [v]

 

Nietzsche’s idea of Superhuman, where does it come from?

First of all, from the Greek culture. The idea is fed of Greek mythology. Friedrich Nietzsche’s early writings testify his interest in the Titans, in Prometheus (the one who steals fire from the Gods to offer it to men – this makes one think of Zarathustra, who goes down into the valley carrying the fire of his wisdom). Greek culture is also a culture of aristocrats, which exalts personalities of exception, the exploits of an Achilles or a Ulysses. This aristocracy is naturally magnetized, in Nietzsche, towards the creative geniuses, the artists, poets, and writers.

It is also during his schooldays in Pforta, in a piece devoted to the English poet Byron, that Nietzsche would have used, for the first time, the term Übermensch. He characterizes Byron as a “Übermensch who commands over spirits”, like a man who has known how to make of his life a work of art.[vi]

So Greek culture and classical culture – Friedrich Schiller, for example – are an important source of inspiration for Nietzsche, as a teenager, especially the young Schiller of the Sturm und Drang period who magnifies herofigures. At 15, Nietzsche writes: “I reread yesterday The Brigands: each time, it gives me a singular feeling. The characters seem to me almost superhuman. It looks like a titanic fight against religion and virtue, a struggle at the end of which it is the celestial omnipotence that wins an infinitely tragic victory “[FP 6 [77], August 24, 1859].

Nietzsche bathes in all this mythology, at once classic and romantic, which celebrates the aristocratic ideal of the great man. Another reference, generally less well known, more discreet in the work of Nietzsche is that of the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, attached to the transcendentalist movement, who is developing on the east coast of the United States towards the middle of the nineteenth century. Nietzsche discovers Emerson from his high school years. In 1881 Nietzsche will say, regarding Emerson’s Essays: “Never did I feel so much at home in a book “[FP 12 [81], autumn 1881]. He enjoys among other things in the American his gaiety of mind, the famous “Heiterkeit”, and his ability to create a beautiful interiority, as he says – to acquire a true culture, and not a simple erudition.

When Nietzsche wrote The Gay Science, he was reading Emerson, and in the first edition of The Gay Science he paraphrases Emerson: “Dem Dichter und Weisen sind alle Dinge befreundet und geweicht, alle Erlebnisse nützlich, alle Tage heilig, alle Menschen götlich.” Litterally: To the poet and sage, all things are friendly and allowed, all experiences profitable, all days hole, all men divine. Emerson’s original wording being: “To the poet, to the philosopher, to the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all men divine”.[vii]

Emerson is also developing a concept which owes much to his reading of Eastern philosophy, especially Buddhism and Hinduism – and this will interest Nietzsche: this concept is the “over-soul” (or the supreme soul). By this concept, as Nietzsche understands it, Emerson means the result of a process of appropriation by the individual of experiences historical and cultural extra-individual, the reception in itself of multiple potentialities of existence. Nietzsche has a dynamic conception of self, of individuality; a self in motion, in extension.

And besides the obsession of the great personalities, the other spring of the reflection of Nietzsche concerning the Superhuman, as we have just mentioned, it is the obsession with education, which must create a surpassing of oneself. Basically, Nietzsche is an educator, of himself and others. The Self-formation is certainly a personal asceticism, but it needs encouragement, It is for this reason that Zarathustra decides to dispense his wisdom.

This figure of the educator, Nietzsche approaches it from 1874, especially in his third Untimely consideration, entitled ‘Schopenhauer educator’, of which he says himself in Ecce Homo that it could have been called Nietzsche educator:

The way I understand the philosopher, as a terrible explosive that is a danger to everything, how remote my idea of a philosopher is from anything that includes even a Kant, let alone academic ‘ruminants’ and other professors of philosophy. The piece gives an invaluable lesson here, if we admit that what is basically at issue is not ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’ but instead it’s opposite, ‘Nietzsche as Educator’.  [viii]

In Schopenhauer educator Nietzsche claims:

[…] for your true nature lies, not concealed deep within you, but immeasurably high above you, or at least above that which you usually take yourself to be. Your true educators and formative teachers reveal to you that the true, original meaning and basic stuff of your nature is something completely incapable of being educated or formed and is in any case something difficult of access, bound and paralyzed; your educators can be only your liberators. [ix]

This quote contains a paradox: trainers are supposed to unveil something that escapes any training. This paradox is found in Nietzsche’s well-known aphorism, which he borrows from the Greek poet Pindar: “Become the one you are”. Indeed the ‘Gay Science’ aphorism 270 reads:

What does your conscience say? – ” You shall become the person you are.” [x]

Nietzsche gave later his Ecce Homo the subtitle: “How one becomes what one is.”

Nietzsche is not very faithful in paraphrasing Pindar’s idea. This can be translated into English as “As you have learned to know yourself” or even better as “Become as you have learned to be, to know yourself.” In this translation we find two things: a) the dimension of action (i.e. to become) and b) the dimension of knowledge (i.e. what you’ve learned). And it is this last dimension that will disappear in Nietzsche. Indeed, the concept of Pindar is: “As you have learned to know yourself through action.”  Pandor writes this sentence in a poem to Hieron who has just been victorious in the Pythian games (in this case the second Pythian games). These are athletics games, which measure the human potential (such as the Olympic Games). So it is about what Hieron is able to do and, in this case, he won. He is glorious and the task of Pindar is to manifest this glory, to versify it so that it does not fall into oblivion. In other words, to eternalize the glory of Hieron so that indeed something remains. The task of the poet is indeed essential for Hieron to become aware of and know what he has learned to be, what he has become by his action.

To “become the one we are”, means, to Nietzsche, not to attain a certain fulfillment of oneself, which would have been predetermined, as all the characteristics of an adult apple tree are in power in an apple seed; but rather to give shape to its existence according to unexpected experiences, experiments, without preconceived ideas, without a path drawn in advance, but with the desire to confront the contradictions of life, to open up to the multiplicity of the perspectives and not to be evasive and avoids the struggles. It must be remembered that Pindar launches his exhortation to a Pythian winner: the context is that of struggle, of rivalry and heroic surpassing oneself.

The action is to excel at games includes the idea of ​​being better than others and, as a result, one learns to know the qualities that make one better, so exceed the one we were before, in other words, what one is really capable of doing, and, at the same time, what other men are capable of doing; this also compared to other men. If I exel, I’m the best. This is related to another maxim in ancient Greek, maybe even more known, which is “Know yourself.” A precept engraved on the pediment of the temple of Delphi. This adage has been interpreted traditionally, more than an exhortation to self-knowledge, as a call to the awareness of one’s own limitations; in other words, take the measure of the human being and know that this measure of man is different from the divine measure. Since beside the “Gnauthi seaton” (“Become the one we are”) we have the phrase “Mêden agan” (“Nothing too much”), an obvious appeal to moderation; all this warns, according to Pindar, the human not to take himself for a God (if he does so he will burn his wings …).  Pindar invites us to understand the radical difference between the human species and the species of the gods, and Pindar in his odes, especially in the one he addresses to Hieron, puts the dimension of the action in the center. It’s about becoming who we are and in order to do so, we must act.  And that’s probably what interests Nietzsche the most and he takes it a step further when he says “Werde der du bist” (Becomes the one you are) and so the dimension of knowledge disappears.

The reason for this, Nietzsche explains in his more mature texts – from Gay Science and Zarathustra. He writes that to him, the concept of knowledge, as it is developed in Western philosophy – ie the concept of objective, adequate knowledge, etcetera – is devoid of meaning. He writes that the concept has a lot of lead in his wing; since when one knows, one only assimilates, one only appropriates, the exteriority, the otherness so that one misses the otherness for itself. So knowledge is always biased, since to Nietzsche, one can not think independently of one’s head.

The problem that Nietzsche has with the formula: “Become what you are!”, is that it states that you have to become this ‘thing’: the true self which would be at the bottom of us. As we have already seen, Nietzsche wrote: “The true nature [self] is not hidden deep within us, it is on the contrary infinitely beyond us; or at least above of that which you usually take yourself to be[what we commonly take as our true self].”, so according to Nietzsche, this true self is not to be reconstituted, it is not to be rediscovered”; we are not at Plato’s point of view, the real self is in Nietzsche to be build.

So according to Nietzsche, we must not think of knowledge as we do classically, but as an interpretation; knowledge is only interpretative and suddenly the question of knowing in an interpretative way becomes a knowledge that is also energizing; that is to say, a dynamic interpretation of Self, affirmative of Self, which enables us to go forward, towards a beyond Self. “To become self” to Nietzsche is a paradox, since it is always about overcoming oneself, surpassing oneself, there is a kind of dynamic tension in always renewing oneself.

On the other hand, education, rather than revealing content (for example, a set of virtues that would be necessary to develop), has to assert a principle: that of a transformation of oneself in adverse circumstances and self-transcendence. This is the very principle of the Superhuman. For Nietzsche the aim of a good education is to create the best conditions so that the true true philosopher can appear. What’s really interesting, in the second part of the above cited text from the 3rd untimely Meditation, is that the educator is not only the one that makes the qualities fructify, the educator is also the one who in this attempt, at a given moment, will discover something that resists. This resistance, basically, is what in a certain sense makes us original and what must be overcome to become our real Self. Because, and this is my Wiemanian interpretation, becoming one’s Original Self is becoming Authentic and overcoming an obstacle (i.e. freeing oneself from the Vicious Circle).

Moreover, we read in aphorism 2 of the Antichrist that in having to overcome an obstacle, on the path of becoming Self, lies a true joy in the strong sense.

What is good? – Everyting that enhances people’s feeling of power; will to power, power itself.

What is bad? – Everything stemming from weakness.

What is happiness? – The feeling that power is growing, that some resistance has been overcome. [xi]

So happiness is also about overcoming obstacles. Happiness is not a kind state, not a ‘democratic’ happiness, a state without waves and pure simple pleasure at bottom. Reading the above lines of Nietzsche regarding ‘walking the path of becoming Self’ with a Wieman mindset is, to me, really amazing:

What is good? – Everything that enhances people’s living of Creative Interchange (Nietzche’s Power being Yoda’s Force, being Wieman’s Creative Interchange), commitment to Creative Interchange (cf. Man’s Ultimate Commitment’), Creative Interchange

What is bad? – Everyting stemming from being a prisoner of the Vicious Circle.

What is happiness? – The feeling that (one’s ability to live ) Creative Interchange is growing; that the negative working of the Vicious Circle has been overcome.

In a posthumous fragment of 1882, Nietzsche confirms this existential ontology: “I want to teach men the meaning of their being: who is the superhuman”. If this idea of transformation, surpassing, perfecting of the self has in the beginning especially a psychological meaning it is, from the 1880s, taking in a biological connotation. When Nietzsche makes his Zarathustra say (Prologue, §3): “You have made the path from the earthworm towards becoming human, and you still have a lot of earthworms in you. In the past, you were monkeys, and even today the human being is more ape than any other monkey “, we can not but see an allusion to the theory of evolution species of Charles Darwin. The Origin of Darwin’s Species has been published in 1859; it is therefore a theory, for Nietzsche, of a burning topicality – and it is indeed extensively discussed in the second half of the nineteenth century.

How does Nietzsche relate to Darwin’s theory? Let’s say Nietzsche, like many of its contemporaries, is interested by the idea of an evolution of species, but he questions the principle of a struggle for survival. Nietzsche considers that life is “wealth, opulence” and not “scarcity” – and that if there is a struggle, it is most of all a struggle for power. In addition, he does not believe in Darwinist idea that during the course of natural selection the strong would prevail over the weak.

Nietzsche rather thinks opposite:

What surprises me most when surveying the great destinies of man is always seeing before me the opposite of what Darwin and his school see or want to see today: selection in favor of the stronger, in favor of those who have come off better, the progress of the species. The very opposite is quite palpably the case: the elimination of the strokes of luck, the uselessness of the better-constituted types, the inevitable domination achieved by the average, even below-average types.[xii]

Unless our-ape-genealogists gave him reasons why Homo sapiens were an exception to Darwinian evolution, Nietzsche was persuaded that “the school of Darwin has everywhere deceived itself.” [xiii]In struggle for man’s existence, it is not the highest, the strongest, the fittest and the fortunate that survive but the lower and the weaker who “predominate through numbers, through prudence, [and] through cunning.” Nietzsche argued that chance variation, contrary to Darwinian’s survival for the fittest, does not yield any benefit to the fittest. He observed that “nature is cruel towards its favourites, it spares and protects and loves the humble.” [xiv]

To use the vocabulary of Zarathustra, Nietzsche considers that the last human beings outweigh the supermen, he means that the reactive forces (anger, instinct of revenge, weak will, …) prevent the emergence of superior human types (creative, original, …). It is to remove this obstacle that he supports the project of training, a breeding (“Züchtung”) of humanity. Nietzsche writes in a posthumous fragment of 1885 (NF-1885,35 [72] & NF-1885,35 [73] May-July 1885):

There must be many superman: all goodness evolves only among its equals. A god would always be a devil! A ruling race. To “the lords of the earth.”[xv]

The hierarchy carried out in a systems of earth government: the lords of the earth last, a new ruling caste. Emerging from them here and there, quite Epicurean God, the Superman, the transfigurer of existence.[xvi]

Thus, becoming a Superhuman is certainly a work that the human being must lead on his own. And it is also a collective project. Nietzsche does not have a clear and detailed representation of the work to be done, and he does not imagine a specific political and institutional system that would dominate the caste of supermen. But he does speak of a hierarchical system. He draws up a typology of types of humanity (priest, scientist, philosopher, man of action, warrior) according to the degree of development of the vital forces within these types. The Superhuman is of course the type of superior fulfillment.

It should be noted that the emergence of the Superhuman is, according to Nietzsche, possible within many different cultures. This emergence has even already taken place at other times, in others places, and those have always been lucky shots of fate. He presents thus in L’Antichrist the men of the Italian Renaissance. The “philosopher-legislator”, which Nietzsche gives as an example, is he, who, by creating and teaching new values, helps to reduce the element of chance and favors the conditions for the advent of the Superhuman.

This is the meaning of this rather disturbing idea of dressage and breeding:

[…] what type of human must be bred, should be willedas having greater value, as being more deserving of life, as being more certain of future. [xvii]

We will come back on this problematic aspect of Nietzsche’s theory, notably certain eugenic traits; rather disturbing and which cannot be ignored.

 

Henry Nelson Wieman’s ‘Human committed to creative transformation’

Nietzsche’s point of view of the “Übermensch” brings me to Henry Nelson Wieman’s view of the “Human committed to creative transformation”.

According to our interpretation of Henry Nelson Wieman’s philosophy Nietzsche’s Superhuman is the Human who is committed to creative transformation, thus committed to the Greatest Good, to Creative Interchange. He wrote an entirely book on this concept: ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment’. That this ‘Ultimate Commitment’ will lead to conflict is, according to Henry Nelson, inevitable, since the Human committed to creative transformation will go against the grain:

One cannot escape the conflict by abandoning society because interchange with others is necessary for any creative transformation of the mind at the highest human level.

[…] man is made not for human life as it is,  but for the creativity which transforms life. Therefor he must seek his freedom, his peace and his power, and all the great human values by commitment to a creativity, which overcomes the world as now existing by giving it a dimension and form of possibility beyond the compass of human ideals. [xviii]

We’ve already seen that to Wieman ‘creativity’ is a synonym of ‘creative interchange’. As Nietzsche’s ‘Superhuman’, Wieman’s ‘Human committed to creative transformation’ is constantly evolving. Another synonym that Wieman uses for Creative Interchange is ‘The Greatest Good’. With that in mind the following paragraph shows that Creative Interchange is a state of becoming and that there exists two processes of change: one that we call Creative Interchange and another that Charlie Palmgren coined the Vicious Circle:

The greatest good is not a changeless state of being. The most complete satisfaction can only be found in a process of change but this change must have the character which satisfies. If the process ceases to be the kind of change which satisfies and becomes the kind of change which frustrates and reduces satisfaction to a minimum, it is no longer good. [xix]

Indeed the Vicious Circle frustrates and leads to stress and to evasion and to a changeless state of being. Henry Nelson Wieman has described the opposite, the process of change which satisfies, repeatedly. About this creative transformation of the human, he writes, for instance:

It is that creative transformation of the individual which enables him to enter into fuller and more enriching interchange with other individuals, which enable him to find more to appreciate in a greater diversity of situations. […]

This process which expands and enriches the appreciable world cannot stop if the individual is to experience the greatest good. No matter what range and depth of positive value the individual may have reached, he cannot find satisfaction of his individuality in its wholeness unless the expansion and enrichment continue. If it stops at any level, no matter how rich his life may be, misery, frustration, and desperation can occur of the creative transformation does not continue. [xx]

This brings us back to ‘my’ formula: CI2: Continuous Improvement through living Creative Interchange. And Wieman writes repeatedly: “The individual must commit himself to creative good, here called creative transformation, to find satisfaction.”[xxi]

This ‘ultimate commitment’ requires work, hard work:

This commitment requires action to modify all the conditions of human existence in such a way that this creative transformation can operate most effectively throughout society ad human history. [xxii]

These conditions must enhance the probability that Creative Interchange thrives and The Vicious Circle slows down. I’ve always presented this with following picture:

 

 

Wieman’s take on, what Charlie Palmgren coined decades later the Vicious Circle, was based on what Harry Stack Sullivan called “security operations”[xxiii]. He paraphrase’s Sullivan’s thoughts as follows:

These are devices by which the individual protects his self-esteem. The individual ordinarily is not conscious of his own security operations; but he uses them to protect that sense of his own self-worth without which he cannot live with any hope nor any confidence. These security operations, however, do not give the individual a correct knowledge of himself nor of his own worth. They are essentially deceptive.

[…]

Yet the individual’s own idea of himself is very largely shaped by what others think of him, not that he necessarily agrees with what others think, but what he thinks of himself is built up in defense of their judgments. Consequently security operations are ways of thinking, feeling and acting performed to build and perpetuate a false picture of oneself, a false picture of other people and of the social situation.

These security operations which misrepresent oneself and others and the conditions of human existence cannot guide one into situations, which satisfy the individual in his true character and wholeness. They do the contrary. They mislead. Yet these security operations determine in great part what the individual thinks is his own worth and the worth of other people and what he thinks are the good things to seek and cherish in life. Yet so far as security operations dominate the individual, he seeks the opposite of what can satisfy himself in the wholeness of his being. [xxiv]

In other words: When one is committed to his Vicious Circle (cf. Charlie Palmgren) one is everything but committed to Creative Interchange (cf. Henry Nelson Wieman), so this human is no Superhuman (cf. Friedrich Nietzsche). A Human who is committed to creative transformation is living from its original worth, or, in Wieman’s words, from “the unity of the self”:

The chief evil of security operations is that they disrupt the unity of the self. Evidence seems to indicate that the newly born are unified as individuals and continue to have this unity until it is disrupted by security operations. [xxv]

Wieman states here that we are born as unifiedand that this unity is broken by the Vicious Circle. The unity of self is what sometimes is called the Creative Self or even the Original Self living from his Intrinsic Worth. Wieman goes on to describe the reunion of the created self with the Creative Self, the goal of the Human committed to creative transformation, in his words the ‘unified self’, as follows:

A unified self does not mean a self free of all conflicts. It does mean a self, free of conflicts which cannot be treated in such a way as to promote creative transformation. The unified self is not a static or completed condition but the very opposite. It cannot be achieved or approximated except by commitment to creativity [i.e. creative interchange]. Only by learning from others in depth and others learning for oneself in depth, thus releasing the wholeness of individuality in each, can man be unified and this unity be satisfied. But this involves continuous creative transformation with inner conflicts continuously undergoing modification.

This seems to indicate that man in his present condition is transitional to something beyond what he is now. He must either destroy himself or rise toward a level of being not yet within his reach of imagination. This was the teaching of Nietzsche and many others. But the imaginative picture of the super human set forth by Nietzsche cannot be correct precisely because no man in his present state can imagine what that higher level of being may be. The chief thing to be transformed in man is imagination [his mind], not his biological organism. Since the higher being will be chiefly distinguished by a transformed imagination, the imaginings of man today, including the imaginings of Nietzsche, cannot picture that transformed imagination. [xxvi]

Thus Nietzsche’s ‘Superhuman’ is Wieman’s ‘Human committed to creative transformation’. A transformation, which has to be continuous and the final outcome is not known, cannot be imagined. We’re talking about the Creative Self who transforms the created self continuously and that transformation cannot be controlled from the outside-in. That creative transformation is a reality, which Wieman explains as follows:

The goal of this commitment is to unify the self for action, to attain that reorganization which will have right intuitions, and to join oneself with the most important reality there is. The most important reality is the creative transformation of man, which is going on in human history.

That man can undergo creative transformation is demonstrated by the fact that it has actually occurred to various degrees in many cases. […]

Albert Camus has said, “man has not been endowed with a definite nature… is not a finished creation but an experiment of which he can be partly the creator.” Nietzsche, Paul Sartre, G.B. Shaw, Hegel, Karl Marx, Arnold Toynbee and others have expressed the same idea. […] These men do not agree on the kind of transformation, which will bring man to the kind of being which he must become if he is to be saved from degradation or destruction, nor do they agree on the procedures to be followed to this end.  But that man is not complete, that he is in process of being created, that he must be further transformed before he can attain his definitive nature, on this crucial issue they all agreed.[xxvii]

This transformation we consider is in fact a transformation of the mind. We’re coming back to one of Wieman’s basic questions: “What can transform the mind, since the mind can’t do this on its own?” Henry Nelson Wieman claims in this context:

The reorganization of the conscious and unconscious levels [of the mind] of the human being is the greatest good to be sought because [1] it is triumphant over the dark realities, [2] it enables one to act effectively under the guidance of reliable intuition, [3] it unifies the self so that all the resources of his life can be bought into action, [4] it satisfies the wholeness of his being as nothing else can do. [xxviii]

The commitment to Creative Interchange has thus four major benefits: it is triumphant over the dark realities, including death; it enables one to make the right decision in the midst of a crisis and the accompanying ambiguity; it reconnects with the OIriginal Self so that the whole self can brought into action and it is incredible satisfying. The goal of personal commitment to Creative Interchange is to bring about this creative transformation of the self and like transformation in others. Wieman sees technology as one of the needed conditions that must be present for creativity to operate widely and securely throughout human life:

A technology must be created capable of providing all men with the utilities and environmental conditions to undergo creative transformation indefinitely beyond the present state of human existence. Such a technology carries with it a system of communication and interdependence reaching all people of the planet. This magnified power of control and this worldwide interdependence can bring on great evils and can reduce creativity to a minimum. In many cases such has been the consequence and it will continue to be so, with greater evils to come, unless a [last] condition is added to [this one]. [xxix]

So Henry Nelson Wieman predicted the invention of communication systems like the worldwide Internet and the interdependence of all people, together with some of the great dangers of this technology, like the potential danger of Artificial Intelligence. To cope with this dangers he identifies his ‘last’ condition, that our world must bring forth the next two or three hundred years, in order to reach the fullest attainment of human good:

The [last] condition is what we have been describing throughout this writing. It is change of institutions and action of individuals resulting from recognition of the moral predicament of man and from practice of personal commitment. It is a change in institutions and action of individuals which will bring into the lives of many people the dominance of creativity which in the past has occurred only in the lives of a few. This is not only our vocation and opportunity. It is a demand forced by a peril hanging over us more deadly than ever before threatened the whole of humanity at once. This peril may never cease to threaten so long as civilization continues. But it may be mastered by turning it into a servant of man’s creative transformation. [xxx]

In this part Henry Nelson Wieman is in fact talking about the Vicious Circle and the Creative Interchange process, and states that we must know them both and understand them appreciatively if life is ever to rise to greatness. But understanding both is not a guarantee for success. We must live up to the responsibility to choose for the commitment to Creative Interchange. We won’t live the process always perfectly. Fact is that a human being has now the power to meet the demands of Creative Interchange as it could not before. Henry Nelson Wieman closes his book ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment’ with following remarkable paragraphs:

I have explained what I mean by creative and transforming power. I mean two things [1] interchange which creates appreciative understanding of unique individuality; [2] integration within each individual of what he gets from others in this way, thus progressively creating his own personality in power, knowledge, and capacity to appreciate more profoundly diverse individuals, peoples and things.

I know that I cannot be in error in holding the belief that I am at least partially in error concerning the character of the reality to which I am ultimately committed. Hence I know with certainty that I am ultimately given to what is more than, and in some respects different from, everything affirmed in this book. With this triumph over error I make my last commitment: I cast my error, my failure, and my guilt into the keeping of creative and transforming power. [xxxi]

 

Nietzsche’s ‘Superhuman’ vs. Wieman’s ‘Human committed to Creative Interchange’

Nietzsche’s and Wieman’s thinking are both unfinished works. This is in adequacy with their major subjects: the ‘Superhuman’ and the ‘Human committed to Creative Interchange’. Indeed, both are promises open on the future, a steep path without a predefined goal; it’s a direction towards a higher level of humanity.

To Nietzsche, the ‘Superhuman’ is “the meaning of the earth” and to Wieman, the ‘Human committed to Creative Interchange’ is committed to “what operates in all human life to create, save and transform.”

Both, Nietzsche and Wieman have a dynamic conception of self: a self in motion, extension, and expansion. They are paraphrasing somehow Pindar’s formula “Become what you are.” The difference between the two is that Nietzsche denies and Wieman embraces that it states that you have to become your Original Self. To Nietzsche, the real self is to be build and to Wieman the Original Self is to be re-discovered; both agree that this can only happen through struggle and action.  “To become self” is to Nietzsche about surpassing yourself and to Wieman about becoming your Original Self by surpassing your actual created self using your Creative Self, core part of your Original Self.

A main difference between Nietzsche’s ‘Superhuman’ and Wieman’s ‘Human committed to Creative Interchange’ is that Nietzsche speaks of a hierarchical system, so the Superhuman is still part of the happy few and according to Wieman everybody can commit himself to Creative Interchange and obtain superior fulfillment that way.

Both, Nietzsche and Wieman were interested in Buddhism. In this essay Nietzsche’s interest in Buddha and Buddhism has been described several times. Less known is that Wieman has been considered as a Buddhist by several writers and even by his daughter. For instance, in his article, “Creativity in the Buddhist perspective” Nolan Pliny Jabobson cites a paragraph of Wieman’s ‘Intellectual Autobiography’ that “might have been written by a Buddhist” [xxxii]You can find more in ‘Buddhism and Wieman on Suffering and Joy’ written by David Lee Miller, chapter 6 of a book edited by Kenneth K. Inada and Nolan P. Jacobson ‘Buddhism and American Thinkers’. [xxxiii]

In another book, Nolan P. Jacobson cites Miller: “Creative interchange as the Bodhisattva Ideal is a model that calls for a certain kind of rationality that is integral to the flow of life, centering us in the depths of the sustaining and transformation foundations of life.” And continues:

On hearing Miller’s paper at the Conference, Wieman’s wife Laura, came forward to tell Miller that Wieman’s daughter, Kendra, had come to much the same conclusions, presenting a paper entitled “Creation Without a Creator” at a recent meeting in Berkeley. “I’ve always believed,” Kendra Smith says, “that there was more similarity between my fathers thinking and Buddhism than he ever conceded.”[xxxiv]

__________________________________________________________________________________

[i]Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A Book for All and None.Translated by Adrian Del Caro. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2006, pp. 3-16.

[ii]ibid. – On the Tarantulas – p. 77.

[iii]ibid. Prologue 4,p. 7.

[iv]ibid. Prologue 3,p. 6.

[v]ibid. Prologue 3,p. 6.

[vi]Safranski, Rüdiger, Nietzsche A Philosophical Biography, Translated by Shelley Frisch, London: Granta Books, 2002, p. 35.

[vii]Nietzsche, Friedrich,The Gay Science, Translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York, NY: Vintage Books, A division of Random House, 1974; Translator’s Introduction, pp. 7-8.

[viii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, The Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings. Translation Judith Norman. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p.115.

[ix]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Untimely Meditations,Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2007, p. 129.

[x]Nietzsche, Friedrich,The Gay Science, Transl. by Walter Kaufmann, op. cit. aphorism 270, p. 219.

[xi]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, The Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings. Translation Judith Norman. Op. cit. p. 4.

[xii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Writings from the late Notebooks, Translated by Kate Sturge, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2003, p. 258.

[xiii]ibid. p. 259.

[xiv]ibid. p. 260.

[xv]http://www.nietzschesource.org/#eKGWB/NF-1885,35[72]

[xvi]http://www.nietzschesource.org/#eKGWB/NF-1885,35[73] II

[xvii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Translated by Judith Norman, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Aphorism 3, p. 4.

[xviii]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment, Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America ®, Inc. Reprint, Originally published: Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958, p. 73.

[xix]ibid. p. 105.

[xx]ibid. pp. 105-106.

[xxi]ibid. p. 107.

[xxii]ibid. pp. 107-108.

[xxiii]Sullivan, Harry Stack. The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry,New York NY: Norton, 1953, pp. 261-263 and 290-291.

[xxiv]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment, op. cit. pp. 108-109.

[xxv]ibid. p. 109.

[xxvi]ibid. pp. 109-110.

[xxvii]ibid. p. 294.

[xxviii]ibid. p. 295.

[xxix]ibid. p. 303.

[xxx]ibid. p. 304.

[xxxi]ibid. pp. 305-306.

[xxxii]Jacobson, Nolan, Pliny. Creativity in the Buddhist Perspective. The Eastern Buddhist, New Series, Vol. 9, No. 2, October 1976, p. 55.

[xxxiii]Ed. Inada, Kenneth, K. & Jacobson, Nolan P. Buddhism and American Thinkers, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984, pp. 90-110.

[xxxiv]Jacobson, Nolan Pliny. Understanding Buddhism, Carbondale ILL: Southern Illinois University Press. 1986, p. 125.

Friedrich Nietzsche vs. Henry Nelson Wieman (III)

 

Part III: God is dead

 

Friedrich Nietzsche’s view on ‘God is dead’

What Nietzsche diagnosed with a provocative and famous formula: “God is dead” is at the heart of his work ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ and is about the consequences of secularisation, the slow but apparently unavoidable reflux of the Christian religion and of its influence, in European societies of the late nineteenth century.  The Gay Science In fact, Nietzsche evoked the death of God already in the Gay Science, a year before him beginning to write ‘Zarathustra’. So, let’s have a close look at Aphorism No.125 of the Gay Science, entitled “The madman”:

The madman. — Haven’t you heard of that madman who in the bright morning lit a lantern and ran around the marketplace crying incessantly, “I’m looking for God! I’m looking for God!” Since many of those who did not believe in God were standing around together just then, he caused great laughter. “Has he been lost, then?” asked one. “Did he lose his way like a child?” asked another. “Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone to sea? Emigrated?” — Thus they shouted and laughed, one interrupting the other. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. ‘Where is God?’ he cried; “I’ll tell you! We have killed him – you and I! We are all his murderers. But how did we do this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Where is it moving to now? Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? Hasn’t it got colder? Isn’t night and more night coming again and again? Don’t lanterns have to be lit in the morning? Do we still hear nothing of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we still smell nothing of the divine decomposition? — Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderers of all murderers! The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it? There was never a greater deed — and whoever is born after us will on account of this deed belong to a higher history than all history up to now!” Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; they too were silent and looked at him disconcertedly. Finally he threw his lantern on the ground so that it broke into pieces and went out. “I come too early”, he then said; “my time is not yet.” This tremendous event is still on its way, wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder need time; the light of the stars needs time; deeds need time, even after they are done, in order to be seen and heard. This deed is still more remote to them than the remotest stars – and yet they have done it themselves!’ It is still recounted how on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there started singing his requiem aeternam deo[1].Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but, “What then are these churches now, if not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”[i]

This text is of course a parody of the gospel: it is not an angel who comes to announce the good news – the coming of the messiah – but a madman, who announces the news of the death of God. This text contains several essential theses:  the death of God, the fact that these men are the murderers, the fact that these men are not even worthy of the act they perpetrated and, finally, the fact that this death has unforeseen repercussions; indeed it triggers a shockwave and humanity is just beginning to feel its first effects.

God is dead.  But what kind of God is dead? The Christian God or the God of Christianity; a religion that according to Nietzsche devalues ​​life. Nietzsche is not against any form of religion or religiosity: to him religion is one of those necessary illusions, one of the typically human inventions that help to live. The problem for Nietzsche is that, in his eyes, Christianity promotes a negative, oppressive form of life. That’s why he rejects it. But, he is willing to adhere to more positive forms of religion – such as ancient polytheism or, in some respects, such as Buddhism or Hinduism. And we will see that his doctrine of the Eternal Return is entirely related to a new belief that he would like to inculcate the coming humanity.

God is dead, announces the fool in the aphorism 125, because mankind has killed him. How to understand this assertion? It is first, on the part of Nietzsche, a twofold statement:

  1. first, a sociological statement. With modernity (industrial and political), the effects of which are particularly felt in the second half of the nineteenth century, the religious as structuring principle undeniably loses authority. So the slogan of “The death of God” refers, as I have already suggested, to the process of secularization of European societies that Nietzsche has witnessed so to speak;
  2. secondly, it’s also a philosophical observation. Many philosophers, especially since the Enlightenment, have taken note and have, by their work and their reflections, contributed to this secularization.

Thus, the Christian God has become, to Nietzsche, an object of study, philosophical, philological, historical and an object of antiquity.  On this subject, in aphorism 113 in ‘Human, All Too Human’, Nietzsche expresses with some irony his disbelief at the persistence of a belief that seems to him totally anachronistic:

Christianity an antiquity. When on Sunday we hear the bells ringing we ask ourselves: is it possible! This is going on because of a Jew crucified 2000 years ago who said he was the son of God. The proof of such an assertion is lacking. —  In the context of our age the Christian religion is certainly a piece of antiquity intruding out of distant ages past, and that the above-mentioned assertion is believed – while one is otherwise so rigorous in the testing of claims — is perhaps the most ancient piece of this inheritance. A god who begets children on a mortal woman; a sage who calls upon us no longer to work, no longer to sit in judgment, but to heed the signs of the imminent end of the world; a justice which accepts an innocent man as a substitute sacrifice; someone who bids his disciples drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sin perpetrated against a god atoned for by a god; fear of a Beyond to which death is the gateway; the figure of the Cross as a symbol in an age which no longer knows the meaning and shame of the Cross — how gruesomely all this is wafted to us, as if out of the grave of a primeval past! Can one believe that things of this sort are still believed in?[ii]

In short, a double observation: sociological and philosophical. But Nietzsche not only takes note of the death of God, he seeks – secondly– the causes. The first cause, which seems rather obvious, is the progress of science, and the dissolving, disenchanting effect of its rational model of explanation of the world. The science which circumscribes ever more the part of mystery. Nietzsche thus speaks of a “scientific atheism” (in Gay Science Aphorism 357). Nevertheless, this is not the main cause, because in the end, belief, according to Nietzsche, is not an affair of scientific knowledge or ignorance, it is above all an affair of need. One can have learned from the discoveries of science and still be believer; as we can be ignorant of these discoveries and be atheist. We must therefore look for the cause elsewhere. In fact, for Nietzsche, the death of God is inherent in Christianity itself. First, Christianity is the victim of its own claim to hold the truth, to nurture an ideal of knowledge, an absolute, an ideal of transparency and morality; in the end, “the lie of belief in God” couldn’t not to be unmasked (says Nietzsche in Gay Science, aphorism 357). Next, Christianity is a carrier of nihilism: it produces mediocre individuals, so cowardly, that they end up not wanting to submit to the prescriptions of a God who seems to them too demanding. Finally, Nietzsche suggests, we have the God we deserve. Hence this crowd of individuals who no longer believe in God, whom we meet in the aphorism 125 of the Gay Science (see above); and of course in the Zarathustra — it’s the crowd that Zarathustra will try to convert, without success, to the ideal of the Superman. To believe or not to believe is not the discriminating criterion for Nietzsche between a superstitious humanity, therefore inferior, and an enlightened and therefore superior humanity. There are petty, mean-spirited, vulgar atheists, and profligate believers, generous and valiant. The atheism of his contemporaries is for Nietzsche the mark of a spiritual laziness, of physiological exhaustion, of creative helplessness. It is this mediocrity, which prevents the birth of new great illusions. And life needs illusions to prosper. Without beautiful and great illusions, and without the strength to believe in it, to adhere to it, one is poured quickly into a kind of indifference, relativism, cynicism. And that is what Nietzsche fears: that cynicism and nihilism become the dominant moral traits of future Humanity.

This brings us to the third thesis contained in the aphorism 125 of Gay Science, men are not worthy of the act they perpetrated. And here we find the typical Nietzschean touch of inversion of valuations. This assassination is not an act of heroism, it is an act of cowardice. Finally, the truly grandiose act is that of creation, not that of the death of God. Men are also compared in an unflattering way to “gravediggers”: an image that suggests anonymous, obscure actions at dusk of the night. We find this image of “gravediggers” especially in the Zarathustra (§8 and 9 of the Prologue); where gravediggers dig the grave of a tightrope walker who has been falling from his rope into the empty space, a funambulist who symbolizes the superior man, the artist, who has the courage to take risks, even at the risk of one’s life. Gravediggers dig, but what are they capable of building or rebuilding? This is obviously the crucial question. Nietzsche places us before the historical alternative: nihilism or renewal of values.

The fourth thesis contained in aphorism 125 of Gay Science concerns the scope of the event.  An idea that Nietzsche repeats in different texts; for example, in aphorism 108 of Gay Science. He changes God, this time it is Buddha, but the idea remains the same:

New battles. After Buddha was dead, they still showed his shadow in a cave for centuries – a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way people are, there may still for millennia be caves in which they show his shadow. And we – we must still defeat his shadow as well! [iii]

Here we find the idea that the death of God is an event that is part of the very long span of time of human history and that there is a huge time lag between an act, especially if it is large, and the perception of this act —  (let alone the appreciation of this act). The cognitive and cultural upheaval caused by this event requires relearning, a new perception, a new form of appreciative understanding, new habits; in short, a profound cultural change (makes me think of the Crucial Dialogue Model, a lemniscate based on Creative Interchange). All this takes a lot, a very lot of time.

Let’s go back to a portion of aphorism 125 of Gay Science:

“This tremendous event is still on its way, wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder need time; the light of the stars needs time; deeds need time, even after they are done, in order to be seen and heard.”

We note in passing that Nietzsche likes to formulate his ideas with emphasis to produce dramatic effects. This pathos has no doubt helped to establish his reputation as a visionary philosopher. Still, behind the desire to impress the reader, there is in these passages, let’s recognize it, a powerful intuition that has proved to be accurate, when one takes a retrospective look at the 135 years that separate us from Gay Science and Zarathustra. This is what the sociology of religion teaches us in the last twenty years or so. Undeniably, European societies have become secularized, but nothing is not settled so far. On the one hand, sociologists of religion agree to talk about a redevelopment of the religious, and no longer of a reflux; on the other hand, the famous religious exit is endlessly payed by a prize: social and political blockages. It seems not so easy to find new forms of social organization entirely secularized, as it is not obvious to find an orientation in existence disconnected from all transcendence. Moving from a millennial heteronomy to a radical autonomy requires a process of cessation, which can only be slow and chaotic.

In this sense, the shadow of God continues to hover over Europe, as predicted Nietzsche in the Gay Science (especially in the aphorism 343). In this aphorism, Nietzsche points out a paradox created by the news of the death of God.

 […] — Why is it that even we look forward to this darkening without any genuine involvement and above all without worry and fear for ourselves? Are we perhaps still not too influenced by the most immediate consequences of this event – and these immediate consequences, the consequences for ourselves, are the opposite of what one might expect – not at all sad and gloomy, but much more like a new and barely describable type of light, happiness, relief, amusement, encouragement, dawn . . . [iv]

What Nietzsche describes here is a paradoxical reaction following the death of God: on the one hand, of course, the feeling is intoxicating, galvanizing with an unheard, unprecedented liberation; we have all reasons to rejoice wholeheartedly the death of the old Christian God; on the other hand, a form of unconsciousness, carelessness that could have serious consequences. For the space liberated will have to be occupied. The horizon that has been erased will have to be redrawn in one way or another.

The philosopher, the free spirit, can feel an exaltation, a joy (the famous ‘Heiterkeit’ — Nietzsche uses the word later in the text) and nurture some confidence in his abilities to find a new direction, new cardinal points on the “vast sea” which now opens before him; remains that humanity is not just constituted by free spirits – far from it. And that’s where the concern comes up. And this anxiety, the madman of aphorism 125 expresses it with clairvoyance; ironically, a demented person who sees crystal clear. Remember: “Where are we moving to? Away from all suns? Are we not continually falling? And backwards, sidewards, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and a down? Aren’t we straying as though through an infinite nothing? Isn’t empty space breathing at us? “ “An infinite nothingness,” says the madman.

The question of nihilism is central in Nietzsche’s philosophy (Nihil est: it’s “nothing”, in Latin, nihilism; it’s not believing in anything, in any value). It is essential to clarify Nietzsche’s position because the claim that Nietzsche is a nihilist philosopher is certainly one of the biggest misunderstandings of the history of philosophy. So, is Nietzsche a nihilist philosopher? The very term “Nihilismus” appears abundantly in Nietzsche’s texts, especially in unpublished fragments, written from the years 1885, 86, 87 and 88, therefore rather late. In a fragment of 1887 precisely, Nietzsche gives the following definition of nihilism: “Nihilism: the goal is lacking; the answer to ‘why?’ is missing. What nihilism? the fact that supreme values ​​are devalued.” So nihilism is a loss of meaning, of references; as if the transmission is not done, or better, is no longer done, between individuals, mind, body, and ideals external to them. A loss of adequacy. The cause of this loss of orientation is that the highest values ​​of the culture concerned are weakened, devalued. They lost their motivation power.

To understand this idea, one must understand what a value is for Nietzsche. Values ​​are not disembodied moral and intellectual constructions. Of course, they exist outside individuals, pre-exist, and survive, but they have a reality only if they are incarnated, carried, by persons, or institutions, social and cultural practices. They are literally “incorporated” (“einverleibt” says Nietzsche – same lexical and semantic construction – inserted inside the body). Values ​​are preferences that engage us, our minds, our bodies (Nietzsche does not separate the two) with the strength of evidence, often in a unconscious way, which make us make choices and shape our existence in a particular way. Another element of definition: values, which are necessarily plural, are not isolated from each other, but organized at the individual level and at the collective level, in a structured and hierarchical way (“Rangordnung”). They form ‘leveled’ systems; with dominant, superior, primordial values and less important, subordinate values. This hierarchical organization of values produces, at the individual level, particular human types; and at the collective level, particular types of culture. These ‘leveled’ systems are bound to, sometimes over very long periods (for example in Christian Europe: over 2000 years), evolve or even to decline, to lose their power of regulation.

And how is this loss of authority of values ​ translated? On one hand, by a lag, a discord, disharmony between these values and the goals that they set, and on the other hand,  the instinctive organization of individuals (the way in which they have incorporated these values), their strengths, their aptitudes. From the moment individuals no longer recognize the motivating and constraining power and persuasion of values, those lose their credibility and individuals no longer adhere to them. So much for the general process of devaluation of values ​​and disaffection vis-à-vis of them, proper to nihilism.

But, and this is where Nietzsche’s approach is original, this lag is not always harmful. In fact, there are, according to Nietzsche, two types of nihilism: active nihilism and passive nihilism. Passive nihilism, the one Nietzsche fears and fights, is due to physiological and spiritual exhaustion of individuals for whom cultural ideals become inaccessible. They no longer believe in these ideals, feel a feeling of fatigue and emptiness. They no longer have the will to meet the requirements set by the higher values of their culture.  Let me quote Nietzsche, still in this fragment of 1887:

“Nihilism as a decline and regression of the power of the mind is passive nihilism. It’s a sign of weakness: the strength of the spirit is so tired, exhausted, so that the goals and values ​​until then so prevalent are nowadays inappropriate, inadequate and no longer believed in.” And these values ​​that individuals can not honorably honour any more end up appearing to them not only subjectively but also objectively inappropriate, artificial, and ultimately inconsistent.

The speculative audacity of Nietzsche, perhaps his imprudence, drives him to consider his analyzes on very large scales: he does not hesitate to speak of European nihilism. For him, European culture (which includes Russia) is unified by Christianity and suffers as a whole from nihilism. He sees signs, for his century, in the literature, of German romantics, to the novels of Tolstoy, passing by the poetry of Leopardi, Baudelaire or the Flaubert’s novels – all presenting symptoms of decadence (feeling of distress, weakness of the will, pessimism and disenchanted dilettantism). Nihilism is thus a slow process of cultural decomposition produced by two thousand years of Christianity. Nietzsche’s epoch is an advanced form, but not yet completed. This decomposition may well become worse in the future: “What I’m telling is [in fact] the story of the next two centuries,” he writes in 1887.

Beside this passive nihilism, there is an active nihilism. Discrepancy, specific to nihilism in general, between dominant social values ​​and organization. Individual drive can be a chance, the symptom of something great who is preparing, the symptom of a renewal: the fact that the supreme values can no longer find credit from individuals can be the sign, not of exhaustion of those, who would no longer live up to the ideals consecrated, but on the contrary, a strength, independence, creativity, on the part of individuals who no longer find fulfillment for the purposes set by the value system of a given culture, who consider these goals, these ideals as henceforth unproductive, infertile. Let me, once more, quote Nietzsche: “Nihilism as a sign of increased power of the mind: as active nihilism. It can be a sign of strength: the strength of the spirit has been able to increase. So that the goals set so far (“convictions”, articles of faith) are no longer to his measure.”

I think we can now answer the question: Is Nietzsche a nihilist philosopher? If we take the term “nihilist” in its most common sense (Someone who no longer believes in anything, does not have the taste to action anymore, or when acting he/she is moved by death instincts), Nietzsche is the opposite of a nihilist philosopher. What can be said, on the other hand, is that he is a philosopher who theorizes ‘Nihilism’, and that in his theoretical scheme he identifies an active nihilism, a “good” nihilism, that is to say an aptitude, a force capable to get rid of old values ​​and to establish new ones. In this sense, and in this sense only, we can say that Nietzsche is a nihilist philosopher. So one has to be very careful with this formulation. Now, we are able to better understand what “the death of God” means to Nietzsche. This death is not a theological question (whether one can prove the existence or not of God); it has something to do with the weakening of Western culture, the fading of its cardinal values, those which were put in the spotlight by Christianity for nearly twenty centuries: love of neighbor, charity, pity, the ideals of chastity, purity, disinterestedness, truth, justice, kindness. In his Zarathustra, Nietzsche will continue his criticism of Christian values, and call for a creative, transformational and evaluative surge to a renewal of Western values.

Thus spoke Zarathustra: genesis of the work 

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra strucks the minds, unquestionably, and inspired many artists, writers, and even politicians. This success is due to the undeniable originality of this work.

First, originality of the form: absolutely atypical form, which detonates and in Nietzsche’s production, and in the history of philosophy. Here is a succession of sermons, speeches, and parables, given by a character, for the least eccentric, a prophet from whom one does not know where. A philosophical poem written in a language saturated with images and metaphors. It is not entirely clear whether it is a pastiche, a parody or an absolutely serious text.  It is a work that is philosophical but deliberately breaks with the Western philosophical tradition based on rational demonstrations, well-constructed reasoning, a well-argued language.  Secondly, the singularity of this work also lies at the heart itself, the themes it addresses and the motives, the concepts it introduces: the death of God, the superhuman (the famous “Übermensch”), the transmutation of values, the eternal return … So many concepts that are original, intriguing and disconcerting, which gives Nietzsche’s work a special aura. This work is finally singular by the megalomaniac goal it pursues. Nietzsche’s ambition is indeed to provoke a cultural and civilizational change by re-educating old Europe and winning it to new values, substituting to Christian morality an “active immoralism”. This book is according to Nietzsche “the first book of the reversal of all values.” (“Das erste Buch der Umwertung Werte”)

Nietzsche himself has not lost any praise for his work. You should read the pages of his autobiography Ecce Homo which are devoted to ​​Zarathustra. To our delight, it must be admitted, he does not bother with false modesty: “My Zarathustra has a special place for me in my writings. With it, I have given humanity the greatest gift it has ever received.” [v]Or again: “[My book, Zarathustra] cuts the history of humanity into two pieces. One lives before him, one lives after him.” [vi]The reference to Jesus and to Christianity is obvious. Just as Jesus inaugurated a new era, there is a before and after Christ, Nietzsche claims to embody a new break and a new beginning in the history of humanity.

By the way, who is Zarathustra? Zarathustra is Zoroaster, a character whose existence is historically attested, a priest of the god Mazda. In the religion of Mazdeism. He founded his own religion – so-called Zoroastrianism. He would have lived, somewhere between the 10th and 6th centuries BC, in Persia, in a part of present-day Iran, or perhaps Uzbekistan or Afghanistan. We will not go into the details of his doctrine; what matters is what Nietzsche decides to retain from it. Nietzsche retains two main ideas: First, Zoroaster is the founder of a moral dualism. He develops a doctrine where Good and Evil appear as two poles who determine everything that happens in the universe.The whole philosophy of Nietzsche is certainly opposed to this dualism, but precisely, Nietzsche’s rather brilliant idea is that it is up to Zoroaster to deny his own doctrine, to break the tables of his own laws, of some sort, and to found a new world order. I quote: “Zarathustra created this most fateful of errors, morality: consequently he must also be the first to recognize it as such.”[vii]

And, second idea, Zoroaster has for this a rare and indispensable quality: truthfulness says Nietzsche (“Wahrhaftigkeit”). The ability to see clearly in one’s own intentions, not to be deluded, to show intellectual courage: veracity. According to Nietzsche, it is the antidote to idealism.

Let us add that Nietzsche is certainly seduced by the strength of a man capable of imposing his own vision of the world, his own moral doctrine to his contemporaries, able to found a religion – he is fascinated by the founders, the “legislators” as he says. He is fascinated at bottom by their will to power; and then he is also seduced by Eastern religions, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, Buddhism, which are not religions of capital sin and fault. So, for once, we stay in the horizon of Christian culture with Zarathoustra (and we must confess that this association of a Persian prophet and Christian themes sometimes gives an impression of kitsch). There are many references to the Bible, places familiar to the Christian reader (for example, the Mount of Olives), ritual formulations, the very form of the text, made of sermons, prayers, allegorical stories … remind us of the Bible. The fact that Zarathustra speaks to his ‘folowers’ or to disciples, even if he urges them to emancipate themselves; even if he refuses to be held for a prophet, for a guru, all this obviously recalls the figure of Jesus and his apostles. Nietzsche has also described his work as “the fifth gospel” (Letter to his publisher 13.02.1883). And indeed, Zarathustra brings good news, a gospel. In this case the death of God and the coming of the Superhuman; the Superhuman being not a Messiah, a single God, but, let us say it immediately: “humanity in what it has the best.”

A word on the biographical context of the writing of Zarathustra. The Zarathustra revolves around three main ideas or concepts: death of God, the superhuman and the eternal return. (this part of this essay and the next two). According to Nietzsche, it was the idea of ​​eternal return that gave the decisive impetus to the work. This idea would suddenly come to him, as an inspiration, on a summer day when he was walking around Lake Silvaplana near the village of Sils-Maria, Switzerland. Nietzsche reports the episode in Ecce Homo, with, as always, a keen sense of the staging:

Now I will tell the history of Zarathustra. The basic idea of the work, the thought of eternal return, the highest possible formula of affirmation -, belongs to August of the year 1881: it was thrown onto paper with the title ‘6,000 feet beyond people and time’. That day I went through the woods to the lake of Silvaplana [Engadin, between St. Moritz and Sils-Maria];I stopped near Surlei by a huge, pyramidal boulder. That is where this thought came to me. [viii]

But Nietzsche does not start writing the Zarathustra yet. What occupies him in 1881 and 1882 is the Gay Science, a work that contains some warning signs of Zarathustra: §125, which we presented “The Madman”; § 341, entitled “The most heavy weight” and which states the idea of ​​eternal return and § 342, entitled “Incipit tragoedia” – “tragedy begins”, which is the last paragraph of book 4 of Gay Science, and which contains only a few words. The Incipit of Zarathustra: this text is about the decision of Zarathustra to return among men and teach them the superhuman. Nietzsche will write his Zarathustra in stages, in four parts, written between January 1883 and January 1885, while in different places, Genoa, Rapallo, Rome, Sils-Maria, Menton and Nice. He does not have a clear vision of the overall composition: he even thinks that he must stop after the first part; then, after the first three parts, he plans to resume everything to zero; the fourth part will be refused by its publisher; Nietzsche will publish it in forty copies at his own expense. Later, he will even consider a 5th or 6th part. He will, in any case, oppose the publication of the four parts in one set – and that is yet the version we have today. The Zarathustra is therefore an unfinished work. Which is finally in adequacy with its subject: the superhuman is a promise open on the future, a path – steep – without a predefined goal, it is an “arrow” that we draw, says Nietzsche.

The important biographical fact that forms the backdrop of Zarathoustra is his meeting at the end of April 1882, in Rome, with Lou Salome.  “What stars did we fall to meet us?” He would have asked her at their first meeting, at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Nietzsche was in fact in Rome in the spring of 1882, at the invitation of the two friends with whom he had stayed in Sorrento a few years earlier: Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Rée. Lou is a Russian girl in her twenties, who moved from Russia with her mother, after the death of her father who was a general, to Zurich to study. And then, because of health problems, she was recommended an extended stay under a more favorable climate, a Mediterranean climate. It is in Rome that she comes into contact with the circle of Malwida. Malwida and Paul Rée, who is also present, are immediately conquered, subjugated by the exceptional intellectual maturity of the young woman. Paul falls in love with her immediately. And both Malwida and Paul are convinced that Lou is the right sparring partner To Nietzsche, since she is, like him, a Free Spirit.Nietzsche responds to the invitation, his curiosity is stoked by the praise of the young woman that his friends make in their mail and he goes to Rome. And indeed he too will fall in love with Lou. He does not hesitate to ask her to marry him. Twice even – requests that the young woman rejects. Never mind, so that their intellectual complicity can continue to grow and flourish, Lou, Paul and Friedrich consider forming an intellectual household of three, a community of work and studies. They think about Paris, Vienna. I pass the details: it will not succeed. Worse, relations will quickly fester between Nietzsche and his two friends, Lou and Paul. Nietzsche developing jealousy regarding Paul and suspecting Paul and Lou of getting along behind his back and betray their three-way community project. What is certain, Nietzsche’s sister, who had the opportunity to meet Lou during the summer, in Germany and who did not like her at all, played a harmful role in this story, whispering in her brother’s ear that Lou would have publicly suggested that he was suffering from a form of madness. The episode, in any case, will leave traces, all the more profound. The hopes Nietzsche had placed in this relationship, perhaps in a rather candid and precipitated way, were great. It is this terrible disappointment that he confesses to his friend Overbeck in a letter of December 1883 (6.12.1883): “The real misfortune of this year and last year was the fact that I thought I had found a being who had exactly the same mission as me. If I had not believed that too quickly, I would not have suffered and would not suffer at this point a feeling of extreme loneliness, as I did and as I do: because I am and I was prepared to complete my journey of discovery alone. But as soon as I had once dreamed of not being alone, the danger was frightening. There are still hours today when I do not know how to support myself.”

The disappointment, the difficulty of making lasting contact with one’s surroundings, the feeling that he will have to carry out alone his philosophical enterprise, undoubtedly constitute the biographical and existential of Zarathustra. At Overbeck, still writing his book in February 1883, he writes:  “This book […] is a bit like my testament. It contains an image of my being (“ein Bild meines Wesens”), perfectly clear, and shows what it looks like as soon as I manage to put down my whole burden.” (10.02.1883).

The prologue: Zarathustra descends into the valley

Let’s go back into the work. Does this work have a unity, is there a common thread? Not really. The plot is very tenuous. The book starts when Zarathustra decides to leave the loneliness of his mountain and to go in front of men to lavish his wisdom on them. Men are indifferent to what Zarathustra wants to teach them and he chooses to address himself only to a small number of disciples, whom he often calls “Brüder”, my “brothers”. The main subject is formed by the speeches of Zarathustra; his teaching. We’ve already said that this teaching consists of parables, sermons, oscillating between imprecations and exhortations. On several occasions, tired of his teaching, Zarathustra returns to his loneliness and holds a monologue. Zarathustra’s speeches are in reality self-sufficient. These are style exercises on a particular theme, for example: on moral preachers, on the deniers of the body, on chastity, on charity, on new idols (state, nation), on egalitarian ideals, on war, on marriage and on friendship. Topics that affect, in fact, the organization of society in its moral and institutional dimension. And then there are amazing encounters, for example, in Book IV: with an old magician, a Pope, a sad devine, a shadow, a volunteer beggar and even a donkey … Is there a progression through these discourses? Very light. We can consider that the third book forms the heart of the book, with the revelation of the eternal return. Is there an outcome? Not really. As we have said, Nietzsche had even thought of writing a sequel, a 5th or even a 6th part. The superhuman does not appear, because it’s not the messiah, it’s more of a process, a tension, an attempt, than a clearly determined goal.

I have presented so far the four books that make up Zarathustra; the prologue must be added. The prologue is composed of 10 small chapters that condense the essence of Zarathustra. Ultimately, if only one part of the book were to be read, that would be this prologue. Everything is there: the death of God, the superhuman, the eternal return, the last men, etcetera. On top of that, the text is very pleasant to read, lively, a true narrative (the only true narrative of the book, by the way), organized around a plot – which intrigues Zarathustra in miniature: Zarathustra’s attempt to convert the inhabitants of a small town with the superhuman ideal and his decision, in the face of its failure, to address his teaching only to a few disciples.

So, I propose to present in what folows several excerpts from the prologue.

1st excerpt: These are the very first lines of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ (I specify that I made some cuts).

“When Zarathustra had reached his thirtieth year, he left his home and ​the lake of his home and went into the mountain. Here he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude, and for ten years did not tire of it.  But at last his heart transformed, – and one morning, he arose with the dawn, stepped before the sun and spoke thus to it: “O great star! What would your happiness be, if you had not those for whom you shine? For ten years you have come up here to my cave:  You would have tired of your light and of this route without me, my eagle and my snake.  But we awaited you every morning, we took your overflow form you and we blessed you for it. Behold! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that has gathered too much honey. I need hands that reach out. I want to bestow and distribute until the wise among human beings have once again enjoyed their folly, and the poor once again their wealth. For this I must descend into the depths […] Zarathustra wants to become human again.” – Thus began Zarathustra’s going under.”[ix]

So, let’s try to explain this passage. It is difficult at first not to guess autobiographical motives behind the frame of the narrative. A lake, a mountain, a stateless person: these are the living conditions of Nietzsche himself for several years. Zarathustra descends to his fellow men at forty; this is Nietzsche’s age when he composes his work. Beyond biographical comparisons, there is of course a symbolism, which goes beyond Nietzsche’s person. Zarathustra retired to solitude at age 30 about the same age Jesus exercised his teaching before being sentenced to death. For 10 years, Zarathustra will meditate on the death of God. Zarathustra appears here as a worshiper of the sun: facing the sun, he experiences a feeling of happiness, gratitude, overflow of life. It is a form of paganism assumed, joyful and dispenser: his happiness must be shared. The sun is also a kind of metonymy, midday, the sun at its zenith, who comes back every day, eternally – so from the beginning of the book an allusion to the doctrine of eternal return. The serpent and the eagle, the two animals of Zarathustra, symbolize the earth and the heaven, the bodily and the spiritual, the sensible and the intelligible. The two aspects are not mutually exclusive; they complement each other, without one prevailing over the other.Zarathustra’s paganism is directed against the dualism of Western culture, and in particular the Platonic dualism which is based on a series of oppositions, the second term being each time devalued: intelligible vs. sensitive, know vs. opinion, spirit vs. body, being vs. phenomenon, etcetera. By praising madness (Zarathustra says “wise men must become again happy with their madness “), Zarathustra engages a criticism of conformism and rationalism; and while in Matthew’s gospel, the poor are rewarded the Kingdom of Heaven, it is here below that it must happen (“the poor [must be] happy with their wealth”, says Zarathoustra) And the values ​​to be promoted are fundamentally human, They owe nothing to an afterlife. The higher value is humanity. “Zarathustra wants to be human again” (“Zarathustra will wieder Mensch werden!” writes Nietzsche). One more word on the phrase: “Thus began Zarathustra’s going under.” Going under, “Untergang, in German”, is an idea that is at the heart of the life experience and thought of Nietzsche. It is a necessary moment of denial of self, of self-transcendence, usually associated with a new start. “I am at once decadent and beginning,” Nietzsche will thus assert in Ecce Homo [x].

Let’s continue reading the prologue. On his way, as he descends into the valley, Zarathustra meets a hermit, leading, far from men, an existence of religious meditation:

“But when he [Zarathustra] came in the wood, suddenly an old man stood before him, who had left his saintly hut in search for roots in the woods. And thus spoke the old man to Zarathustra:

“This wanderer is no stranger to me: many years ago he passed by here. Zarathustra he was called: but he is transformed.

Back then you carried your ashes to the mountain; would you now carry your fire into the valley? Do you not fear the arsonist’s punishment?

Yes, I recognize Zarathustra. His eyes are pure, and no disgust is visible around his mouth. Does he not stride like a dancer?

Zarathustra is transformed, Zarathustra has become a child, an awakened one is Zarathustra. What do you want now among the sleepers?” [xi]

A few words of explanation. The ashes: undoubtedly symbolize the beliefs of before, belief in a Christian God, in Christian values ​​and morals – these beliefs are now consumed, destroyed, they die slowly. Zarathustra went to the mountain to meditate on the death of those values ​​of which he himself was a heir, and on the death of God and its consequences. And he comes back with a new fire: new values, synonymous this time vitality, energy, creativity. His gaze is limpid, says the old man: he is not troubled by bad passions; his mouth is not distorted by contempt, resentment. He is “awake,” said the hermit. There is certainly an allusion to Buddha, who is just “the awakened, “Erwachte “. Why this reference? Because Buddha managed to expel all toxic feelings, such as resentment, guilt, bad conscience. Another image used by the hermit, is that of Zarathustra as a child. The child represents the absence of prejudices, it is not yet formatted by the conceptions good and bad of its culture. The child is also joy, exuberance, curiosity about life and lightness. But be careful, it’s not the child, synonymous with innocence and purity, as represented in the Christian tradition, especially through the image of the child Jesus  – one would otherwise remain in a moral register; it’s the child as Heraclitus puts it: Heraclitus  – a great reference for Nietzsche, as we have seen  – evokes the child who tirelessly made and destroyed sandcastles on the beach. A child who has a jubilation to destroy what he has just built. The child of Heraclitus thus incarnates, says Nietzsche, the “innocence of becoming”. Let’s say it right away: the child is one of the representations of the superhuman. We are far from the wild beast thirsting for conquest and domination (representation, which is also found in other texts, we will refer to it later, but who has had ​​tendency to conceal everything Nietzsche says is more subtle about the superhuman). In the text “The Three Metamorphoses”, which is, in fact, the first speech of the first book of the Zarathustra, just after the prologue, Nietzsche stages three figures: the camel, the lion, the child. Each figure symbolizes a modality: the camel is the man who bears the burden of moral requirements; the lion embodies the revolt against these prescriptions; the child is the end of the process of transformation and therefore represents the eternal recommencement, below the moral categories of good and evil. It represents the unreserved adhesion to life. Now that we understand why the hermit told Zarathustra that he has been transformed; let’s continue:

[…] Zarathustra answered, “I love mankind.”

“Why,” asked the saint, “did I go into the woods and the wilderness in the first place? Was it not because I loved mankind too much?

Now I love God: human beings I do not love. Human beings are too imperfect a thing for me. Love for human beings would kill me.”

Zarathustra replied, “Why did I speak of love? I bring mankind a gift.”

“Give them nothing,” said the saint. “Rather take something off them and help them to carry it – that will do them the most good, if only het does you good!

And if you want to give to them, then give nothing more than alms, and make them beg for that too”

[…]

“And what does the saint do in the woods? ” asked Zarathustra.

The saint answered: “I make songs and sing them, and when I make songs I laugh, weep and growl;  thus I praise God.

With singing, weeping, laughing and growling I praise God who is my god. But tell me, what do you bring us as a gift?”

When Zarathustra had heard these words he took his leave of the saint and spoke: “What would I have to give you! But let me leave quickly before I take something from you! “ – And so they parted, the oldster and the man, laughing as two boys laugh.

But when Zarathustra was alone, he spoke thus to his heart: “Could it be possible? This old saint in his woods has not yet heard that God is dead?”[xii]

Nietzsche suggests that the ascetics, self-denying, renunciation ideals claimed by the hermit, are, in fact, expressions of cultural nihilism. Christianity has gradually decomposed under the effect of the reactive forces and Christian morality eventually fell short of its founder who preached ‘Love your Neighbor’. Zarathustra loves humanity, he wants to give him a gift, he is in the prodigality, generosity, and affirmation. He refuses to play the role of scapegoat, the one that Jesus played: unburden men of their sins and take care of them. Of course, the teaching that Zarathustra brings, the gift he wants to give to men, is to make life easier. This relief can only be total and definitive if those men themselves are actively engaged in their inner transformation. To forgive is a fault to keep believers guilty. What Zarathustra and Nietzsche want is basically to return to a philosophy of  before the original sin: pre-Christian philosophy. It is, to use his parable, to go from camel to lion and from lion to child.

When Zarathustra came into the nearest town lying on the edge of the forest, he found many people gathered in the market place, for it had been promised that a tightrope walker would perform. And Zarathustra spoke thus to the people:”I teach you the overhuman. Human being is something that must be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? [xiii]

I pass on this speech and will come back to it in the next part devoted precisely to the superhuman. In any case, the crowd does not take Zarathustra seriously, is not interested in what he says and since it is not sensitive to the ideal of the superhuman, Zarathoustra attempts another strategy: he tries to scare them, to disgust them by making them a very unflattering portrait of the antithesis of the superhuman: the last man – the last men are actually those who form this crowd and who represent the image of cultural nihilism:

Thus I shall speak to them of the most contemptible person: but he is the last human being. And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people:  “It is time for mankind to set themselves a goal. It is time that mankind plant the seed of their highest hope. Their soil is still rich enough for this. But this soil will one day be poor and tame, and no tall tree will be able to grow from it anymore. Beware! The time approaches when human beings no longer launch the arrow of their longing beyond the human, and the string of their bow will have forgotten how to whir!I say to you: one must still have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star. I say to you, you still have chaos in you.Beware! The time approaches when human beings will no longer give birth to a dancing star. Beware! The time of the most contemptible human being is coming, the one who can no longer have contempt for himself.Behold! I show you the last human being.” “What is love? What is creation ? What is longing? What is a star ?“ thus aks the last human being, blinking.Then the earth has become small, and on it hops the last human being, who makes everything small. His kind is ineradicalbe, like the flea beetle; the last human being lives the longest. “We invented happiness” – say the last human beings, blinking. They have abandoned the regions where it was hard to live: for one needs warmth. One still loves one’s neighbor and rubs up against him, for one needs warmth. Becoming ill and being mistrustful are considered sinful by them: one proceeds with caution. A fool who still stumbles over stones or humans!A bit of poison once in a while; that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end, for a pleasant death.One still works, for work is a form of entertainment. But one sees to it that the entertainment is not a strain.One no longer becomes poor and rich: both are soo burdensome. Who wants to rule anymore? Who wants to obey anymore? Both are too burdensome.No sheperd and one herd! Each wants the same, each is the same, and whoever feels differently goes voluntarily into the insane asylum. […]” And here endded the first speech of Zarathustra, which is also called “The Prologue’’, for at that moment he was interrupted by yelling and the merriment  of the crowd. “Give us this last human being, oh Zarathustra,” – thus they cried –  “make us into this last human beings! Then we will mak you a gift of the overman!” And all the people jubilated and clicked their tongues.[xiv]

This text expresses urgency. Humanity – at least Western civilization – is at a crossroads. After the death of God, two ways are open: a) humanity can take advantage of the chaos provoked by the dissolution of Christian belief and give birth to new expectations – to give birth to a “dancing star”, says Nietzsche nicely; for there is still time, says Zarathustra or b) humanity sinks into this chaos and remains in an attitude of passive nihilism. “Woe, the times of such immoralism are close,” warned Zarathustra. The last men, painted by Zarathustra, embody this nihilistic attitude. We find once again the theme of § 125 of The Gay Science: The last men killed God, because God is too demanding, has set too high ideals.  They do not deny God because God shortens them, but because God is growing them. They prefer to spoil themselves in ease, comfort, mediocrity. Nietzsche describes a very conformist society, sanitized, a therapeutic state where everything is taken care of instead of individuals; no struggle, no effort, no surpassing oneself, no courage. Happiness, one of the great promises of moral philosophy, from Aristotle to the philosophers of the Enlightenment, is lowered to the level of a selfish comfort. Love, the cardinal value of Christianity, is misguided in search of a little emotional security. The last men swarm and stifle the desire for greatness: this is the greatest danger, according to Nietzsche, for the superhuman. The strong are constantly in danger of being vanquished, broken by the conspiracy of the weak, the jealous, the vindictive. Here there is a violent criticism of democratic and socialist ideas that then progress throughout Europe, and especially in Germany. For example, Karl Marx writes his Capital between the 1860s and the 1880s, the First International Labor was founded, in London, in 1864 and the German Socialist Party was constituted in 1875.

 

Henry Nelson Wieman’s Creative Interchange

 Nietzsche’s point of view regarding “God is dead” brings me to Henry Nelson Wieman’s view of “Creative Interchange”. For Wieman, God is better thought of as a verb rather than as a noun.

Let’s go back to Wieman’s Epiphany: as he sat alone looking over the Missouri River in the faint light of dusk, a sudden conviction came over him – a conviction that he should devote his life to religious inquiry and its central problem.

The central problem of religious inquiry, as it presented itself so forcefully to him that evening, was to seek a better understanding of the nature of whatever it is in human life and experience that transforms us in ways that we cannot transform ourselves, that rightfully deserves the kind of ultimate commitment and total self-giving that we associate with ‘religious faith’. What is the nature of that process or structure of events or reality actually at work in the universe, which, in religious language, has been, designated “God”? And how can human lives be so adjusted to this reality that the power of Creative Good can be unleashed and thereby human life enriched? It was this problem, and the attendant questions which emerged from it, that came to consume Wieman during all the rest of his life. He ultimately coined that process: Creative Interchange.

During his ‘Chicago’ years in the 1920s Henry Nelson Wieman proclaimed that “God is an object of sensuous experience,” that God is “as real as a toothache,” and therefore that religious inquiry should not be focused on socio-historical issues or on human ideals. Thus, he sought to clarify the nature and workings of “God,” which Wieman defined as “that ‘something’ upon which human life is most dependent for its security, welfare, and increasing abundance”:

Whatever else the word God may mean, it is a term used to designate that Something upon which human life is most dependent for its security, welfare and increasing abundance. That there is such a Something cannot be denied. The mere fact that life happens, and continues to happen proves that this Something, however unknown, does certainly exist.[xv]

For Wieman, that ‘Something’ for which he is trying to find empirical evidence is a process within nature, along with, over and against other processes that either sustain and destroy human thriving. His quest gave centrality to sense experience, guided by reason, his goal was to discover how we can put ourselves in the keeping the Creative Good, that power which is the integrative activity at the heart of the cosmos.

His major books include Religious Experience and Scientific Method(1926), The Wrestle of Religion with Truth(1927), The Source of Human Good(1946), Man’s Ultimate Commitment(1958), and Creative Freedom: Vocation of Liberal Religion(posthumous – 1982). In these works Wieman developed his defense of naturalism and empiricism in religion, his opposition to humanism, his assurances concerning the reality of God, and his focus on creativity and Creative Interchange. He embodied a naturalistic world-view. In religion, just as in science, said Wieman, there are not two realms of reality, namely, natural and supernatural. There is but one dimension of reality, and it must be studied through the observations of the senses. So God, for Wieman, is a natural creative process or structure—superhuman, but not supernatural. Our supreme devotion, then, must be to the Creative Good that is the activity of Creative Interchange, not to the created relative goods of human construction or the social ideals of the human mind. For Wieman, this was an ultimate commitment to what in his later years he increasingly came to label ‘Creative Interchange’.

So ‘God’ isn’t dead for Wieman; on the contrary Creative Interchange is alive and kicking. If God would be dead, Creative Interchange would have stopped living too and, as a consequence, there wouldn’t be Human’s any more. Conclusion: Man’s Ultimate Commitment to Creative Interchange is a condition sine qua non for the survival of mankind.

Creative Interchange

Henry Nelson Wieman gave to the fruit of his – what he called – ‘religious inquiry’, different names during the years of that quest: his particular take on ‘creativity’, creative event, creative transformation, … and, as being already stated, ultimately Creative Interchange.

In the introduction of his perhaps most readable book ‘Man’s Ultimate Commitment’ he explains his take on creativity:

Creativity is the central theme of this book. […] By creativity I do not mean creative work whether in art or science or technology or social organization or in any other area of human achievement. To be sure, creative work may accompany the kind of creativity, which I shall discuss. But I shall examining not creative work but the creative transformation of the individual in the wholeness of his being[xvi].

Thus, Henry Nelson Wieman does not mean by creativity the activity by which the individual produces innovations, but the creative transformation of the individual himself. He goes on to present the four characteristics that distinguish the creative transformation of the individual from any other kind of change:

[1] Creativity is an expanding of the range and diversity of what the individual can know, evaluate, [imagine], and control. [2] Creativity is an increasing of his ability to understand appreciatively other persons and people across greater barriers of estrangement and hostility. [3]Creativity is an increasing of the freedom of the individual, when freedom means one’s ability to absorb any cause acting on oneself in such a way that the consequences resulting from it express the character and fulfill the purpose of the individual himself. […][4] Increasing the capacity of the individual to integrate into the uniqueness of his own individuality a greater diversity of experiences so that more of all that he encounters becomes a source of enrichment and strength rather than impoverishing and weakening him. [xvii]

Henry Nelson Wieman made his unique point of view that God is Creative Interchange clear in a metaphorical way when he described the working of Creative Interchange within the group of people formed by Jesus and his disciples:

Jesus engaged in intercommunication with a little group of disciples with such depth and potency that the organization of their several personalities was broken down and they were remade. They became new man, and the thought and feeling of each got across to the others. It was not merely the thought and feeling of Jesus that got across. That was not the most important thing. The important thing was that the thought and feeling of the least and lowliest got across to the others and the others to him. Not something handed down to them from Jesus but something rising up out of their midst in creative power was the important thing. It was not something Jesus did. It was something that happened when he was present like a catalytic agent. It was as if he was the neutron that started the chain reaction of creative transformation. Something about this man Jesus broke the atomic exclusiveness of those individuals so that they were deeply and freely receptive and responsive to each other. He split the atom of human egoism, not by psychological tricks, not by intelligent understanding, but simply by being the kind of person he was, combined with the social, psychological, and historical situation of the time and the heritage of Hebrew prophecy. Thus arose in the group of disciples a miraculous mutual awareness and responsiveness toward the needs and the interests of one another.

But this was not all; something else followed from it. The thought and feeling, let us say the meanings, thus derived from each other, were integrated with what each had previously acquired. Thus each was transformed, lifted to a higher level of human fulfillment. Each became more of a mind and a person, with more capacity to understand, to appreciate, to act with power and insight; for this is the way human personality is generated and magnified and life rendered more noble human.

A third consequence followed necessarily from these first two. The appreciable world expanded round about these men, thus interacting in this fellowship. Since they could now see through the eyes of others, feel through their sensitivities, and discern the secrets of many hearts, the world was more rich and ample with meaning and quality.

Also – and this might be called a fourth consequence – there was more depth and breadth of community between them as individuals with one another and between them and all other men. This followed from their enlarged capacity to get the perspectives of one another and the perspectives of all whom they might encounter. [xviii]

I’m sure you have recognized the four characteristics of Creative Interchange in the text above.And Henry Nelson continuous:

Thus occurred in the fellowship about Jesus a complex, creative event, transforming the disciples as individuals, their relations with one another and with all men, and transforming also the appreciable world in which they lived.

Let us not be misunderstood. The creative transformative power was not in the man Jesus, although it could not have occurred apart from him. Rather he was in it. […] The creative power lay in the interaction taking place between these individuals. It transformed their minds, their appreciable world, and their community with one another and with all men. [xix]

So, Henry Nelson Wieman repeated in several of his writings that, to him, God was that creative transformative power, which he ultimately coined Creative Interchange. To Wieman, Jesus was living Creative Interchange from within; a living role model, so to speak, that ‘taught’ Creative Interchange by example and experience to his disciples. The Story of Jesus and his disciples continued of course and Jesus was crucified. To many of his followers he was not THE messiah they had expected, and as far as they could see, he was no messiah at all. This was the immediate consequence of the Crucifixion. But Henry Nelson Wieman’s interpretation of the New Testament continuous as follows:

After the third day, however, when the numbness of the shock had worn away, something happened. The life-transforming creativity previously known only in fellowship with Jesus began again to work in the fellowship of the disciples. It was risen from the dead. Since they had never experienced it except in association with Jesus, it seemed to them that the man Jesus himself was actually present, walking and talking with them. Some thought they saw him and touched him in physical presence. But what rose form the dead was not the man Jesus, it was the creative power. It was the living God that works in time. [xx]

“If God is understood the creator of the universe known to mankind” wrote Henry Nelson Wieman, “then creative interchange is God’.

So to Henry Nelson Wieman, the God of Christianity is not dead; that God is alive and working as Creative Interchange! In Wieman’s thought, God is an object of experience as well as thought. God is perceived and conceived:

God must be found at the level of sensation as well as at the level of thought if God is that creativity which creates our own minds in community with others. This is so because sensation can reach consciousness only when it takes on meaning; and the meaning which sensation has at the level of perception is the anticipations of further sensations which will occur if I gaze more intently, or change my position, or listen or approach or touch or perform any of the innumerable activities by which sensations follow one another according to an anticipated sequence. If sensations do not occur in the sequence anticipated, I recognize that my perception was mistaken.

Of all the sensations I am able to have, only those are selected which association and cooperation with other people have endowed with anticipation of an orderly sequence of further sensations, when appropriate actions are performed. […]

If the name of God is given to that kind of interchange between individuals which leads people to cooperate and understand each other and share a common vision to which each unique individual can make his own contribution, then God is found at the level of sensation because only those sensations develop into perceptions which are endowed with anticipation of a further sequence of sensations, and this comes from communication with others and from cooperation with them.  The spontaneous responses of the organism play a part in this selection, but these responses are profoundly shaped from early infancy by intimate association with other human beings. The shaping of perception by interaction with others is that creativity which creates my mind in community with others and also creates what we call nature. In this sense God is found at the level of sensation, if God is identified with this creativity. [xxi]

This text underlines, to me, the importance of Awareness and Consciousness during the operation of Creative Interchange. Awareness, which is observing clearly, is called here sensation. I sometimes call Awareness ‘Uncolored Consciousness’. Nevertheless, what is observed takes indeed meaning when it is interpreted at the level of perception; coloring what is observed so the speak. This ‘Colored Consciousness’ leads to further Awareness, which will occur if I observe more intensely, or change my position. In fact I question my ‘Mindset’ asking the following questions: “Do I interpret what I see through Awareness correctly? Are their other interpretations of that perceived reality possible?” I know that my interpretation feeds my appreciation of reality, so it’s useful to use some other mindsets during Creative Interchange to enhance our vision, which is our common appreciation of reality.

And Wieman pleads for an ultimate commitment to Creative Interchange. He further states that Creative Interchange cannot be controlled from the outside in:

Indeed it should not be sought directly. When it occurs, it will always be spontaneous. The commitment to this kind of interchange [read Creative Interchange] means that one will always seek to provide those conditions that are most favorable for this relation between individuals and peoples. These conditions are not only those prevailing in the immediate situation of interpersonal relations. The prevailing conditions of the entire culture are involved.[xxii]

One has to be open and install the necessary conditions so that Creative Interchange can happen! Wieman did not identify all possible conditions and Charlie Palmgren devoted most part of his life, after having met, studied and collaborated with Wieman, to his quest to identify those conditions and connected behaviors to enhance the probability that Creative Interchange will happen. And this is in fact also the reason that I’ve been talking for the last twenty years about the necessity of a new organizational paradigm, a new organizational culture, which I finally coined the ‘Creative Interchange’ culture, where those conditions are provided and those behaviors are sought after.

Creative Interchange and values

Where Nietzsche has a tremendous problem with the Christian values and has spend a good deal of his life inventing ‘new’ values and trying to proof that ‘his’ values were of more value than the despised Christian one’s, Henry Nelson Wieman has a more pragmatic view (and I adhere to his view):

Creative interchange creates appreciative understanding of the diverse perspectives of individuals and peoples. It also integrates these perspectives in each individual participant. Thus commitment to creative interchange is not commitment to any given systems of values. It is the commitment to what creates ever-deeper insight into the values that motivate human lives. It creates an ever more comprehensive integration of these values so far as this is possible by transforming them in such a way that they can mutually enhancing instead of mutually impoverishing and obstructive. This commitment is not to any one perspective on self and the cosmic whole of things but to an ever more comprehensive and penetrating perspective gained by integrating many perspectives. This kind of commitment is not to what is objective merely, or to what is subjective only, but to what unites the subjective and objective by interchange and communion between the two. In sum, this kind of commitment keeps the mind open to new insights concerning the ultimate determinants of good and evil. [xxiii]

I call that kind of commitment CI2: Continuous Improvement through living Creative Interchange.

Creative Interchange a natural process

 Henry Nelson Wieman goes further with his description of Creative Interchange as a natural process:

The kind of interchange between individuals and peoples calling for this kind of commitment with these consequences is here given the name of creative interchange to distinguish it from many other kinds that are opposed to it. It is that kind of interchange; perhaps better called that kind of communion, that does two things. First, it creates appreciative understanding of the perspective of the other person or other people. By perspective is meant the way the other person sees things, feels things, values things – in a word, what life means to him. This understanding of the other may be very imperfect and very limited, and it may be mistaken. But it can be more or less correct, profound, and comprehensive. If the apprehension of the perspective of the other person, and its integration with my own, did not occur with a high degree of correctness, no infant could ever acquire the culture into which it is born because his precise the way every individual comes to embody the culture which history bestows on him. [xxiv]

Therefor, I often say that we are born with that natural process of growth, Creative Interchange. And Henry Nelson Wieman made it in the next paragraph of “Commitment for Theological Inquiry’ crystal clear that this process is more than a mere interchange of facts and ideas:

This internal integration within each individual, which occurs in creative interchange, is essential to the creativity of it. Yet this creativity is always in danger of being concealed in the word ‘interchange’. Interchange provides the diverse perspectives, but they must be integrated in the personality of the individual if there is to be any creative transformation of his own perspective. When this integration occurs, it expands the range of what the individual can appreciate as good and distinguish as evil. This expansion may continue indefinitely, widening and deepening the sense of values involved in human existence. [xxv]

That’s why my Crucial Dialogue Model, that is based on Creative Interchange, has four phases: the first phase is communication, which is the interchange part of Creative interchange; the next two phases – appreciation and imagination – are the creative part of Creative Interchange and finally the fourth phase – transformation – is the creative transformation part of the Creative Interchange process. In the next paragraph of the same article, Henry Nelson Wieman explains what he means by ‘appreciative understanding’:

This integration of perspectives does not mean, necessarily, that I agree with the other person, although agreement may be attained. It does mean that I comprehend his way of valuing, even when I judge to be evil what he calls good and judge to be good what he calls evil. This creative communion with the other party, when in opposition to him, yields a greater good than agreement. It is the good of learning from the enemy. It is the good of being corrected by conflict and deepening my sense of good and evil by comprehending the values of my opponent. In the Christian tradition this is called “loving your enemies.” It saves man from the self-destructive propensity out of arrogance, tyranny, and being un-teachable. [xxvi]

 Creative Interchange and Authenticity

 One of the basic conditions that Creative Interchange needs in order to thrive is Authenticity. Therefor one has to be open and trust others; openness and trusting being the two sides of the same Authenticity coin. When one is open, one will be trusted and when one trusts the other one will be open. Henry Nelson Wieman understood that authenticity is needed:

Creative Interchange meets the deepest need of each individual because the deepest need of each is to be appreciated and understood for what he truly is and not be compelled to put on a false front and pretend to be something other than he is in order to win acceptance from others. [xxvii]

 Creative Interchange and its required conditions

Creative Interchange is greatly working if the conditions are present to make it thrive. Henry Nelson Wieman started the quest for those conditions; quest that was, as already said, continued by Charlie Palmgren, after Wieman’s death in 1975:

So far two of these required conditions have been indicated. One is that the commitment be to something that is accessible to empirical inquiry because only in such case can our commitment be corrected by what we experience. The second required condition is that our commitment be to what creates in us the most profound appreciative understanding and integration of the values that motivates the lives of others. This is required because only in this way we can learn […] more profoundly and more comprehensively.

[…]

The third condition is to practice commitment of faith at two levels. [xxviii]

The third condition is known as the two-level commitment and was expressed by Henry Nelson Wieman in the form of a prayer. Here, I prefer to stick to the interpretation given by Charlie Palmgren. He paraphrases the two-fold commitment as follows: “A commitment to act on the current bestwe know and a commitment to remain open to what in truth can transform our current best to what is better.” In fact my preferred formulae – CI2: Continuous Improvement through living Creative Interchange – is nothing more and nothing less than paraphrasing Charlie Palmgren’s interpretation of Henry Nelson Wieman’stwo-fold commitment.

 

Nietzsche’s ‘God is dead’ vs. Wieman’s ‘Creative Interchange’

For Friedrich Nietzsche, the God of Christianity is dead; to him Christianity is a religion that devalues life. For Henry Nelson Wieman, the God of Christianity is Creative Interchange, not a religion but a process that enhances life.

For both, Nietzsche and Wieman, the Christian God has become an object of study. To Nietzsche as an object of antiquity, to Wieman as an actual living reality.

For Nietzsche Jesus of Nazareth did not proof he was the Son of God and that therefor the Christian religion is a piece of antiquity. For Wieman, Jesus Christ is a (the?) role model of living Creative Interchange, the process being God. In the following paragraph Henry Nelson makes this, once more, very clear:

The creative communion between individuals and people, when lifted to a high level of dominance with saving and transfiguring power, is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Was not the revelation of God the saving and transforming power of the kind of interchange that occurred between Jesus and his disciples? The power lay neither in the man Jesus nor in any of the individuals that they transmitted from person to person and group to group and age to age. This kind of interchange is sometimes called love, but the prevailing idea of love is hopelessly inadequate to comprehend the depth and power of it. The Power of God unto salvation is the most fitting name for it.

This revelation of the saving power of God in the form of creative interchange has been called the “Word”, with a capital “W”. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. […] [xxix]

Nietzsche suggests that we have the God that we deserve and Wieman suggests that we should ultimately be committed to Creative Interchange so that we can deserve the fruits of that life giving process; thus can be said that we have the God that we deserve.

Nietzsche states that the atheism of his contemporaries is marked by creative helplessness and a lack of what he calls ‘great illusions’, and that cynicism and nihilism will be the moral traits of the future Humanity; while Wieman definitely hopes that Creative Interchange will not become a ‘great illusion’ but a ‘splendid reality’ and will play a dominant role for future Humanity.

In fact, Nietzsche underlines that not the ‘death of God’ is the truly grandiose act, but creativity; creativity which is at the heart, at the center of Wieman’s philosophy. Nietzsche stated, “the horizon has to be redrawn”, which Wieman did discovering Creative Interchange.

To Nietzsche, nihilism is a loss of meaning, as if the transmission is not done, or better, is no longer done, between individuals, mind, body, and ideals external to them; in Wiemanian terms, nihilism, could be defined as the loss of Creative Interchange and being the prisoner of one’s own Vicious Circle.

Nietzsche searched during his life to obtain a renewal of values, Wieman found that renewal of values in Creative Interchange. They both agree somehow on the definition of a value; to Nietzsche a value is only a reality if it is incarnated and carried and to Wieman “a value is a goal seeking activity.”

Nietzsche searched continuously to occupy the space liberated by the death of God; Wieman filled that void from the very start having understood that God is Creative Interchange.

Nietzsche and Wieman use very different writing styles. Nietzsche’s is atypical for a philosopher, since a succession of aphorisms and, in the case of Zarathustra a succession of sermons, speeches, and parables given by eccentric prophets, while Wieman’s style is in line with the Western philosophical tradition based on rational demonstrations and well constructed reasoning.

While Nietzsche introduces a lot of themes and concepts: the death of God, the Superhuman, the transmutation of values and the eternal return, Wieman introduces and sticks to one concept – the creative event (i.e. Creative Interchange) that encompasses all Nietzsche’s themes.

According to Nietzsche, the ‘last men’ do not deny God, because God shortens them, but because God is growing them. They prefer to spoil themselves in ease, comfort, mediocrity. In Wieman and Palmgren terminologie this reads: the ‘last man’ do not deny Creative Interchangee, because Creative Interchange shortens them, but because Creative Interchange is growing them. The last men prefer to spoil themselves in their ‘cage’ (Wieman)/’Vicious Circle’(Palmgren).

Basically, Nietzsche and Wieman have a similar goal and the same ambition; to provoke a social, cultural, organizational and institutional paradigm shift. Nietzsche wants to obtain that goal by transforming Christian morality in an “active moralism” and Wieman by giving new meaning to Christianity through the creative event, through Creative Interchange.

While Nietzsche is not afraid to praise his own work, Wieman is more humble and testifies that a lot can still be discovered about his major concept Creative Interchange. Nietzsche described his work as “the fifth gospel”, and Wieman writings are in fact the answers to his crucial question he finds during what he called his Religious Inquiry. Both bring good news, thus a gospel; in Nietzsche’s case the death of God and the rising of the Superhuman, in Wieman’s case the identification of the life transforming process which he coined Creative Interchange and men, committed to Creative Interchange, becoming each a Superhuman, not a single god, but humanity what it has the best.

Perhaps less known is that both, Nietzsche and Wieman, had a ‘link’ to Zoroastrianism in common. Of course, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is Zoroaster and dr. Martin Luther King quotes in his dissertation “A comparison of the conceptions of God in the thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman” Paul Tillich who “commented on dr. Wieman’s complete break with the Christian tradition and Greek philosophy, and characterized his position as in direct line with Zoroastrianism.” [xxx]

Like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, the work of Henry Nelson Wieman regarding Creative Interchange is unfinished; as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, Wieman’s Creative Interchange is a promise open on the future, a path – steep – without a predefined goal; it’s a direction that we take, says Henry Nelson Wieman.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

[1]“Grant God eternal rest.” A transformation of that part of the service of the death, which reads: “Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine” (Lord, grant them [the dead] eternal rest).

[i]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Gay Science, Translation by Josefine Nauckoff. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001, Aphorism 125: The Madman.

[ii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits, Translation by R.J.Hollingdale. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996, Aphorism 113.

[iii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Gay Science, op.cit. Aphorism 108: New Battles.

[iv]Ibid. Aphorism 343: How to understand our cheerfulness.

[v]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, The Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings. Translation Judith Norman. Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005, page 72.

[vi]Ibid. page 150.

[vii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce Homo: How One becomes how One Is. Translation by Thomas Wayne. Op. cit. page 91.

[viii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, The Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings. Translation Judith Norman. Op. cit. page 123.

[ix]Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A Book for All and None.Translated by Adrian Del Caro. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2006. Prologue 1, page 3.

[x]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, The Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings. Translation Judith Norman. Op. cit. page 75.

[xi]Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A Book for All and None. op. cit. Prologue 2, page 4.

[xii]Ibid.. Prologue 2, page 4-5.

[xiii]Ibid. Prologue 3, page 5.

[xiv]Ibid. Prologue 5, page 9-10.

[xv]Wieman, Henry, Nelson. Religious Experience and Scientific Method, New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1926. Page 9.

[xvi]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment, Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America ®, Inc. Reprint, Originally published: Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958. Page 3

[xvii]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment, op.cit. Page 4.

[xviii]Wieman, Henry Nelson. The Source of Human Good.Originally published: Chicago, ILL : University of Chicago Press, 1946. Atlanta, GA : Scholars Press, 1995. Pages 39-41.

[xix]Ibid. page 41.

[xx]Ibid. Page 44

[xxi]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Seeking the Faith for a New Age. Essays on the Interdependence of Religion, Science and Philosphy. Edited and Introduced by Heppler, Cedric. L. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1975. Page 159.

[xxii]Ibid. Page 136.

[xxiii]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Journal of Religion, Vol. XLII (July, 1962) N°3, pp. 171-184, page 176.

[xxiv]Ibid. Page 177.

[xxv]Ibid.

[xxvi]Ibid.

[xxvii]Ibid.Page 179.

[xxviii]Ibid.

[xxix]Ibid. pp. 177-178.

[xxx]https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/chapter-i-comparison-conceptions-god-thinking-paul-tillich-and-henry-nelsonChapter I, Introduction, Statement of the Problem.

Friedrich Nietzsche vs. Henry Nelson Wieman (II)

 

Part Two: The Free Spirit

  

Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Free Spirit”

Friedrich Nietzsche introduces the “Free Spirit” in ‘Human, All Too Human’, it’s subtitle being ‘A book for Free Spirits’. What resonates with me the most is Nietzsche’s take on the “Free Spirit”: one “who goes against the herd”, and “onwards along the path of wisdom” in order to “improve society.”

So, what does this mean, a “Free Spirit”? Nietzsche has first of all in mind the prototype of the“Enlightenment”philosopher, the ‘enlightened’ spirit who fights moral prejudices, religious fanaticism, superstition and arbitrariness of political power. By the way ‘Human, All Too Human’ is dedicated, in a significant way, to the memory of Voltaire on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of his death. In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche will retrospectively say that by introducing the figure of the “Free Spirit” the goal was to “emancipate from a foreign body”, and this foreign body is idealism.

“Human, All-Too-Human” is the monument of a crisis. It calls itself a book for free spirits: almost every sentence in it expresses a victory — with this same book I freed myself of that which did not belongto my nature. Idealism does not belong to me: the title says, “Where you see ideal things, I see — things human, alas all-too-human!”…I know humanity better…In no other sense is the term “free spirit” to be understood here: a spirit that has become free, that has once again taken possession of itself.[i]

Nietzsche describes his underground approach very suggestively? This approach is undermining, methodical and irresistible and overcomes all idols, all ideals sanctified by the European culture whether in matters of morality, philosophy, religion or art, holiness, genius, moral superiority, essence, the absolute, etcetera… :

If one looks more closely, one discovers a merciless spirit that knows all the hideouts where the ideal is at home — where it has its castle keeps and final security, as it were. With a torch in hand that gives off absolutely no “torch and go” light, with a penetrating brightness this netherworldof the ideal is brought to light. It is war, but war without powder and smoke, without warlike poses, without pathos and dislocated limbs — all this would itself still be “idealism.” One error after another is put on ice, the ideal is no longer opposed — itfreezes…Here, for example, “the genius” freezes; a little ways further “the saint” freezes; beneath a thick icicle “the hero” freezes; in conclusion “faith” freezes, so-called “conviction” freezes; “pity” also cools down considerably — almost everywhere “the thing-in-itself” freezes…[ii]

“The thing-in-itself” is an allusion to the Kantian philosophy which, although critical and embodying the spirit of the Enlightenment par excellence, does not manage to permanently expel the last vestiges of a metaphysical thought, and continues to postulate an essence of things, beyond their simple appearance. So, if Nietzsche salutes the emancipatory momentum prompted by the Enlightenment, he warned against a criticism that would not go until the end, until its last consequences. A criticism that would depend still too much on dualistic thought patterns and the Christian matrix (there is a good, there is a bad; there is an essence, there are appearances; there is a relational, there are absolutes). The risk of an incomplete critique being to replace one thought content with another, without calling into question the type of thought, its hidden springs; the danger being basically to replace an idealism by another idealism, God by Man, Faith by Reason, a dogmatic belief by an equally dogmatic atheism. To Nietzsche, professed atheism by his contemporaries is very often an idealism which ignores itself. One of the figures of this atheism is, according to Nietzsche, the “Free Thinker” (“der Freidenker”) who he resolutely opposes to the “Free Spirit” (“der Freigeist” or “Freie Geist”) – one should be careful not to confuse those two!

One of the characteristics of the “Free Spirit” is its ability to break with cultural habits and to escape from the pernicious constraint of tradition:

Free Spirit a relative concept– He is called a free spirit who thinks differently from what, on the basis of his origin, environment, his class and profession, or on the basis of the dominant views of the age, would have been expected of him. He is the exception, the fettered spirits are the rule [ … ] – In any event, however, what characterizes the free spirit is not that his opinions are the more correct but that he has liberated himself from tradition, whether the outcome has been successful or a failure. As a rule, though, he will nonetheless have truth on his side, or at least the spirit of inquiry after truth: he demands reasons, the rest demand faith.[iii]

So, Nietzsche says that the criterion is not the correctness of the vision, nor the success of the enterprise, but rather the desire to emancipate and the pulling force that imply a courage and an increase of energy of which only a few are capable. And this will and force are constantly needed to break the lethargy of cultural evidence that constantly threatens to lull individuals into a prefabricated, stereotypical thought. In other words, the “Free Spirit” wants to break free from its cultural cage. Nietzsche uses in another passage of ‘Human, All Too Human’, a metaphor, that of  “The spider’s web”, in which habits surround us, imprison us. The “Free Spirit” must hate habits, rules, norms, conventions,  as so many intellectual laziness, narcotics that anesthetize the body as well as the mind. And this wrenching is painful because it’s actually a kind of self-mutilation. It is of one’s self that one must eradicate routines and inheritances. Bad habits, they lodged themselves in all the fibers of our body, in every nook and cranny of our brain:

That is why the free spirit hates all habituation and rules, everything enduring and definitive, that is why he sorrowfully again and again rends apart the net that surrounds him: even though he will as a consequence suffer numerous great and small wounds – for he has to rend those threads from himself, from his own body and soul. [iv]

Nietzsche uses a German term that characterizes the breaking attitude of the “Free Spirit” – or whoever aspires to be, for the mind is never free immediately, spontaneously; it is a “spirit becoming free” says Nietzsche, and becoming free continuously. The term that characterizes this attitude – its positioning marginal or out of step with the mainstream of the time, with the doxa – is  the term: “unzeitgemäß”. “Unzeitgemäß” literally means “who is not in conformity with the present time “, with the time, which is out of step, thus inopportune, untimely. Nietzsche loves this word and idea, and gives the elements of definition, of what he means by unzeitgemäß:

It was thus truly roving through wishes to imagine I might discover a true philosopher as an educator who could raise me above my insufficiencies insofar as these originated in the age and teach me again to be simpleand honestin thought and life, that is to say to be untimely, that word understood in the profoundest sense; for men have now become so complex and many-sided they are bound to become dishonest whenever they speak at all, make assertions and try to act in accordance with them.[v]

The “Free Spirit” does not live a comfortable life and he does not really care. To him, the essential factor of living close to his needs lies in the intensity that this lived experience brings him; a life that is attentive to its own laws of development:

[The Free Spirit] will, to be sure, destroy his earthly happiness through his courage; he will have to be an enemy to those he loves and to the institutions which have produced him; he may not spare men or things, even though he suffers when they suffer; he will be misunderstood and for long thought an ally of powers he abhors; however much he may strive after justice he is bound, according to the human limitations of his insight, to be unjust: but he may console himself with the words once employed by his great teacher, Schopenhauer: “A happy life is impossible: the highest that man can attain to is a heroic one.” [vi]

The “Free Spirit” is therefore untimely. Not only out of step with its time, but even more so, as suggested by this quote, contrary to his time, against his time. Why this radicality? Because, according to Nietzsche, it is necessary not only to challenge such and such aspects of its culture (for example: a trait of the German mentality, Bismarck’s government policy, a literary fashion), but more generally and more fundamentally to reverse the hierarchy of values ​​prevailing within the German and even European culture.

The inadequacy of the “Free Spirit” with its culture must be reduced, Nietzsche hopes, in a future time. In fact, Nietzsche very often refers to the “philosopher of the future” who, finally, will be understood by subsequent generations. Meanwhile, the “Free Spirit” is condemned to be misunderstood, condemnation that he accepts willingly,  according to Nietzsche, as an elector sign of its exceptionality:

We incomprehensible ones– Have we ever complained about being misunderstood, misjudged, misidentified, defamed, misheard, and ignored? This is precisely our lot– oh , for a long time yet! Let’s say until 1901, to be modest – this is also our distinction; we wouldn’t honor ourselves enough if we wanted it otherwise.[vii]

How ironic that Nietzsche evokes the year 1901 – he who died in 1900. As he wrote in Ecce Homo: “My time has not yet come, some people are born posthumous”[viii] and in the preface of the AntiChrist: “Only the day after tomorrow belongs to me. Some people are born posthumously.”[ix] So, the “Free Spirit” is also untimely in its relation to the past, even to history. Basically, the “Free Spirit” is inactual by default, although he would like to be deeply actual; he aspires to shape the culture of the future. The “Free Spirit” must face the reality of life whatever the narcissistic wounds it causes. Nietzsche rejects idealistic worldviews, he accepts the share of cruelty, inequality, absurdities. What does life hold? According to Nietzsche, it basically accepts the Dionysian part which constitutes it and which animates all existence. To be able to accept that is to be intellectually honest and have courage. Knowledge remains an ideal, in fact, for Nietzsche, but an ideal for the strong, for the “Free Spirit”:

The final, most joyful, most excessively – exuberant yes to life is not only the highest insight, it is also the deepest, the one most strictly confirmed and supported by truth and science. Nothing is to be neglected, nothing is to be dispensed with — those aspects of life which Christians and other nihilists reject are of an even higher order in the ranking order of values than those, which the decadence-instinct might think good and call good. To grasp this requires courage and, as a condition of that, an excess of strength: for exactly as far as courage dares to venture forward, exactly to that degree one approaches the truth. Knowledge, the yea-saying to reality is just as much a necessity to the strong as cowardice and the flight from reality — the “ideal” — is to the weak, inspired by weakness…[x]

“How much truth can a spirit endure, how much can it dare?”[xi] It’s a question Nietzsche asks in Ecce Homo and which indicates the criterion of what is a “Free Spirit”. Truth, in this quote, does not mean, it has been well understood, an ideal of truth, but the capacity to accept reality as it is. The ideal of knowledge that animates the “Free Spirit” is not the quest for truth, with a great T – the truth as absolute knowledge, closed, definitive – for  Nietzsche it is the “gay knowledge” or “Gay Science.”  The formula seems to hold an oxymoron. This becomes even clearer when we look at the original language: in German, the work is entitled “Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft”: “The Joyous, Gay Science”.  How to interpret this idea of ​​”The Gay Science”? There is at first a form of provocation, the will to take the opposite of the German university philosophy and in particular that which is its core target: the “Idealist” philosophy, represented by Kant, Hegel or Fichte. The goal of these thinkers was precisely to make philosophy an absolute knowledge. Now, to Nietzsche, this science is anything but joyful, anything but liberating or light;  it encloses the individual in complex, oppressive, closed systems. Systems who, in the end, fail to satisfy the legitimate thirst for knowledge, that the human being feels, and which restrains his need for freedom. In place of this heavy science, Nietzsche therefore claims a joyful science. To what extent can science, knowledge, be joyful? Why should they be so, by the way? Because knowledge, to Nietzsche, must be considered for what it is: the product of a lived experience, of an experimentation, still in progress, which allows to adopt a multiplicity of points of view on the existence, and thus to give a greater amplitude to this existence. Life is not always joyful, of course, but the certainty, viscerally tested, of being able to draw from moments of exaltation, enjoyment, to be able to move upwards, inseparable from downward movements, inclined to a form of confidence, lightness, and serenity.  Nietzsche uses in many places of his work a specific word for this quiet state of assurance: the word “Heiterkeit”, which is translated in different ways in English: serenity, but also joy, good mood, serene mood, like a clear sky. The adjective “heiter” qualifies, in German, a sky which no cloud obscures. And indeed, Nietzsche often makes this association between the state of the sky and his own state of mind. A serene sky is to him more and more indispensable, a condition of physical and mental health. Well, Nietzsche will find this sky, this favorable climate, in Genoa, Italy, during the winter of 1881-1882, which are months of calmness on the front of his disease and where he will write most of the Gay Science – in particular during the month of January, 1882. In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche returns to the genesis of Gay Science, six years later, in passing this biographical detail:

“Daybreak” is a yea-saying book, deep, but bright and kind. The same applies once more and in the highest degree to the gaya scienza: in almost every sentence of this book profoundness and playfulness go softly hand in hand. A verse, which expresses my thankfulness for the most wonderful month of January I have ever experienced – the whole book is a gift – sufficiently reveals from out of what depths the “science” here has become gay:

You who with a fiery spear

Melt the ice of my soul,

So that it roars down to the sea

Rushing toward its highest hope:

Ever brighter and even healthier,

Free in most loving necessity —

Thus it praises your wonders

Fairest January [xii]

“Profoundness and playfulness goes softly hand in hand,” says Nietzsche nicely in this quote: it is, again, the idea that lightness is acquired at the price of many experiments, at the price of a wrenching out of gravity; a wrenching sometimes painful, but whose pain ends up being overcome. We can be happy and deep, it is not contradictory, it is even probably complementary.

So what the“gaya scienza”says is that life is the source of our values and not the truth. This makes me think of a famous quote of Parker Palmer:

“Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.” [xiii]

The drive and affective determinations are paramount, it is they who produce the thoughts and various interpretations of reality. And among these impulses, Nietzsche values ​​those that stimulate creativity, pugnacity, and self-transcendence.

In the aphorism §324 of Gay Science, Nietzsche writes:

‘Life as a means to knowledge’ — with this principle in one’s heart one can not only live bravely but also live gaily and laugh gaily![xiv]

We tried in this part to make a small inventory, non-exhaustive, of the main features of the “Free Spirit”: he/she has the strength and the courage to break with traditions, forms of cultural habituation, even, and especially, with the habits who have insinuated themselves into their own fibers; it is an untimely spirit, who navigates against the current, who puts an offbeat and is skeptical regarding his time, which abstains from all hypes; it is a viscerally anti-idealistic mind, who considers that ideals are inventions designed to divert us from life; it is a light spirit, because it has been able to emancipate itself from the authority prohibitions and absolutes (political, religious or moral), light also because he/she is the bearer of a “gay knowing” (the fact that life is an experiment and that it belongs to him/her, the free spirit, to be the active subject of knowledge and to set one’s own scale of values). Let’s finally add that the free spirit understands that one can only acquire all these features, in struggle, trial and error, falling and rising up and mostly in loneliness.

 

Henry Nelson Wieman’s view on Nietzsche’s “Free Spirit”: the “Creative Self”

Nietzsche’s point of view of the “Free Spirit” brings me to Henry Nelson Wieman’stake on the “Creative Self”. Warning: what I’ll write in the sections of this essay regarding Henry Nelson Wieman are my interpretations of Nelson Wieman’s philosophy based on some of his books and, mainly, of what I’ve learned through the help of my mentor, Charles Leroy ‘Charlie’ Palmgren, whose mentor precisely was Henry Nelson Wieman:

In 1966, Wieman met and formed a working relationship with Dr. Erle Fitz, a practicing psychiatrist, and Dr. Charlie Palmgren. Together, the three founded the Center for Creative InterChange. Fitz, Palmgren, and Wieman met regularly in Wieman’s home to focus on how creative interchange could be the basis for psychotherapy, applied behavioral sciences, and organizational development. After Wieman’s death in 1975, Palmgren continued to nurture the creative interchange philosophy, identifying the conditions necessary for the CI process to occur and developing tools to help people remove the barriers to those conditions. [xv]

Charlie Palmgren puts it this way:

We were born with our Creative Self and we are conditioned into a created self. Our Creative Self enters the world aware. That awareness is conditioned into a conscious created-self. They are not two “separate selves.” They are two aspects of the same self. Unfortunately, in the conditioning process most of us end up being conscious of and identifying with the conscious aspect of our Creative Self. In short, we become conscious at the expense of remaining aware of our awareness.[xvi]

Indeed, Henry Nelson Wieman underlines the importance of being and staying aware. Awareness is obtained through observation of reality. To understand this ‘reality’ awareness is combined with consciousness:

All observation involves sense experience, but it is sense experience combined with some interpretation. This interpretation may bring into action the resources gathered by a lifetime devoted to absorbing thousands of years of culture combined with emerging insights rising out of profound struggles to find the way of life for humankind. [xvii]

The “Creative Self” is, to Wieman, aware and conscious and holds itself subject to correction and receptive to ever-deeper insights that may help to save him from a misdirected commitment. Awareness and Consciousness are both needed. In Wieman’s words: Sense experience (Awareness) is interpreted (Consciousness) in context. In other words awareness is giving meaning by the way the individual interprets it. This interpretation is done using one’s individual mindset. So, the ‘Creative Self’, who transforms the created self, is my interpretation of what Nietzsche calls the ‘Free Spirit’. This “Creative Self” is not the prisoner of the Vicious Circle” as the “Free Spirit” is not a prisoner of its foreign body(or “the spiders web”). Both, the Vicious Circleand the foreign body are metaphors for the actual created self. The “Creative Self” should continuously transform this created self towards the Original Self. Wieman writes that man is made for this creative transformation:

Man is made for creative transformation as a bird is made for flight. To be sure he is in a cage much of the time. The bars of the cage are the resistances to creative transformation, which are present in himself and in the world round about. Also, like most birds long confined, he settles down in time     and loses both the desire and the ability to undergo creative transformation. But in childhood creativity dominates. The mind expands its range of knowledge and power of control, its appreciative understanding of other minds and its participation in cultural heritage. At no other time there is so much expansion and enrichment of the mind and the world, which the mind can appreciate. But resistances are encountered which bring on anxiety, frustration, failure and misunderstanding. To avoid suffering, the mind becomes evasive and creativity dies down. The bird ceases to beat against the bars of the cage.[xviii]

This means that the “Creative Self” is in the cage of its created self much of the time. Charlie Palmgren has identified this cage and coined it the Vicious Circle:

Consider the following logic spiral. When an adult’s demands are disrupted, frustration sets in. If the demands are important enough, or if such disruption occurs repeatedly, stress erupts, and the adult fight-or-flight emotions of anxiety, hostility, shame and blame are triggered. Once caught in this negativity, the adult begins to reject herself and her own behavior.  Because such rejection is in direct violation of her sense of worth, the cycle begins again of conditional worth, striving to overcome inadequacy, gaming, demands and expectations, frustration and stress. This is the vicious circle. And unfortunately, we are all caught in it to varying degrees at various times in our lives.[xix]

When we are locked up in our Vicious Circle, we are disconnected from our Intrinsic Worth. Charlie Palmgren beliefs that this human worth is the capacity to participate in transforming creativity [i.e. Creative Interchange]:

Human worth is our potential to continually expand what any one of us can know, appreciate, imagine and do. We are designed especially for this transformative process – just as the eagle was designed for flight. The ability to learn, grow, change, develop, imagine, and discover is what constitutes our human worth and fulfills the purpose of our design. While our worth originates in this capacity, we live out of our worth by engaging in transforming creativity. In this way, human worth is both about “being” and “doing”.[xx]

Our purpose should be to continually transform our created self towards our Original Selfthrough our “Creative Self. In order to be able to do so, we must be committed to the transformative process, to Creative Interchange; and in order to commit ourselves to creative interchange, three conditions should, according to Henry Nelson Wieman, be met:

The first of these three required conditions is not in itself sufficient. It is one necessary condition when taken in conjunction with the other two. It is the requirement that worshipful commitment be directed to what is accessible to empirical inquiry. […]

A second condition must be met if worship is to combine ultimate commitment with a mind open to correction and continuous inquiry. The commitment must be to what creates in me appreciative understanding of the basic values motivating the lives of other people with whom I deal. […] When ultimate commitment is given to this creative kind of interchange, my mind is open to new insights, to learning, to correction, and to inquiry […]

The third condition required for an ultimate commitment combining the most complete self-giving with a mind open to inquiry and subject to correction is to practice commitment to creative interchange on two levels. […] If one can be mistaken, there is a truth that can be missed. This is the certainty sustaining the two-level commitment, giving it a foundation at the deeper level more secure than any other. […] In the two-level commitment one is committed to the good, win or lose. […][xxi]

I love Charlie Palmgren’s paraphrase of Wieman’s two-level commitment:

The Original [Creative] Self and the created self can become integrated into a whole self that is both being and becoming. You can be a chicken and an eagle […]

To integrate our self and become mutually supportive of others who are being [becoming] their original selves, we must practice a two-fold commitment. It isn’t enough to be committed to being and doing our best to be open to change, growth, and transformation. It isn’t sufficient to be committed to ongoing learning and transformation if we’re unwilling to be and act on the best we now know.[xxii]

So, Henry Nelson Wieman spoke of the need for two levels of commitment. I like to present those two levels this way, making a synergy between the definitions of Henry Nelson and Charlie:

  1. On the first level we should commit ourselves to the best we now know (empirically, scientifically, experientially) about the source of human good, the “Creative Self”; to that which transforms human life by expanding the range of what we know, appreciate, imagine and control from the inside-out; and
  2. On the second and deeper level, we must finally (ultimately in the words of Henry Nelson Wieman) be committed to whatever it is that in fact transforms human life in the direction of the better, no matter how different that operating reality, which is creative interchange, may be from our ideas about it.

So our interpretation of Nietzsche’s “Free Spirit” is Wieman’s “Creative Self”, who is committed to be and act on the best he/she now knows and stays open to the transforming power of Creative Interchange in order to upgrade that best he/she now knows. So the “Creative Self” is Authentic and Humble, stays open and trusts Creative Interchange, which is, to me, Yoda’sForce; “May the Force be with you!”

 

Nietzsche’s “Free Spirit” vs. Wieman’s “Creative Self”

Both – the “Free Spirit” and the “Creative Self” – are what Nietzsche called ‘inactual’ and therefor do not live a comfortable life. And both do not really care since both know that their lived experience will develop them to a ‘higher’ level. Both know that one has to break “the spider web” of habits.

To become a “Free Spirit” and to live from your “Creative Self”, both, Nietzsche and Wieman underline that courage is needed. Wieman add a second characteristic, which is, I assume, not Nietzsche’s cup of tea: humility. Being “untimely” means for Nietzsche: “being again to be simple and honest in thought and life”, which combines the ideas of being authentic and humble of Henry Nelson Wieman.

Both the “Free Spirit” and the “Creative Self” aspire to shape the future. Nietzsche and Wieman understood that the inadequacy of the “Free Spirit” c.q. “Creative Self” with its culture must be reduced. Therefor a transformation of the culture – a culture paradigm shift – is needed.

Friedrich Nietzsche very often refers to the “philosopher of the future”. I hope you’ll understand by now that to me that philosopher is Henry Nelson Wieman.

To Nietzsche and Wieman, knowledge must be considered for what it is: the product of a lived experience, of an experimentation, still in progress, which allows to adopt a multiplicity of points of view on the existence, and thus to give a greater amplitude to this existence by obtaining wisdom.

Both, Nietzsche and Wieman reject idealistic worldviews, they accept the reality of cruelty, inequality and absurdities. Nietzsche states that profoundness and playfulness goes hand in hand, while Wieman states that “We have to live richly with dark realities.” [xxiii]

While Nietzsche’s “Free Spirit” has once again taken position of itself, Wieman’s ‘Creative Self’ evolves the created self in the direction of the “Original Self”; so Wieman’s “Creative Self” is capable of creating – once again – the “Original Self”, the Self we’re born.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

[i]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce Homo: How One becomes how One Is. Translation by Thomas Wayne. New York, NY; Algora Publishing, 2004, p. 58.

[ii]Ibid. pp. 58-59.

[iii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Human, All Too Human, A Book for Free Spirits, Translation by R.J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996, Aphorism 225.

[iv]Ibid. Aphorism 427.

[v]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Untimely Meditations, Translation by R.J. Hollingdale. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997, Schopenhauer as Educator, p. 133.

[vi]Ibid., page 153

[vii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Gay Science, Translation by Josefine Nauckoff. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001, Aphorism 371

[viii]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce Homo: How One becomes how One Is. Op. cit. p. 40.

[ix]Nietzsche, Friedrich, The AntiChrist: A  Curse on Christianity. Translation by Thomas Wayne. New York, NY; Algora Publishing, 2004, page 101.

[x]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Ecce Homo: How One becomes how One Is. Op. cit. p. 50.

[xi]Ibid. p. 8.

[xii]Ibid. p. 66.

[xiii]Palmer, Parker J. Let your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, a trademark of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2000, Chapter 1, p. 5.

[xiv]Nietzsche, Friedrich, Gay Science, Op. cit. Aphorism 324, p. 181.

[xv]http://iichange.net/uploads/docs/Henry%20Nelson%20Wieman.pdfop.cit.

[xvi]Palmgren, Charles. http://www.creativeinterchange.org/?p=168

[xvii]Wieman, Henry, Nelson. Commitment for Theological Inquiry, Journal of Religion, Vol XLII (July, 1962) No. 3, pp. 171-184.

[xviii]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment.Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958. p. 72.

[xix]Hagan, Stacie and Palmgren, Charlie. The Chicken Conspiracy. Breaking the Cycle of Personal Stress and Organizational Mediocrity. Baltimore, MA: Recovery Communications, Inc. 1998, p. 77.

[xx]Ibid. p. 21.

[xxi]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Seeking the Faith for a New Age. Essays on the Interdependence of Religion, Science and Philosphy. Edited and Introduced by Heppler, Cedric. L. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 1975. pp. 134-142.

[xxii]Palmgren, Charlie. Ascent of the Eagle. Being and Becoming your Best.Dayton, OH: Innovative InterChange Press, 2008. p. 129.

[xxiii]Wieman, Henry Nelson. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Op. cit. pp. 56-77.

BEYOND THE [CREATED] SELF

PART III

In these series of columns I’m using a lot of paragraphs of “Beyond The Self’[i] and add comments regarding the links I see with the Creative Interchange process. To me, Creative Interchange, is a process of inner transformation – and after reading this book I add – not only through dialogue, also through meditation. I’ve put my comments between vertical brackets and in italic. These series will give you a good insight of the content of the book and I recommend you to read and comment this brilliant book yourself.

[i]M. Ricard and W. Singer, Beyond the Self: conversations between Buddhism and neuroscience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.

 

CHAPTER 4:

INVESTIGATING THE SELF

The Buddhist monk deconstructs the idea of the unitary, autonomous self, whereas the neuroscientist confirms that no cerebral zone takes on a central role in the brain. The idea of the self as conductor is a convenient illusion to function in existence.

Let’s first examine why we entertain the feeling that we have an autonomous self. At any time, I feel that I exist, that I am cold or hot, hungry or replete. At every moment, the ‘I’ represents the subjective, immediate component of my experience.

There is also the story of my life, which defines me as a person. This is the continuum of all that I have experienced through time. The ‘person’ is the complex, dynamic story line of our stream of consciousness.

These two aspects, the real-time ‘I’ and the experiential continuum of the ‘person’ enable us to function in this world. There is no problem with these two. But then we add something else: the concept of an autonomous self.

We know that our body and mind change at every moment. [cf. the episode in one of the Systems Thinking in Action Key Note videos of Peter Senge when he asks the audience: “What is this?”, showing his right hand. He goes then on with is reasoning, this is not a ‘hand’, it’s a process] Yet we think that something within all this defines us now and has defined us through our life. We refer to this as ‘me’, ‘self’ or ‘ego’. Not content to be a unique continuum of experience, we assume that at the core of it all, there is a separate, unitary entity that is our true self, something like a boat that travels along the river of our experience.

Once we believe in such a self-entity, with which we identify, we want to protect it and fear its disappearance. This powerful attachment to the notion of self engenders the notion of ‘mine’: ‘my’ body, ‘my’ name, ‘my’ friends, and so on. [cf. the paragraphs in Anthony de Mello’s book “Awareness” regarding our ‘labels’]

We cannot but conceive that this self is a distinct, unitary entity, and despite the fact that our body and mind undergo ceaseless transformations, we obstinately assign to this self the qualities of permanence, uniqueness, and autonomy. The main effect of this belief is not a genuine sense of confidence but, paradoxically, an increased vulnerability. First by assuming that the ego is an autonomous, separate, unitary entity in the midst of our experience, we are basically at odds with reality. We only exist through interdependence, relations, mutual causality, and numberless causes and conditions. Our happiness matters of course, but it can only happen through and with the happiness of others. [cf. the ‘Purpose game’ I’ve learned from Charlie and I’ve ‘run’ hundreds of times to ‘prove’ that point!] Furthermore, the self becomes a constant target for gain and loss, pleasure and pain, praise and criticism, and so on. We feel that the self must be protected and satisfied at all costs. We feel aversion to anything that threatens the self and attraction to whatever pleases and reinforces it. This two basic impulses of attraction and repulsion give birth to a whole see of conflicting emotions – anger, craving, arrogance, jealousy, to name but a few – and, in the end, suffering. [cf. we are prisoner of our ‘demands and expectations’ box or ‘nine-dot’ box of our personal Vicious Circle and try to hide in our constructed, created ‘self’]

On one hand, it is natural and desirable to protect one’s life, avoid suffering, and strive to genuine happiness; on the other, it is a dysfunctional drive to protect the ego. From that exacerbated self-centeredness comes most afflictive mental states. When we entrench ourselves in self-centeredness, we also create a much deeper divide between the world and us.

An example. Let’s compare the stream of consciousness to the Rhine River. It has of course a whole history, but it is also changing all the time – “One can never step twice in the same river,” said Heraclitus – and there is no such thing as a “Rhine’ entity.

 

THE SELF EXISTS IN A CONVENTIONAL WAY

There is indeed a conventional, nominal self-attached to our body and mind. The concept is fine and functional as long as we don’t conceive it as being a kind of central, autonomous, lasting entity that constitutes the heart of our being.

The misconceived self is a projection, not an integral part of you that exists on its own. It is a mental construct detached form the roots of the person, and therefor needs continuous reassurance, reconfirmation, and efforts to make it appear as what you want it to be.

The conventional self is a mental projection. The Buddhist analytical approach aims at deconstructing this mental fabrication through logical and experiential investigation and comes to the conclusion that we are not that imaginary entity with which we identify ourselves but rather a continuous, dynamic stream of experience.

And we are certainly people, with a continuum of experience relating to a body and the outer world. Yet this continuum is in perpetual transformation, and we cannot find anywhere a singular well-circumscribed entity that would be the ‘one’, the concrete essence of our being. [cf. we are a created, though (hopefully) evolving, self toward an original self, a metaphor for our Intrinsic Worth/Self. Thus we are an ‘ongoing process’ surfing on the Creative Interchange Process]

 

THE SELF AND FREEDOM

The more sustained feeling of freedom is being unconstrained, is being in harmony with oneself. Real freedom is when the various drives, desires, and constraints within oneself are in harmony with one another. We are programmed to strive for novelty [i.e. we are born with the Creative Interchange Process], and the same time we have a strong inclination for bonding and stability [i.e. we are prisoner of the Vicious Circle] because, in such situations, there is no need for the intervention of the intentional self to settle conflicts by initiating a change. [i.e. we cling to the status quo]

These internal conflicts are basically related to two fundamental impulses of attractionto what is deemed pleasurable and repulsiontoward the opposite.

Inner conflicts are also unnecessarily created by an exacerbated sense of self-importance, as it becomes increasingly demanding. If you don’t feel the need to defend the self because you have understood its illusory nature, then you will be much less prone to fear and inner conflicts. True freedom means to be free from the diktats of this self [i.e. the demands and expectations of the Vicious Circle], rather than following every single fanciful thought that comes to mind. [i.e. jump to conclusion caused by intolerance for ambiguity]

 

WEAK SELF, STRONG MIND

It seems that many problems arise if one has a weak self that depends too much on others to define itself. Only then does one enter the vicious circle [sic!] of wanting and repulsion.

There can be quite different reasons for this. Some people are tormented by the feeling that they are unworthy of being loved, they lack good qualities, and they are not made for happiness. These feelings are usually the result of scorn or repeated criticism and contempt by parents or relatives. Added to this is a feeling of guilt: Such people judge themselves responsible for the imperfections attributed to them. [i.e. they are victim of their personal outside-in inducted Vicious Circle] Besieged by these negative thoughts, they constantly blame themselves and feel cut off from other people. For these people to go from despair to the desire to recover in life, we must help them establish a warmer relationship with themselves and to feel compassion for their own suffering instead of judging themselves harshly. From there, they will also be able to improve their relations with others as well. The benefits of cultivating self-compassion have been clearly shown by researchers and therapists such as Paul Gilbert and Kristin Neff.[i]

The illusory self wants to assert its existence by either over-demanding or defending itself as victim. A person who is not preoccupied by self-image, self-assertion, and so on is actually much more confident, neither a narcissist nor a victim. A person with transparent self is not vulnerable to pleasant and unpleasant circumstances, praise and criticism, good and bad image, and the like.

A so-called strong ego is in fact only strong in grasping and therefore more vulnerable because, within its self-centered universe, everything becomes either a threat or an object of craving. In addition, the stronger the ego, the larger the target you offer the arrows of outer and inner disturbances. Praise preoccupies you as much as criticism because it inflates your ego further and makes you worry about losing your good reputation. When ego grasping dissolves, the target disappears and you stay at peace.

The ego can attain only a contrived confidence built on unreliable attributes such as power, success, beauty, and fame and on the image that we want to project onto others.  The sense of security derived from that illusion is eminently fragile. When things change and the gap with reality becomes too wide, the ego becomes irritated and depressed, freezes up, or falters. Self-confidence collapses, and all that is left is frustration and suffering. The fall of Narcissus is a painful one.

I think the main point here is to distinguish between a strong self and a strong mind. A strong selfcomes with excessive self-centeredness and a reified perception of a self-entity. A strong mind is a resilient mind, a free mind, a wise mind that is skillful in dealing with whatever comes one’s way in life, a mind that is not swayed by anger, craving, envy, or other mental disturbances. [i.e. a mind constantly transformed by living Creative Interchange from within]

By understanding the fundamental interdependence of oneself and others, of oneself and the world, we form the logical ground for developing altruistic love and compassion [through living Creative Interchange from within].

The clearer your realization that the self has a merely conventional existence, the less vulnerable you will be and the greater inner freedom you will gain.

Someone who can rest in a natural, unperturbed, selfless state of mind is not at all indifferent to others and aloof from the outer world but can rely on readily available inner resources [the characteristics and skills of the Creative Interchange process].

To recognize the effects of self-clinging clearly, you need to somehow let the self manifest in its full force and observe what it does in your mind. Then you have to investigate its nature and, having recognized its conceptual nature, deconstruct it. In other words, you should not ignore it but observe how it works and transform it into a state of freedom. At this point, genuine confidence will arise.

A person whom we call free is thus called because that person is free of all kind of fetters, whether the inner fetters of clinging or the outer fetters that come from unfavorable circumstances. Self-reliance comes with freedom, not with an emperor-like, overarching ego.

 

EGO AND EGOLESSNESS

People with a transparent self feel much more connected to others because many of our problems come from creating an artificial gap between self and others as being fundamentally separate entities. By doing so, the self negates its interdependence with the world and wants to confine itself within the bubble of the ego. The French existentialist writer Jean-Paul Sartre wrote “L’enfer c’est l’autre” (Hell is the other), Buddhism rather says, “Hell is the self”. Not the functional conventional self, but the dysfunctional superimposed self that we take as real and that we let rule our mind.

You can only truly be at home within the freedom of pure awareness, not within the bubble of self-grasping. The ego bubble [metaphorically the ‘Nine Dots’ or ‘Demands and expectations’ box of the Vicious Circle model] is a narrow mental space in which everything gravitates around the‘I.’ You actually form that bubble with the illusory hope that it will be easier to protect yourself within the confined space that constitutes a kind of refuge for the ego [metaphorically the cage of the bird in Henry Nelson Wieman’s Man’s Ultimate Commitment]. In fact, you have built an inner jail in which you are at mercy of the endless thoughts, hopes, and fears that keep swirling around within that bubble. This feeds an exacerbated feeling of self-importance and self-centeredness that thinks of nothing but achieving its immediate satisfaction, with little concern for others and the world, except for the ways in which it might use them or be affected by them.

People who are engrossed in self-centeredness often want you to experience the world the same way they do, lest they feel rejected. For instance, some may entertain pessimistic views about the world and other people, which lead them to distrust others. To feel appreciated, they want you to enter their ego bubble, adopt the same attitude as them, and function just like them. We could be quite prepared to earnestly take their viewpoint into consideration and be open to their way of being [i.e. appreciatively understanding their mindset], but we can’t adopt their way of thinking and worldview just to make them happy [i.e. appreciatively understanding a mindset does not equal adopting that mindset!].

 

THE SCOURGE OF RUMINATION

It is largely believed that psychoanalysis tries to create an integrated self, but the procedure differs radically from contemplative strategies. It emphasizes the role of the self, encourages the self to become the judge, and, contrary to meditation, encourages rumination, the exploration of conflicts.

In psychoanalysis, it’s indeed always about me, me, me, my dreams, my feelings and my fears with a lot of rumination about the past and anticipation about the future. The psychoanalytic approach is like trying to find some sort of normalcy within the ego bubble instead of breaking free of that bubble.

In Buddhist practice, one wants to break free from these entanglements, not just come to terms with them. The limpid awareness of the present moment is a complete freedom from ego grasping and rumination. Rumination is the scourge of meditative practice and inner freedom. Now, rumination should not be confused with analytical meditations, which will, for instance, deconstruct the concept of the independent self. Rumination is also different from the vigilant observation of your states of mind that will allow you to recognize the arising of an afflictive emotion and defuse the chain of reaction that usually occurs.

One of the outcomes of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is to distance oneself from those ruminations through mindfulness meditation.

Proper meditation cannot be considered a selfish endeavor since one of its main goals is to get rid of selfishness. Rumination is a troublemaker because it feeds endless chains of thought that keep people exclusively preoccupied with themselves. This is the opposite of remaining in the freshness of the present moment, in which past thoughts are gone and future thoughts have not yet arisen. You simply remain in pure awareness. Whatever thoughts might arise, you let tem go without leaving a trace. This is freedom.

The constructive effects of meditation must be maintained during the post meditation period. Meditation is a technique to escape from the vicious circle of negative thoughts, distrust, revenge, and deception. Those mental fabrications are contagious across the members of a social group. Once one begins to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth – as Ghandi said, if one keeps going on doing so, the whole world will become toothless and blind. The contemplative methods are created precisely to escape the vicious circle and negative thoughts.

Buddhists say that the signs of a successful meditation practice are a well-tamed mind, a vanishing of afflictive mental states, and a conduct that is in harmony with the inner qualities one has endeavored to cultivate. Meditation practice has to translate into real, gradual, lasting change in the way you experience your own inner life and the outer world.

 

WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE?

Neurobiological evidence shows that there is no Cartesian center in the brain. Rather, we face a highly distributed system that consists of multiple interconnected modules that operate in parallel, each devoted to specific cognitive or executive functions. These subsystems cooperate in ever-changing constellations depending on the tasks that are to be accomplished, and this dynamic coordination is achieved through self-organizing interactions within the networks rather than through a top-down orchestration by a superordinate command center.

Our intuition suggests that our self or our mind is somehow at the origin of our thoughts, plans and actions. It is only through neuroscientific exploration that we discover that there is no singular locus in the brain where this intentional agent could be located. All we observe are ever-changing dynamic states of an extremely complex network of densely connected neurons that manifests themselves in observable behavior and subjective experiences.

The brain is a complex system with nonlinear, self-organizing dynamics. It has been adapted by evolution, education, and experience to pursue certain goals and actually can accomplish all the functions we attribute tot the self – at least this position is held by the majority of cognitive neuroscientists today. Those nonlinear, self-organizing systems are creative of behavior that a naïve observer would characterize as intentional, goal directed, and sensible. We tend to deny that such properties can emerge from the dynamics of our brains because we have intuition for the complexity and nonlinearity of this organ.

We need to translate a complex process into something simpler and that we feel more comfortable imagining that there is a unitary entity that is in charge. The problems start when you conceptualize this process as being a truly existent, distinct entity.[ii]

Mental constructs like the self or ego provide simplifying explanations, but at some point they stop being helpful because they do not reflect reality. Conversely, if instead of perceiving the ego as an inner lord we see it as an interdependent stream of dynamic experience, it might be a bit uncomfortable at first, but it helps to free us from suffering, for the very reason that it offers a vision more attuned to reality

 

CHAPTER 5:

FREE WILL, RESPONSIBILITY, AND JUSTICE

 

THE PROCESS OF DECISION MAKING

Does free will exist? If all our decisions are made by neuronal processes of which we are only partly conscious, are we really responsible for our actions?

For a neurobiologist, it is obvious that neuronal processes that take place in his brain prepare everything a person does. As far as we know, these processes follow the laws of nature, including the principle of causality.

Neurobiology posit that all mental processes – including those that appear to be remote from material processes such as having feelings, reaching decisions, planning, perceiving, and being conscious – follow neuronal processes rather than initiate them. In such a framework of explanations, it is inconceivable that an immaterial mental entity makes the neural network execute what this entity wants them to do to generate an action. Neurobiology takes the strong position that whatever enters our consciousness is the consequence of neuronal activity in the large number of centers in the brain that need to cooperate to produce the specific states that we experience as perceptions, decisions, feelings, judgments, or will. Thus, from this perspective, all mental phenomena are the consequence and notthe cause of neuronal processes.

Isn’t it true that all you can really speak about are correlations between neural processes and mental events? The question of causality does not appear to have been solved so far. I may just as well argue that directly training the mind affects neuroplasticity. Se there seem to be a two-way, mutual causation.

Neurobiology has more than just correlational evidence. Specific lesions lead to specific loss of function, and electrical or pharmacological stimulation of particular brain systems induce specific mental phenomena and feelings of well-being or fear, and modifies perceptions and actions in predictable ways. If you train your mind, there must be a motivation for you to do so. This motivation is a reflection of a particular neuronal state (i.e., specific neuronal activity patterns that eventually generate the motivation patterns that make you sit and contemplate). Thus, once sufficient motivation has built up, you will sit and engage in mental training, which is again associated with specific activation patterns. If sustained over a sufficient long period of time, these patterns in turn will induce changes in the couplings among neurons and thereby generate long-term modifications of brain functions – just as training a movement will change the brain architectures responsible for the generation of the movement.

The arguments of others also have a neuronal correlate in the brain of the receiver. A verbal argument is translated by the ear into neuronal activity; this is decoded semantically in the speech centers of the brain, and the resulting neuronal activation patterns then impact other brain centers and ultimately those that prepare the decision.

Thus, neuronal activity in the decision networks can converge toward a result – the decision – before the subjects become aware of having decided. [I have the strong impression that the authors do not appreciate enough the difference between the concepts conclusion and decision. In my mind I ‘hear’ the sentence as follows: “Thus, neuronal activity in the conclusion networks can converge toward result – the conclusion – before the subjects become aware of having concluded]

The ‘deliberator’ is, however, a neuronal network, and the outcome of the deliberation, the decision [conclusion] is the consequence of a neuronal process that is in turn determined by the sequence of immediately preceding processes. Thus, the outcome of this process depends on all the variables that have shaped the functional architecture of the brain in the past: genetic predispositions, epigenetic effects of early imprinting, the sum of past experiences, and the present constellation of external stimuli. In brief, a pending decision [conclusion] is influenced by all the variables, that determine how a particular brain is programmed and all the influences that act on the brain in the moment of making the decision [conclusion].

Therefor, even if during the few tenths of a second preceding a decision [in fact aconclusion] there has been unconscious processing in the brain, the final decision is essentially the culminating point of a life-long experience.[to me (JR) I appreciatively understand all this as that the brain concludes and the free will decides. As being said the two authors are not seeing clear enough the difference between concluding and deciding, at least Wolf seem to see both as a mutual synonym, which they are not].

This also means that through mind training, we can fashion our conscious and unconscious processes, our ways of thinking, emotions, moods, and eventually our habitual tendencies. In particular, we are responsible for taking this process in the right direction and cultivating a moral, constructive way of being rather than pursuing unethical, harmful behavior. [A sound habit, to me (JR) is to have between the conclusion – of the brain – and the decision of the will a pause, during which we think things through using our values and thus our valuing consciousness].

The way we decide [conclude], the way our neuronal machinery converges toward a decision [conclusion], depends on all the variables that influence the dynamic state of the brain in the moment of the decision [conclusion]. Several factors have shaped the functional architecture of our brains – genes, developmental processes, education, experiences – as well as the influences of the recent past – arguments, context, emotional dispositions, and countless others.

Most people have limited awareness of their own consciousness, of the tiny mental process that keep occurring in the mind, as well as little, if no, perception of the pure awareness that is always present beneath mental constructs. While focusing on neurons and brain structure, we neglect to experience our own consciousness in the present moment, which could give us valuable insights into the nature of consciousness.

What you allude to here is maybe a form of meta-consciousness, the ability to be aware of being aware. To cultivate this meta-consciousness surely requires one to take a step back and escape from the hamster wheel, but why should reflections about underlying neuronal processes distract one from cultivating meta-awareness?

Because the capacity of working memory is limited and shows interindividual variability, the number of arguments that can be held simultaneously in working memory and weighed against each other differs from subject to subject.

Once the decision [conclusion] becomes conscious – “I want to do this, I want to steal, I want to lie” – even if that decision [conclusion] has been built up unconsciously in the brain and you have been driven to it, a regulatory process also takes place and says, “Hey, do you really want to do this? This doesn’t feel right.” I may sense that I cannot resist my urges and yet still struggle against them, so that a regulatory process takes place and modifies or overrides the initial decision [conclusionyou see to conclude is not the same as to decide; between the two you have – according to Matthieu – a regulatory process, which one could call the ‘reason test of the free will’]. Such regulatory processes exist and can be called on. They allow for emotional regulation. They can also be strengthened by trying repeatedly to exercise this regulation, reflecting on the negative consequences of your impulses on others and yourself, being inspired by role models, and so on. The a strong aspiration might come to your mind: “I really should not do this.” So although you may not be “responsible’ at a particular moment for wanting what you want and for the strong urges that arise, you have a certain responsibility to put this regulatory into action, instead of avoiding or suppressing it. You are responsible for putting into action the steps to become what you want to be in one month, one year, or the rest of your life [So you might not be ‘responsible’ for the conclusion, you still are responsible for the ultimate decision and thus action].

Apparently the organization of our brains is such that feelings of uneasiness are generated if set goals are not pursued. It seems to be the same uneasiness that drives us to resolve conflicts. In this way, repeated experience with the outcome of decisions, positive or negative, can eventually induce a lasting change in the functional architecture of the brain and hence its behavioral dispositions. This in turn will impact the outcome of future decisions [conclusions].

We can certainly improve our emotional regulations through learning. One of the roles of the higher functions of the human brain is precisely to allow for a sophisticated form of emotional regulation, which is again a form of responsibility.

My point was that at any time, even when we feel a strong urge to do something, we have the capacity to evaluate the degree of desirability of the action and master our will and mental strength to refrain from engaging in this unwholesome action, even if the urge is strong.

When you sense that a behavior is unwholesome, you are aware that you could use your ability to regulate your emotional impulses and yet still you ignore both of these facts, your liability or responsibility seems to be greater.

However, once language understanding starts, most of the rules and imperatives of conduct are communicated through verbal instructions and rational arguments. One is supposed to be aware of them and be able to include them in one’s deliberations. If one violate those rules, one is held guilty because one is supposed to respect them during the decision-making process. Again, we distinguish between actions resulting directly from one’s subconscious drives and those that we initiate intentionally after some conscious deliberations of the pro and cons. [Once again, Wolf, doesn’t make correctly the distinction between a conclusion and a decision].

Kant said that if you can internalize the rules that are imposed on you, the external imperatives for ethical conduct, such that they become your ownimperatives, then you are at peace. We should experience this more if this were possible to enhance the congruence between unconscious and conscious processes through mind training.

There can be a serious problem when the social imperatives set from the outside are not truly ethical, in the sense of being attuned to the well-being of others, but rather a dogmatic and oppressive, as may happen under a totalitarian system or in some of the oppressive ancestral traditions that led to slavery, human sacrifices, domination of women and so on. In such cases, it would be quite good and reasonable to feel at odds with the outer imperatives and not accept them blindly.

The philosopher Charles Taylor wrote, “Much contemporary moral philosophy … has focused on what is right to do rather than on what is good to be, on defining the content of obligation rather than the nature of good life, and it has no conceptual place left for a notion of the good as the object of our live and allegiance or as the privileged focus of attention and will”[iii]

As Francisco Varela also wrote, a truly virtuous person “does not act out of ethics, but embodies it like any expert embodies his know-how, the wise man is ethical, or more explicitly, his actions arise from inclinations that this disposition produces in response to specific situations.”[iv]

 

THE RESPONSIBILITY TO CHANGE

We may have no choice now about what we are; otherwise, everyone would certainly choose to be someone filled with admirable qualities rather than a criminal or sex addict, an object of contempt for others. We may also have no choice about the way we behave in the spur of the moment. But we have the responsibility to change when change is desirable, and we are responsible, to some extent, for not having engaged in a process of transformation in the past. [Thus, according, to Matthieu Ricard we are to some extent responsible for not having engaged in the Creative Interchange process].

Doing something when it can be done and seeking the right kind of help is part of our global responsibility.

Because everything is the result of causes and conditions, when all the causes for an event, whether in the brain or elsewhere, are gathered, that event has to happen. Yet over time we can create new causes and conditions and influence this dynamic process. This is the virtue of the mind training and of brain plasticity: Being exposed to new conditions induces brain changes, including in so-called unconscious processes. [What can change the mind, since the mind cannot change itself. Living the Creative Interchange process from within, what Matthieu Ricard calls ‘mind training’]

Instead of engraving judgments about people in stone, we should view them – and ourselves as well – as flowing, dynamic streams that always have a genuine potential for change.

Humans also go through a process of cultural evolution in which the transmitted traits are encoded not in genes but in codified moral conventions that get expressed in social conduct and habits. The important difference is that cultural evolution has an ‘intentional’ component because we intentionally design the architectures that impose the constraints for adaptation and selection. [So we can intentionally design the architectures for Creative Interchange].

Another strategy is to codify moral values and design education systems by which these values can be transformed into action-constraining imperatives that are internalized by individuals and transmitted from generation to generation. These are then complemented by normative systems that put further constraints on the range of tolerated behavior.

A third option is apparently favored by the Buddhist traditions, consisting of attempts to alter the behavioral disposition of individuals through mindfulness training. In all cases, the goal would be to eventually obtain as much agreement as possible between the outer imperatives and the inner dispositions., both being directed toward the good. [cf. Henry Nelson Wieman’s concept of the Greatest Good] The functional architecture of our brains can be modified by education, positive and negative experiences that act as rewards and punishments, insight, training, and practice. The incentives to change are provided by the reward systems in our brains.

Values and norms installed early in life, before the development of episodic memory, remain implicit and deeply anchored in our subconscious, and therefore they are experienced as integral parts of our personality. They are experienced as our own goals, drives, convictions, and moral judgments. Set points imposed on us during later life are more often explicit, we are conscious of their origin and therefore experience them as imposed social constraints that need not necessarily agree with our internal convictions. Nevertheless, we wish to comply with them to reduce conflicting states in our brains and strive for a coherent state.

We also fashion our culture through our thoughts, personal transformation, and intelligence. Individuals and cultures are like two blades that sharpen each other. Because it is possible to train our mind and gradually modify our traits, the accumulation of individual changes can also shape a new culture. [cf. my point of view regarding the transformation the transformation of an Organizational Culture through transformation of the individual ‘culture’ towards what I call the Creative Interchange Culture].

In the beginning, any practice is contrived and unnatural. With familiarization, we begin to do it well and with ease, and, finally, it becomes fully part of us. [cf. the practice of the Creative Interchange skills].

It is conceivable that practicing these novel attitudes over and over again eventually anchor them in brain structures that execute their functions without requiring cognitive control. In this case, the novel behavior would become more and more a new trait of character.

If a certain number of individuals can thus undergo personal change, this will naturally induce gradual changes in the surrounding culture [cf. W. Edwards Deming: “There is no change without personal transformation] – which will have a reciprocal impact on individuals.

We should exploit both options for change: working on the individual and designing interaction architectures for societies that provide incentives for peaceful behavior [these interaction architectures are the conditions in order for Creative Interchange to thrive].

 

FREE WILL AND THE RANGE OF CHOICES

The range of options available at any particular moment in time varies widely. The range of options can be large when there is no external pressure, no compulsive internal drive, when consciousness is fully awake, and there is ample time for deliberations and examining all possible outcomes. However, says Wolf, even in this optimal case, the taken decision [conclusion] is the only possible one; if another decision [conclusion] would have been taken, then it would have been the only one that the brain could come up with at that moment under these circumstances. Schopenhauer clearly recognized that we decide according to our wish and will, but we cannot want otherwise that what we actually wanted in the moment of deciding [concluding, since the decision is done after the conclusion: do I really decide to realize the conclusion?]

Assume that we don’t make use of our ability to consciously exert control over our impulses [through not using what I call the ‘reason’ test after I’ve made up aconclusion spurred up by a trigger – i.e. a dialogue in the time lapse between the impulse and the reaction; the proposed chain being impulse àconclusion àreason test àdecision àreaction]. Don’t you risk ending up with nothing more than a tautology: “At any moment, only what is can be?” Surely you cannot claim that at any moment, what is could have been otherwise. It is quite true that there is no point in denying what already is or demanding that what already is should be different. Yet we could possibly have prevented its happening, and we can certainly prevent it from happening again. This can be achieved, for instance, by acquiring new knowledge about what is desirable or undesirable to do and by training our minds. [cf the tool I’ve used thousands of times during my second Professional life: Root Cause Analysis].

Wolf comes here to a problem that he wants to address: Our legal system posits that people are in principle free to decide. If they do not decide the right way, they are considered guilty, and the depth of the guilt depends on the options available at the moment of decision. Put another way, the amount of attributed guilt is dependent on the amount of attributed freedom. However, ‘freedom’ in this context only extends as far as the range of options available at the moment of decision making. If this range of options is small because of identifiable inner or outer constraints, then one could argue that the person did not have much of a choice and any other person in this situation would have decided and acted similarly. [To me, Wolf, presents this a bit too much as a ‘Sophie’s Choice’, when in most cases one can created a third, better choice, through what I call the ‘reason-test’, which is in fact a crucial dialogue based on Creative Interchange, to find a better option and thus a better decision.]

 

ATTENUATION CIRCUMSTANCES

Even if our will is not as free as our intuition suggests, then we are of course responsible for what we do because we are the agent: decisions are our decisions, and acts are our acts. We are the authors, and just as we want our merits to be attributed to us and rewarded, we also have to accept the sanctions for our misconduct.

The Buddhist view states that we are all sick because of ignorance, greed, hatred, craving and other mental toxins [i.e. the products of the Vicious Circle] and therefore need to follow the advice of a skillful physician – a qualified teacher – to undertake a treatment of inner transformation so that we may be cured of those mental toxins. You don’t retaliate against people for what they do under the sway of mental illness. They [We] need help from outside, from the wise and experienced persons who have insights on how all this happens and can show them methods to change. [Persons who help us to reconnect with our Intrinsic Worth, thus our intrinsic capacity for creativity, i.e. reconnect us with the Creative Interchange process, we’re born with] From their side, they need the intelligence to recognize the need to change and the determination to use appropriate methods to gradually bring about the transformation [i.e. the determination to live Creative Interchange from within, thus to use the CI ‘tools’].

 

LOOKING WITH THE EYES OF A DOCTOR

As already mentioned, in Buddhism we consider ourselves sick people who err in the cycle of conditioned existence, what is called samsara, or the world of mental confusion and ignorance [the world of our Vicious Circle]. This is not like the idea of inherited sin in Christianity, since it’s quite different. It is not a fundamental trait of human nature. It is rather due to having lost sight of our fundamental nature [our Intrinsic Worth]. When you are sick, you say, “I have the flu.” You don’t say, “I am the flu.” So the sickness that cause suffering are that of hate, craving, and other mental toxins. These sicknesses are not intrinsic but result from ever-changing causes and conditions [from the Vicious Circle we’re in]. Sickness is not the normal baseline of living but an anomaly that reduces our chance to survive. According to Buddhism, the normal healthy state, the basic human nature, which is also the fundamental nature of mind, when it is not obscured by mental clouds, is more like a nugget of gold that remains pure even when submerged in thick mud [like the Intrinsic Worth that remains pure even when submerged by the Vicious Circle]. So, Buddhism leans more toward the view of original goodness than that of original sin. [cf. Henry Nelson Wieman’s concept of the Greatest Human Good, which is, to him, the most complete transformation of the individual toward the qualities that life can yield and the fullest development of her/his humanity this world] This does not mean that hatred and obsession are not ‘natural’ and are not part of the repertoire of the human mind. We know that well enough! Rather, it means these afflictive states of mind result from mental fabrications that obscure our understanding of the basic nature of mind, pure consciousness, as the ore conceals the gold it contains. We need to differentiate the fundamental nature of our mind form the various afflictive mental states that lead to all kind of suffering. Accordingly, no one in this world is fundamentally evil but rather sick because of the effects of mental poisons. A person Is not fundamentally defined by his sickness.

Likewise, the basic nature of the man can be obscured by afflictive mental states, but pure awareness can always be recognized beneath the screen of deluded thoughts.

The nature of the mind is pure cognition or basic awareness. It can be populated by all kinds of content, all of which are impermanent and changeable. The potential for change always exists.

No one is intrinsically bad because mental constructs are impermanent. It may take time change the contents of the mind stream, and this process might be more or less difficult to achieve, but the potential of change always exists.

Change does not occur easily and all at once. It is a matter of beginning a process that will bring gradual change, with patience and perseverance. Of course, for that to happen, there must be at least some eagerness on the part of the dysfunctional person. Here, too, one may help that person become aware that he is not ‘fundamentally bad’ but some unfortunate aspects of his mind and behavior bring all kinds of suffering on others and himself, and he would be much better off if he accepted the idea of undertaking a process of change.

 

TRUE REHABILITATION

 

HORRENDOUS DEVIATIONS

To be deeply deluded is a mark of fundamental ignorance, extreme distortion of reality, and a lack of compassion and understanding of the law of cause and effect. To consider hate as acceptable or even promote it as a virtue is the archetype of mental delusion.

 

BREAKING THE CYCLE OF HATE

Forgiveness is breaking the cycle of hate. It does not help to be caught in the same kind of hate that we want to punish. From the Buddhist point of view, there is no question of escaping the consequences of one’s actions. The notion of karma is nothing but the application of the general laws of cause and effect to the consequences of people’s motivations and actions. All actions have short- or long-term consequences. If you forgive someone and forgo retaliation, the person will still face the consequences of her actions.

 

IS THERE A SELF THAT BEARS THE RESPONSIBILITY?

From the Buddhist perspective, the self is nothing but a mental construct that we use to name our mind stream. There is no such thing as a separate, autonomous, unitary entity that we could pinpoint as being the ‘self.’ So it is not the self that is immaculate; it is the fundamental nature of our consciousness, our basic, primary faculty of knowing, which is not modified by its content. If we are able to refer back to this pure mindfulness, then we have a way to deal with afflictive emotions.

You train to become increasingly aware of the content of your mind so that you can rest in this awareness and continually recognize it without being carried away by your mental constructs and powerful emotions and without actively trying to suppress them [let them go!]

We need to experience this state of awareness and perceive awareness as being always present behind the screen of thoughts. We do have moments of peace, when we are spared for a while from the constant mental chatter that usually keeps our minds busy, when you sit quietly by the side of a mountain, for instance, or when you are exhausted after intense physical exercise. For a while, you may experience a quiet state of mind with few concepts of inner conflicts. The experience might give you a glimpse of what clear awareness, unencumbered by thoughts, might be. To recognize the basic component of awareness might give you confidence that change can indeed take place.

 

CAN ONE PROVE FREE WILL?

Matthieu: I intuitively feel that an element of consciousness is pushing the decision to prove ‘free will’ forward, and that my respect for reason and wisdom makes it important for me to clarify the issue of free will.

Wolf: This intuition is at the origin of the fascinating question of mental causation, the question whether thoughts or insights that appear in consciousness can influence future neuronal processes. This question is intimately related to theories of the nature of consciousness – a vast subject indeed, to which we should devote a separate discussion session (chapter 6).

 

ARCHITECTURE OF THE FUTURE

Trinh Xuan Thuan: “The uncertainty principle states that any measurement implies an exchange of energy. The shorter the time for the measurement, the more energy is needed. An instantaneous measurement would therefore require infinite energy, which is impossible. So the dream of knowing all the initial conditions with a perfect precision is mere delusion.”[v]

Interdependence, a central Buddhist concept, refers to a coproduction in which impermanent phenomena condition one another mutually within an infinite network of dynamic causality, which can be innovative without being arbitrary and which transcends the two extremes of chance and determinism. It thus seems that free will can exist within such an unlimited network of causes and conditions that include consciousness.

The brain is an established feature of complex systems with nonlinear dynamics, but it sounds counterintuitive to us because our cognitive systems generally assume linearity. Assuming linearity is a well-adapted heuristics because most of the dynamic processes that we have to cope with in daily life can be approximated with linear models from which we can derive useful predictions for appropriate reactions. Think of the kinetics of objects moving in the earth’s gravitational field – a pendulum, for example. Once set in motion, its trajectory is nicely predictable. The same holds for a spear or a ball. However, if you take three pendulums and tie them together with rubber bands and set in motion, their swings soon become completely unpredictable because of the complexity of the interactions among the three pendulums and the flexing rubber bands.

When it comes to inner phenomena or mind events, the impossibility of knowing all conditions to make a prediction abut future mental states becomes even clearer. Take, for instance, the knowledge of the ‘present moment’:  The moment you know the present moment, it is no longer present.

According to the Buddhist view, our thoughts and actions are conditioned by our present state of ignorance and the habitual tendencies that we have accumulated in the past. But wisdom and knowledge can put an end to ignorance, and training can erode past tendencies.  [Transforming the mind through living Creative Interchange from within] So, ultimately, only someone who has achieved perfect inner freedom and full enlightenment   can truly have free will. [i.e. one who has achieved, once again, his Original Self and thus his full Intrinsic Worth].

Freedom from conditioning [from the personal Vicious Circle] could be the essence of free will. An enlightened being acts appropriately according to the cause and needs of everyone and is not influenced by past tendencies. It also seems that even before achieving the goal of enlightenment, when someone is able to remain for a moment in the limpid freshness of the present moment, a state of pure awareness on which rumination on the past and anticipation of the future haven no bearing, this should be a state conducive to the expression of free will.

Even if we are the product of the past, we are still the architects of our future.

 

CHAPTER 6:

THE NATURE OF CONSCIOUSNESS

 

SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING

 Consciousness is fundamentally a fact of experience. In Buddhism consciousness is considered to be a primary fact.

There are two main methods of approaching consciousness: studying it from the outside (the third-person perspective) or studying it from the inside (the first-person perspective). By ‘outside’ and ‘third-person’ perspectives is meant the study of the correlate of conscious phenomena in the brain, the nervous system, and our behavior as it can be observed by a third person, who does not experience what the first-person experiences. By ‘inside’ is meant the actual experience of the first-person.

We can also question someone in great detail on how he can describe what he feels. This is called the ‘second-person perspective’ because it is achieved through an interaction with someone [the second-person] who is helping you [the first-person] to describe your experience in depth.

But truly, without subjective experience that we can apprehend introspectively, we could not even talk about consciousness. The experience can never be truly and fully described from a third-person perspective. Buddhist scriptures tell the story of two blind men who wanted to understand what colors were. One of them was told that white was the color of snow. He took a handful snow and concluded that white was cold. The other blind man was told that white was the color of swans. He heard a swan flying overhead and concluded that white went swish, swish.

Once again, ‘consciousness’ would not really mean anything without subjective experience. Therefore, to be coherent, we must fully pursue its investigation from that perspective, without constantly jumping from outside in and from inside out as we please. We must follow a consistent line of investigation until its ultimate point.

The naked experience of awareness devoid of mental constructs is transparent to us. I end up there when I refine and pursue further and further my investigation of subjective experience: pure awareness, basic consciousness, and the most fundamental aspect of cognition. This basic awareness does not necessarily need to have particular content, in terms of mental constructs, discursive thoughts, or emotions. It is pure awareness. As is described earlier, this is sometimes called the ‘luminous’ aspect of mind because it allows me to be aware of both the external world and my internal world. It allows me to recall past events, envision the future, and be aware of the present moment.

If people conclude that a given condition evokes consistent experiences, they usually coin a term for the respective experience. Henceforth, this experience assumes the status of a social reality, of an immaterial object, of a concept on which different subjects can focus their shared attention. [cf. the given condition of CI evokes consistent experiences, which we coin ‘Creative Interchange. Henceforth, this experience of CI assumes a status of a social reality, of an immaterial object, of a concept on which different subjects can focus their shared attention]

If we take the first-person perspective as a source of insight into brain processes, we are aware of perceptions, decisions, thoughts, plans, intentions, and acts; we experience these as ours; and we can even be aware of being aware and communicate this fact. Experienced meditators can apparently cultivate this meta-awareness to the point that they are aware of being aware without requiring any concrete content of that awareness.

Humans are embedded in a dimension of social realities that they have created by interacting with one another, observing one another, and sharing their observations and subjective experiences. Through these communicative processes, humans exchange descriptions of their first-person experiences, establish consensus about the congruency of these experiences, and assure each other that these experiences are common to all human beings. In this way, these immaterial phenomena, accessible only form the first-person perspective, gradually acquire the status of reality that one can talk about, attribute to others, and integrate in one’s own self-model [i.e. transform one’s own mindset]

In Buddhism, the matter/consciousness duality, the so-called mind-body problem, is a false problem, given that neither of them has an intrinsic, independent existence.

Because Buddhism refutes the ultimate reality of phenomena, it also refutes the idea that consciousness is independent and exists inherently, just as much as it refutes that matter is independent and exists inherently. The fundamental level of consciousness and the world of apparent phenomena are linked by interdependence, and together the form our perceived world, the one we experience in our lives. Dualism lacks the concept of interdependence and postulates a strict separation between mind and matter; Buddhism states that emptiness is form and form is emptiness. Accordingly, the dichotomy of ‘material’ and ‘immaterial’ makes no sense.

In other words, Buddhism says that the distinction between the interior world of thought and the exterior physical reality is mere illusion. There’s only one reality or, rather, one lack of intrinsic reality! Buddhism does not adopt a purely idealistic point of view or argue that the outer world is a fabrication of consciousness. It just points to the fact that without consciousness, one cannot claim that the world exists because that statement already implies the presence of a consciousness.

It seems that we never place ourselves ‘outside’ consciousness, even if we try to determine its nature and origin. This argument resembles Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem, which says that mathematical theories cannot demonstrate their own consistency, which can also be understood more generally as saying that we are always limited in our knowledge of any system when we are part of that system.

Consciousness is the ability to not only have an experience or a feeling, but also to be aware of that fact. We probably need to distinguish between consciousness as such and the state that allows one to be conscious of something [which is in fact awareness, so indeed one need to distinguish between awareness (‘naked consciousness’) and consciousness (‘colored consciousness’)] The latter can vary substantially because brain states are graded [i.e. brain states ‘alter’ one’s awareness]. It is commonly held that one can only be conscious or aware [see how the authors are themselves struggling with the concepts ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’, despite what they’ve said that one should distinguish the two!] of something if it is attended to, if the focus of attention is on this particular content [one could easily argue that one should have the intention to attend to something]. The focus of attentioncan be shifted, either intentionally, in a top-down fashion, or in a bottom-up way by salient external stimuli [one could easily argue that here top-down = outside-in and bottom-up = inside-out] – the sudden appearance of an object or a sudden change in the environment automatically attracts one’s attention [outside-in]. Thus, attention is one of the mechanisms required to bring content into consciousness [awareness], suggesting that there is a threshold for contents to reach consciousness [awareness].

What could it be that it makes us aware of ourselves? Let us talk about the different levels of awareness [sic!]. First, the most basic level is phenomenal awareness, to ability to be aware of something [which we call awareness, i.e. naked, non-colored consciousness]. Then there comes the ability to be aware that one is aware of being aware of something [which we call meta-awareness, i.e. meta – naked, non-colored consciousness]. Finally, there are the more self-related aspects of consciousness [awareness! – we’re talking aboutawareness, aren’t we?!?]. One is aware of being an individual who is autonomous, which capable of intentional acts, and separate from other individuals. One is also aware of one’s conscious self [i.e. one’s ‘created’ self], which is probably the highest level of meta-cognition   [!?! Aren’t we always interconnected? I claim we are never autonomous, since we only exist through interconnectedness! To me the highest level of meta-cognition or meta-meta-awareness is that we are aware that we’re always somehow interconnected and do not exist on our ‘own’].

This highest level of meta-cognition is [in Buddhism] called self-illumination awareness. The expression conscious self could be easily be misunderstood as assuming the existing of an autonomous self at the core of ourselves [at the core of ourselves their exist an Original Self and an Intrinsic Worth – expressions that describe the Creative Interchange process at that level – i.e. the autonomous self is an illusion, the CI process is a reality, we’re born with it, what we do with it… is our responsibility!].

The phenomenon that we address with the term consciousnesswould not exist without dialogue among human minds, without education, without the embedding in a rich sociocultural environment, and without the mutual attribution of mental constructs.  These constructs are internalized and become implicit properties of our selves [they become the so-called Mental Models]. We experience them as part of our reality and invent terms to name and describe them. They are similar to values.  These, too, are social constructs and are not found in the brain; all we can do is identify systems that assign value to certain brain states and couple them with emotions. The same holds for all the characteristics that one associates with consciousness. We do not find consciousness in the brain, but we can try to identify structures that are necessary for consciousness to manifest itself.

Buddhism uses the term the ‘coarse’ aspect of consciousness, which is the aspect of consciousness involved with the complex world of information, perceptions and their interpretations, relating things with each other, and feeling emotions in reaction to outer events or inner recollections. [This ‘coarse’ aspect of consciousness is in fact the left part of the Crucial Dialogue model: Observation of facts and Interpretation of those which leads to – the middle of the Model – Emotions]. None of these would ever arise without the constant interaction with the environment and other sentient beings [we call that particular interaction Creative Interchange].

But we still have to understand the most fundamental aspect of ‘pure awareness’, what Buddhism refers to as the ‘subtle’ aspect of consciousness. A good metaphor is a beam of light – it reveals what there is without being modified by it. Likewise, according to Buddhist contemplatives, pure awareness [naked or non-colored consciousness in my personal language] is neither obscured nor modified by the content of thoughts; it is unqualified and unaltered [we see reality as it is, not as we are – pure awareness is non dual]

 

CULTIVATING STATES OF SUBTLE CONSCIOUSNESS OR PURE AWARENESS

The process of non-dual awareness can become effortless and uncontrived. During pure awareness state of mind, you are not trying to prevent anything from arising, but when something presents itself, you just let it come and let it go so that it doesn’t make waves. [i.e. your non-colored awareness is not influenced by your colored consciousness]. In other words, you don’t try to stop it [the colored consciousness] neither do you encourage it.

[In fact what you do is to pay no attention at all to what’s sometimes called the Monkey Mind] This internal chattering is usually due to the proliferation of simple thoughts.  Without repressing them, you can simply let them vanish as they arise.  There is no point trying to stop perceiving the outer world, hearing the birds that are singing. You simply let [i.e. do not prevent] thoughts and perceptions arise [i.e. the ‘coloring’ of awareness] and undo themselves [i.e. return to ‘white’, pure awareness, the bright light beam]. In other words, there is no point in trying to prevent thoughts that are already coming in and you can certainly prevent them from invading your mind [i.e. coloring your pure awareness].

The essence of meditation freeing the mind from randomly intruding contents, and then you fill it with selected contents that you call on through intention – for example, empathy or compassion – granting them a privileged space. It means that we become familiar with something and cultivating a skill in a methodic, no chaotic way. This is not a semi-passive way of learning [as sometimes meditation is seen] but a fully engaged one in a coherent way. After a long period of time such a skill can become consummate and effortless. It is not an ‘automatic’ mental process, which often perpetuate deluded habitual patterns and perceptions. Meditation does not require forceful attention. So you are not effort fully attentive, but you are not distracted at the same time.

 

ON VARIOUS LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

So one of the levels of consciousness is the content-free or empty state of awareness. Empty in the sense of being free from content, not empty in the sense of perfect clarity. It is a state of extreme awareness of its own clarity. Light can shine on a dark sky, and yet it doesn’t light up anything in particular. This awareness is called in Buddhism nondual consciousness, because there is no separation between subject and object. Neuro scientists call this meta-awareness, the awareness of being aware of being aware or conscious. If a content then appears, one becomes aware of that, but from the perspective of being an observer of one’s own awareness [BTWAwareness and Observing are part of the first phase of the Crucial Dialogue Model, where the object, content is observed, not ‘colored’]. So, there is pure awareness, where there is no split between a subject that knows something and an object that is known [i.e. nondual consciousness].

The most fundamental form of experience is called in Buddhism: dwelling in nondual awareness. So the scientific question becomes: “What is the nature of that most primal pure awareness?” For the moment science has not answered that question. From the Buddhist perspective, the mind’s ability to act on itself, transform itself, recognize its basic nature, and gain freedom from afflictive mental states is crucial and lies at the center of the spiritual path. It is hard to imagine that someone could achieve such a freedom – which is the same as achieving mastery of the mind because freedom is to be in charge of one’s own mind instead of being the powerless slave of every single thought and emotion that arises – if consciousness were just an irrelevant phenomenon. Anyway, consciousness is a fact. Without it, our subjective world entirely disappears. [From Creative Interchange perspective, CI is the process that can change the mind, since the mind cannot change itself. So to us CI is at the center of the spiritual path]

From the Buddhist perspective consciousness actually influences neuronal processes, in order to transform itself. Please remember that, as the philosopher David Chambers remarked, all biological functions, including the articulation of language that allows communication between two organisms, as well as meta-representation, can be formulated without having to refer to subjective experience. This finding shows that experience is not a particular moment in objective biological functions but something we are aware of prior to any study of these functions. This makes it difficult to establish a causal relation between neuronal processes and consciousness.

If consciousness did not have the capacity to transforms itself, know itself, and work to deeply change its contents, then it would really be worthless. Buddhism starts from the other end of the spectrum: pure awareness. Then it investigates how thoughts, emotions, happiness, and suffering arise from this pure awareness. It tries to understand the processes of wisdom and delusion that are related to recognizing or losing recognition of this pure awareness.

This allows one to maintain the recognition that all mental events arise within awareness simply because of many causes and conditions, which do not belong to pure awareness. Pure awareness is unconditional, in the same way that space do not alter when clouds form – or don’t – within it. As mentioned earlier, pure awareness is a primary fact.

Pure awareness is what allows all mental constructs and discursive thoughts, and it is not a construct itself. It leads you to recognize that, thanks to this, you always have the possibility to change the content of your mind because mental states are not intrinsically embedded in pure awareness. Consequently, with training and mindfulness [Creative Interchange I would say], one can rid of hatred, craving, and other afflictive emotions [embedded in the Vicious Circle]

Matthieu Ricard postulates that awareness impacts future neuronal processes. If we consider pure awareness as a primary fact, and there is nothing that goes against this view, there is no reason to deny that mental constructs arising within the space of awareness could act through neuroplasticity. Thus, through the work of interdependent, mutual causation, one may have downward, upward, and same-level causation.

The evolution of brains capable of performing cognitive operations that we address as ‘conscious’ permitted modes of social interactions that ultimately catalyzed cultural evolution with all its consequences on the further differentiation of human cognition. One could talk about top-down causation in the sense that the immaterial constructs of cultures, the social realities, influence brain functions. In this case, the mechanisms are well established and not in conflict with the laws of nature. The belief systems, norms, and concepts shared by a society influence the self-understanding and action of its members. They act directly on the members’ brains through the exchange of social signals. [i.e. Creative Interchange] Moreover, they imprint the brains of the next generation through education and epigenetic shaping and thus also have long-term effects on brain functions.

Top-down causation is a problem only in the context of a dualistic stance positing material matter, which is supposed to exist as solid reality – a notion that is challenged by both Buddhism and quantum theory – and a supposedly ‘immaterial’ consciousness, which would be a bizarre, indefinable phenomenon devoid of any status. For Buddhism, both matter and consciousness belong to the world of forms. Both exist inasmuch as they are manifest, but they are also devoid of intrinsic, solid reality. Hence the statement, “Void is form, form is void.” Consciousness cannot be reduced to gross matter because consciousness is a prerequisite to conceive of matter and make any description of it.

The Dalai Lama says that consciousness precedes anything we could ever say about it and precedes any possible perception and interpretation of the phenomenal world. We cannot step out of consciousness to examine it as if it were merely one aspect of our world. The Dalai Lama states: “We risk objectivizing what is essentially an internal set of experiences and excluding the necessary presence of the experiencer. We cannot remove ourselves from the equation. No scientific description of the neural mechanisms of color discrimination can make one understand what it feels like to perceive, say, the color red.”[vi]

Buddhism says that the ultimate nature of consciousness is beyond words, symbols, concepts, and descriptions. You may speak of pure awareness devoid of mental constructs, but it is like pointing the finger at the moon and calling it the moon itself; unless you have a direct experience of this pure awareness, these words are empty. [That’s the problem with  CI too: unless you have a direct experience of what we call CI, our words are empty]

Contemplatives who have mastered the capacity to clearly identify this pure awareness or this platform without content describe it as vivid and fully aware, as having a quality of peace. They see that thoughts arise from the space of awareness and dissolve back into it, like waves that surge from and dissolve back into the ocean. The mastery of this process eventually leads to people who have an extraordinary emotional balance, inner strength, inner peace, and freedom. So there must be something quite special in having access tot such deep levels of mental processes.

Pure awareness goes beyond attention, because attention implies being attentive to something, in a dualistic mode of a subject who pays attention to an object. It is more correct to say that within pure awareness, various mental functions can unfold, including attention focused on perceptions or any other mental phenomenon. But an satisfactory explanation of the training aspect of attention is not enough to explain the whole range of experience; especially the fact that experience always comes first. This fact is inescapable fact!

 

PUZZLING EXPERIENCES

It would be interesting to consider phenomena that would, if they were valid, make us reconsider the general assumption that consciousness is entirely dependent on the brain. One can think of three of those that merit consideration and for which we certainly need to distinguish illusions from reality, fact from rumor: (1) people having access to the content of someone else’s thoughts; (2) people describing memories of past lives; and (3) people having near-death experiences or reporting on details of their surroundings at the time that they were apparently unconscious, with a flat EEG, which suggest an absence of electrical activity in the main parts of the brain.

One major problem with all these phenomena is their lack of reproducibility. They cannot be generated intentionally and hence cannot be investigated experimentally. One could of course again argue that they belong to the class of phenomena whose constitutive property is irreproducibility, that they are singularities of a dynamic that never repeats itself. In that case, one can’t study them with the scientific tools at hand. [Something similar is going on with Creative Interchange. CI is a process that cannot be controlled, not from the outside in, and not even from the inside out. One can only provide for the conditions needed for CI to thrive, and CI will happen, we just cannot predict when it will happen. We cannot really trigger it consciously and therefor CI can’t be studied with the scientific tools at hand. Perhaps that is the reason why the scientific world seems not be interested in Creative Interchange (at least the professors I’ve contacted were not willing to – another reason can be that it is a natural process that already has been identified by Henry Nelson Wieman and cannot be invented.]

 

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[i]P. Gilbert and C. Irons, “Focused therapies and compassionate mind training for shame and selfattacking,” in Compassion: Research in Psychotherapy, ed. P. Gilbert. New York, NY: Routledge, 2005. 263-325

K. Neff, Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. New York, NY: William Morrow, 2011.

[ii]D. Galin, “The Concepts of ‘Self’, ‘Person’ and ‘I,’ in Western Psychology and Buddhism,” in Buddhism & Science, Breaking New Ground, ed. B. Alan Walace. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2003.

[iii]C. Taylor, Sources of Self: The making of Modern Identity.  Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989.

[iv]F. J. Varela, Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom, and Cognition. Stanford, CA: Standford University Press, 1999.

[v]M. Ricard and T.X. Tuan, The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2004.

[vi]Dalai Lama, The Universe of a Single Atom.New York, NY: Morgan Road Books, 2005. p. 122.