Gregory Bateson’s Notion of the Sacred
What Can it Tell Us about Living Constructively?

By

Vincent Kenny

 

This is a working draft of an article for a special edition of the Italian journal AlfaZeta on Gregory Bateson - due for publication in January 1998

 

 
 


Contents

1. Mindfulness & the Sacred

1.1. Taking Our Personal Responsibility for the Sacred

1.2. Humanity Engaging with the Hopeless Task

1.3. Taking Responsibility Vs Giving Dependency

 

2. The Limited Convenience to the Fiction of the ‘Individual Self’

2.1. A ‘Self’ is what is generated when a human bodyhood is cultivated to occupy a given . . ... .nodal position within a closed network of conversations.

2.2. Pretending Individuality

2.2.1. Consuming Selves

2.3. Pretending People are ‘Things’

 

3. Cult-ivating Friends

3.1. Sub-Mergence - where No-thing is Sacred

3.2. E-Mergence Conditions

3.3. Mergence Conditions

 

4. Openness to the Sacred & Self-Acceptance

4.1. You cannot ‘engineer’ the ‘right Self’

4.2. Neither Mechanism nor Supernaturalism

4.3. The Manipulative Psychologies - Power & Control

4.4. The Constructivist Prayer

 

5. Merging, E-Merging & Sub-Merging

5.1. The Web Of The Sacred -

5.2. 8 Ways of Sensing the Sacred

Three Signs Of Mergence - Sensations

Two Signs Of E-Mergence - Deprivations

Three Signs Of Sub-Mergence - Negations

 

6. Ahhh! There is the Sacred!

 

REFERENCES


 

 

 

1. Mindfulness & the Sacred

Gregory Bateson never really says what the Sacred actually is. This is in part a way of indicating what it is - as something which is beyond facile descriptions. The Sacred is a part of the unSayable of human experience and must remain such. When he says mind and consciousness cannot meet - that there is a necessary gap between the two - then he is saying that our attempts to explain our human experience is always and necessarily incomplete, and that there is a lot more to life and mind than meets consciousness.

‘But the bits and pieces of mind which appear before consciousness invariably give a false picture of mind as a whole. The systemic character of mind is never there depicted, because the sampling is governed by purpose.
We never see in consciousness that the mind is like an ecosystem - a self-corrective network of circuits. We only see arcs of these circuits.
And the instinctive vulgarity of scientists consists precisely in mistaking these arcs for the larger truth, i.e., thinking that because what is seen by consciousness has one character, the total mind must have the same character.
Freud’s personified ‘ego’, ‘id’, ‘super-ego’ are, in fact not, truly personified at all. Each of his components is constructed in the image of only consciousness (even though the component may be unconscious) and the ‘consciousness’ does not resemble a total person. The isolated consciousness is necessarily depersonified.
The whole iceberg does not have those characteristics which could be guessed at from looking only at what is above water. I mean: the iceberg does - mind does not. Mind is not like an iceberg.’ [Bateson, 1967]

 

1.1. Taking Our Personal Responsibility for the Sacred

The way that humans have dealt with this inevitable self-limiting feature of human existence has included the evolution of religions to ‘handle’ this ‘splitting’. This leads to acknowledging the impossibility of bridging the gap in our split awareness, and so usually involves the total hand-over of our responsibilities for living this gap to a special sect or class of people called ‘priests’, ‘druids’, ‘gurus’, etc. This hand-over of responsibility is not something that constructivism could approve of.

Here’s Bateson again -

‘The point is that, even before modern technology, something had to be done about the innate split between consciousness and the rest of the mind, because the unaided consciousness would always wreck human relations. Because the unaided consciousness must always combine the wisdom of the dove with the harmlessness of the serpent.
And I will tell you what they did in the old Stone Age to deal with that split.
Religion is what they did.
It’s that simple, and religion is whatever they could devise to beat into man the fact that most of him (and, analogously, most of his society and the ecosystem around him) was systemic in nature and imperceptible to his consciousness.
This included dreams and trances, intoxication, castration, rituals, human sacrifices, myths of all sorts, invocations of death, art, poetry, music and so on.
And of course, they did not and could not really say or know clearly what it was they were doing or why. And, often, it did not work.’

 

1.2. Humanity Engaging with the Hopeless Task

To fully live in our humanness we must resist the temptation to ‘give away’ to someone or something else our personal responsibility for how we are living the distance between our vivid experiences and our reductive attempts to describe or explain these experiences in a language of conscious purpose.
However, it is the mark of an ethical effort to continue to take the responsibility for this impossible effort. Here is what Wittgenstein says about this impossible effort.

"My whole tendency and I believe the tendency of all men who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run up against the boundaries of language. This running up against the walls of our cage is perfectly, absolutely hopeless. Ethics so far as it springs from the desire to say something about the ultimate meaning of life, the absolute good, the absolute valuable, can be no science. But it is a document of a tendency in the human mind which I personally cannot help respecting deeply and I would not for my life ridicule it. " [1929]

In this quote we can see the central constructivist issue of, on the one hand, knowing that whatever sense we manage to concoct remains entirely our own subjective property [and thus a sense which never can come to describe an 'actual' state of affairs], but that, on the other hand, we can and must transcend our own invented knowledge by -

provoking invalidation for our favourite ideas

by making efforts to move beyond the 'limits of language'

by bringing into question our given limits to action and given limits to our sense-making

and by choosing to enter into those domains where our understandings break down.

The willingness to make this impossible effort is a symptom of the presence of the sacred. The effort to push beyond the confining imprisonment of language and reach out into the unknowable, unsayable, unproducible sense of a greater mindfulness.

 

1.3. Taking Responsibility Vs Giving Dependency

Kelly insisted that the capacity for the taking of personal responsibility for our personal dilemmas was what characterised the best features of human kind - rather than evading responsibility by talking about ‘circumstances beyond our control’ [a phrase we hear too much of today].

‘Even God, the most powerful circumstance of them all is nowadays said to be dead. Such a statement is obviously not atheistic, or even agnostic. In a general way it concedes the creation of circumstances and does not deny their historical importance, yet in a peculiar theological way it is a sweeping declaration of independence on the part of men who are ready to accept responsibility for their acts and are ceasing to acknowledge the guiding power of any circumstances, even the greatest of them - God.’ [Kelly 1969]

The Garden of Eden story is read by Kelly as saying that God threw out his human invention when they opted for knowing rather than for obedience. Bateson reads it as saying that the humans threw God out of the Garden by exalting conscious purpose over systemic mindfulness.

Both readings can be used to tell us something about human responsibility - because, on the one hand, God is dead and we solely are responsible for the way we make the world, and, on the other hand, because it is presumptuous to thrown the baby God out with the systemic ecological bath-water, thus reducing human awareness to mere conscious purpose - and here again we are responsible for this choice.

To put this differently, we are responsible for the ways we make the world [since it is all up to ourselves], and we are also responsible for the ways that we make ourselves as human beings. It is up to ourselves to render ourselves as humans-in-Mindfulness, as opposed to the current version of ourselves as ‘humans-with-conscious-purpose’.

We do not have any ‘natural nature’ - we have only that nature which we generate together in our social relationships.

Within these readings we can say that the constructivist view of religion is of a social convention used by people to try to climb back into the Garden - where one needs only to obey the leader - and in giving obedience to not come to know their lived world in a personally responsible manner. It is a pathway leading away from the Sacred because it is based upon the personal sub-mergence of awareness to ideological rules.

The main way of ‘not coming to know’ is to blindly follow rules invented by others. As Kelly says-

‘Rules are useful enough as handrails for the morally nearsighted, and that of course includes most of us. But...the man who willingly relies upon rules and laws to distinguish good from evil in his behalf is only seeking to avoid the foresight of what, in the end, good and evil will turn out to be. It is not going to be much comfort to him in the future, when he finds he has made a mess of things, to recall that he had closed his eyes and conformed to the rules.’ [ Kelly 1969]

All of the above comments highlight the constructivist value for being ‘a self-made man’, or ‘a self-constructing person’ embedded within one’s given networks of conversations. One of the many responsibilities that we seem loath to take up is that responsibility for how we invent human individuals in our society - for how we generate human components for our increasingly inhuman society.

 

2. The Limited Convenience to the Fiction of the ‘Individual Self’

The ‘individual self’ is a convenient western fiction - it does not exist outside of the western conventions that bring it forth. In the western world humans are invented as if they were entirely separate autonomous entities - but each person knows, upon a little reflection, that this is simply not the case - everyone is dependent upon specific networks of relationships for their existence. I think it was Harry Stack Sullivan who criticised the Catholic church for selling people the [false] idea that they had ‘free-will’ to do as they choose to do; and then - when people continually fail to exercise their ‘free-will’ to ‘do the right thing’, and come to feel personally distressed about it - the church sells them ‘absolution’ for their sense of guilty, sinful failure. A little bit like current commercial practices of selling people the belief that they ‘need’ or ‘lack’ some consumer object [or need to ‘be something’ that they are not], and then offers to sell them just the product to remove their instilled sense of inferiority at not possessing the right product. It ought not to be a surprise that the eventual possession of the new car / TV / house / etc. does little to resolve the instilled sense of inadequacy. The publicity-consumer machine generates the very anxieties for which it then proposes their own commercial ‘solution’. In this regard I am also reminded of the view of psychoanalysis as ‘being the very disease that it claims to cure’.

David Smail points out that -

‘the ‘person’ is not a bounded entity separated off from the world in which he or she exists, but an interaction of body with world, consisting partially of both. People cannot control their beliefs and attitudes because people are their beliefs and attitudes. Beliefs and attitudes, as well as the nonverbal meaning-systems like dream and metaphor which order out experience, are constituents of our personhood: there is no further person who can somehow step outside this constituency, adjust it, and then step back in again.
What seems like our ‘inside’ - what psychologists so often refer to as the ‘self’, ‘inner space’, etc. - does not exist in any material sense. Nor does it ‘exist’ in any immaterial sense - it is, rather, a way of referring to our self-consciousness. ... What makes a difference to the way we are, what changes us or permits us to change, is not the voluntary manipulation of inner resources [for there is no ‘inner’] but the influence of or access to outer resources and powers. Neither ‘self’ nor world can be influenced or changed by anything other than the exercise of power.’ [pp. 82-83, 1993]

Let me illustrate this theme of the ‘fictional self’ with some quotes from a Buddhist perspective:-

"Buddhism teaches that there is no constant entity such as 'self'. Self is like the present. Moment by moment, as present dissolves into past and future becomes present, there is no fixed entity that can be identified as 'present'. The present-creating-activity is ceaseless. We can understand the 'self' in the same way. Self is not a constant thing. It arises in the limiting activity of the absolute. To attach to the self is actually impossible because the self has no fixed nature. Therefore, trying to satisfy the desires of self is also impossible. A culture based on providing this satisfaction cannot succeed. What is needed is the wisdom to realize the self-beyond-attachment and to create a culture with this wisdom as its base." [Roshi, 1983]

Also

"Most of our therapies are guided by a personality theory. And most of us usually think we should know who we are. After all, others seem to walk around knowing who they are. But if we look inside ourselves and find nothing that we can hold onto, this scares us. What we may not realize is that no one really knows who they are, that this is the nature of our being, and that if we have a true self at all, it somehow lies in the heart of the unknowingness that we face when we start to look inside ourselves. And if we can 'hang out' on the edge of this unknown, we may discover how to let ourselves be, without having to be something. " [Welwood, 1983]

Here I would want to underline the phrase that the 'truth of selfhood' 'lies in the heart of the unknowingness that we face when we start to look inside ourselves'. In other words, that it is the very unknowability, the impossible struggling with the limits of language, that generates the constant sense of an ethical selfhood.

Here again we have the strong sense that 'being someOne in particular' is a hazardous notion full of opportunities for experiencing ‘self-undermining’ emotions. And yet do we have any other options except to push the given someOne beyond the edge of its assumed Location / Position in a human conversational space?

 

2.1. A ‘Self’ is what is generated when a human bodyhood is cultivated to occupy a given nodal position within a closed network of conversations.

There is no independently existing ‘Self-as-Individual’ - there are only embedded selves in a long flow of cultural and interpersonal history networks.

Verden-Zoller points out that -

"A self is a social dimension that is realised through a particular bodyhood as a particular node of intersection of conversations proper to a particular human community of mutual acceptance. A child, therefore, must acquire his or her self identity as a particular manner of being in his or her bodyhood through living in a human community of mutual acceptance.
This normally happens as a child grows in close body interactions with his or her mother as well as other children and adults, in a process through which they naturally [without any intention or effort] develops as a child with normal sensory endowments, body awareness, and self and social consciousness. Indeed we are so accustomed to this normal development of children that we do not see the domain of human relations in which it takes place as a natural process, and when it fails we do not know what fails nor what to do, and we resort to control. Moreover, when we attempt to correct a basic failure in human relations in a child resorting to control, what we usually obtain is more failure because in our blindness about the present through our attending to the future, we deny the child."

We are usually blind to this contextualising domain of complex human relations in which occurs the evolution of the infant’s sense of -

Self Û Body Û Node-Of-Communication Û Conversational-Space Û Self

OR

In other words, we are attuned to perceive the child as a ‘separate entity’ of the family structure. We tend to be blind to his existence within a pool of interpersonal coordinations of emotions. When the child develops ‘emotional problems’ we still tend to remain blind to the fact that such a ‘problem’ does not [cannot] exist within the child, but can exist only as a commentary upon the complex pool of relationships within which the child-as-bodyhood has been positioned. Thus therapists try to ‘cure the child’s problem’ - even though his only problem is that of being badly positioned within an unhealthy network. Needless to say, such attempted ‘cures’ are thinly disguised efforts to ‘make the child fit’ into the unhealthy system - taking for granted that the system is OK [even if someone perceives that there IS indeed a system, which is something that is usually NOT seen]. Sooner or later, if the child is lucky, someone will perceive that there IS a family network in existence, and that it is NOT a wonderful medium for a growing child to have to support. At this point the child will [ought to] not be seen as if he were entirely independent of this complex context of human interrelationships. Failure to perceive the child-in-context usually leads to more failure through denying the child by trying to attend to manipulating the right outcomes [make him fit].

According to Maturana, our actions are structure-determined. The states of our bodyhood at any given moment are the result of the history of our living to that moment - which means that we can only act within the domain of possibilities offered or implied by our bodily structures. These available bodily structures depend upon the history of structural interactions which we have lived through with others. A child necessarily becomes the kind of human being which results from his history of interactions with his mother and others, principally due to the way that his body is transformed through his interactions with others.

HISTORY OF RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS

HISTORY OF BODILY STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATIONS

[OUR ACTIONS ARE STRUCTURE DETERMINED ]

GENERATES A DOMAIN OF POSSIBILITIES FOR ACTIONS

THIS IS THE KIND OF HUMAN BEING WE BECOME

So what this means is that the history of our embodied interactions - especially with our mother - generates over time the range of possible actions in which we can viably engage. It is our bodily structure which contains [or proposes] viable activities. The body is the repository of the repertoire of viable anticipations which we can make about ourselves with others. Our bodily-specified range of anticipations determines how and to what we will be oriented in our moment-to-moment living. It tells us what to look out for, and how to interact with it when it appears. We become blind to all else, and all other ways of inter-acting. So, arising from our experience with our mothers, we are oriented to relate to self and others in specific given ways, and not in others. These become our limits to growth and experience.

 

2.2. Pretending Individuality

From what I say above it is clear that the ‘individual self’ is one which lives out its identity only within a circumscribed matrix of shared mutual attributions underwritten by their coordinations of emotions.

This ‘Self’ is continually presented with the need to pretend that it is ‘independent’ and to behave as if it is so, but at the same time to submit itself as an obedient component in the network [within which it is given its existence as someOne].

The way in which the ‘self’ is configured in this framework is one which, at the same time, obscures the presence of the Sacred.

Instead of being able to be in contact with the Sacred, people are continually invited to resolve the impossibility of ‘individual identity’ by submerging the same ‘self’ in the security of some religious or pseudo religious forms or the common ‘sub-cultures’ of teenagers, where wearing clothes with the ‘right label’ is of paramount distinguishing power.

With Italy now having one of the lowest birth-rates in the world, the culture is rapidly changing towards a less-than-one child per family. Indeed the notion of '‘family'’ is itself becoming problematic, since there are so few people now available to take up the different positions within the familial conversational space - it is easy to have already lost the sense of the family life cycle.

In other countries it is still possible to live within the family life cycle, where at any given moment there are people ‘populating’ the different stages of family life. We see infants with their older brothers and sisters, with their parents, who in turn can be seen with their own parents in the extended family, and on into later life positions of retirement and then people approaching death in the end of their living cycle - all together in a coherent life-cycle system.

The importance of this system was of course to be ‘living together’ in an ongoing family ecology where there was always someone who could help someone else to positively discover the experiences awaiting for them on their next ‘stage’ of human development. The loss of this form of ecology has very serious implications for the ways that humans live and develop across the life cycle - not least from the point of view of people ‘not knowing’ what their expected role is when they get to the next stage. In other words, there is a profound loss of the lived understandings generated across an integral transgenerational family pattern.

 

2.2.1. Consuming Selves

David Smail commenting on the rise of consumerism in Britain says this -

‘The person’s life cycle came more obviously than ever to be marked less by the social and spiritual significance of events than by their market implications. From cot to coffin, the stages of life derived their meaning as much from the typical pattern of purchasing they involved as from any consideration of what Ivan Illich has called ‘conviviality’.
Just as the yearly cycle is marked by a series of consumerist celebrations - birthdays, holidays, Christmas, etc. - so the course of our lives has tended increasingly to be demarcated more clearly by the spending sprees they give rise to than by their significance as social rites of passage. The childhood preoccupation with ‘toys’ is a good example of this. Given a chance to talk to and occupy themselves with the adults around them, most children are fairly indifferent to toys. However, in a world in which those adults are themselves busily preoccupied with their own corners of the market, children have less chance of socialising than of learning the arts of consumership in their own specially prepared world of toys. Not only do they receive, from the moment their eyes can focus, a training in the acquisition and rapid obsolescence of consumer goods, but they are also inducted into a world of make-believe which offers virtually limitless market opportunities and which may very well serve to detach them for life from any commercially undesirable anchorage in the realities of social existence.’ [p. 118, 1993]

A strong symptom of the loss of the sense of the family life cycle is the inability to ‘be with’ one’s children [we are out at work; too busy; too stressed and tired; too bored; etc.], so that in the past few years especially in the USA we heard of parents being with their children in ‘quality time’ - which means that its OK not to be much with your kids as long as when you are with them that you are ‘really present’. We have seen the importance of being in the present with children in the above text.

Apart from being a fairly thin justification of not spending much time with one’s children, this notion of ‘quality time’ is also a description of a most unlikely scenario - people who are too engulfed by the frenetic work-consuming society are already victims of ‘having to produce the goods’ for the society to such an extent that they are quite unlikely to be able to simply ‘turn it off’ - i.e. to cease the ‘production mode’ - just because it is time to be at home with their child. The effort to produce a ’quality time’ space for their relationship with their child is already an over-programmed space - having to meet the criteria of ‘quality’. Perhaps we will soon see such parents seeking to have an external assessor or consultant coming to screen them for the ‘quality mark’ for the high level of ‘quality attention’ they are giving to their kids - in the brief time they spend with them.

It is obvious that conscious intention is working overtime here, and that such a parent is concentrated on the production of the right kind of stuff [‘quality’]. I don’t see much room for a spontaneous interactional relationships with the child.

 

2.3. Pretending People are ‘Things’

A corollary of seeing the person as a separate entity is to see oneself and others as ‘things’ as opposed to being processes in continuous relations. For Kelly the person is a form of process. Seeing one’s own embodiment as an ‘object’ facilitates the manipulation of one’s body and of others-as-bodies. Bodies become things for moving, possessing, using, enjoying, adjusting, disposing of, bartering with, abusing, ignoring, exploiting, controlling, and so on. This often leads to self-manipulation as well as to the manipulation of others. One of the many increasing forms of self-manipulation is to be seen in the enormous growth of the use of plastic surgery to sculpt the unsatisfying body into a more desirable shape by cutting off bits here and there, and stuffing other bits into the body at strategic points. Manipulative husbands who encourage their ‘not-perfect’ wives to manipulate themselves with plastic surgery frequently go to find a ‘newer model’ to that ‘older model’ represented by their wives - so the plastic surgery is frequently a manipulative failure from this point of view, even if it seems a ‘success’ from a material point of view.

Kelly illustrates the problem of manipulation where he describes the apparent efficacy of this approach, that which Bateson condemned as ‘conscious purpose’, - which is able to well disguise the human problems lurking not far beneath its shiny flashy meretricious surface.

"Simply stated, scientific determinism is the belief that one event is bound to lead to another. Put your finger on that event and you are well on your way to the prediction and control of what ensues. Applied to human affairs this means that you look to see what antecedents are necessary and sufficient to make such matters predictable. ...
I scarcely need to point out that this is a strictly manipulative approach to human relations.
There is no particular point in trying to understand a child if every time you give him candy he does what he is supposed to do. And if, whenever you buy something for your wife, she caresses you and fixes an extra nice supper, what else could you conceivably want to know about her? If each time you make a loan to a Latin American country, it votes with you in the United Nations, who can possibly say that you don’t understand Latin Americans? It’s all very scientific and it’s psychological too. And this is the way it generally works out.
But how well does it work out? How often is it that we hear a man, who appears to be successful in handling his employees, complain that he is not really wanted at home. All his family expects of him is ‘financial support’. His children expect candy and agree among themselves that all they need to do to satisfy the old geezer is avoid crossing him. His wife expects gifts from him rather than understanding, and she has found that all she needs to do to make him perform is prepare his favorite meal and rub the back of his neck with the tips of her fingers - while she occupies her own mind with a romantic story in the Ladies Home Journal. While all this scientifically valid psychology is being practiced in the home, probably both of them have been seeing psychotherapists for some time now, and the children have likely been placed in some good school, chosen because of its staff of well-trained counsellors. "
[Kelly]

Kelly’s alternative to all of this manipulativeness is to construe not only the behaviours of others, but also to construe their personal constructs which prompts them to enact these behaviours as the best options that they have available to them. This means construing the construing of others - not merely construing and categorising their actions. It is this effort to make sense out of the ways that others make sense of their lives that is at the heart of personal construct psychology.

The world today has developed the industry of the human body as an object of desire to be bought and sold to an extremely dangerous level. It is a daily occurrence to see the casualness with which young people kill others - in school, in neighbourhoods, and so on. In Italy we are now accustomed to seeing yet another news item on a new born infant found ‘disposed of’ in dustbins or simply thrown into an alleyway. This year, 1997, has seen the exposure of the wide-spread pedophile rings in Europe with connections all round the world, and of the traffic from the orient to Europe and the USA of children sold into slavery, to be abused, tortured and eventually killed. We have also seen the use of children as a source of organs to be sold on the medical black market for surgical transplantation.

Last August the Italian newspapers published a photograph of a seaside scene near Trieste in north Italy, where the happy bathers were captured in the usual poses of people taking the sun, lying on the beach, smearing suntan oil onto their overheated bodies, having a snack of fruit or sandwiches, drinking water, diving into the sea and so on. All very typical of a photo of people on a summer beach. There was one detail however which made it a newsworthy photograph - there was a dead body lying on the sand, that of a drowned man who had just been pulled ashore by the lifeguards. So all of this normal human enjoyment activity was taking place within inches of this corpse - as if it was nothing at all, merely an inert object.

The newspapers used it to denounce the total absence of ‘human feeling’ or ‘decency’ among these bathers who showed no interest in the dead person, nor did they show any signs of curtailing their own enjoyment of the seaside scene. What can this mean? That the social values for human life [others’ lives of course, not mine!] have become reduced only to those which can be manipulated in my own interests? That human life has no value per se? That we are so used to construing others as objects for our own disposal that we have lost sight of what was once a normal empathy or interest in others and in their plight? That we have no longer got the decency to momentarily suspend our own self-indulgence until the unfortunate corpse has been removed from the beach? That we have lost a fundamental form of ‘respect’?

I have seen the same form of nonchalance in India, at Varanasi, down on the banks of the river where they stack up the pyre wood around the corpses and then burn them, later tossing the resulting ashes into the river. People casually wander around this site watching the effects on the bodies as the flames leap higher and higher, and the attendant priests stoke the fire to keep it burning, or poke at an emerging head, arm or other bits of the corpse to push them deeper into the fire, ensuring that they also burn. The casual observers may be licking an ice-cream cone or smoking a cigarette as they watch the ‘show’.

So were these Italians, like the Hindu Indians, living in their total acceptance of the nature of life and death, [the Indians knowing that the dead fellow was indeed very fortunate to be privileged to have his ashes thrown into the sacred river]? Or were the bathers merely so intent on their own pleasures and on ‘getting value for money’ that they were simply unable and unavailable to relate to the event of the corpse in any useful way at all?

As long as we see people as things, or as bodies in an exchange of services, and not as existing in a network of formative relationships [in networks of conversations for mutual acceptance and support] things will not change - or rather, they will change but for the worse.

 

3. Cult-ivating Friends

The attempt to escape from the dilemmas of ‘individualism’ can be seen in the enmeshment of people in a myriad of different cults, movements, religious societies, etc. which exist today. All of these groups exist to treat their members in a very similar manner. In synthesis, the cult leader assumes all the responsibility for telling the followers - in great detail - all that they have to do in order to continue to be accepted as a member. The requirement is for submission to the orders of the leader, and this can be seen across many different human activities ranging from politics and terrorism to the secret operation of cults.

The person must submerge their presumed individuality to the point of becoming a mere cipher in the network of the cult, religion, political movement etc.

 

3.1. Sub-Mergence - where No-thing is Sacred

What we see therefore is that the possibilities of contacting the Sacred become less and less as we move down through the strategies for avoiding the dilemmas of the false presumption of the individual self.

These latter strategies range across three main domains of human experiencing -

[a] Having to sustain One’s given position in the matrix of relationships for existing as a member of the network of conversations.
[b] Having to live within the ‘limits for acting’ imposed by the groups beliefs and demands.
[c] Having to curb one’s natural curiosities about what is going on, e.g. in not questioning the leader, or the rules, but obeying them even when one is aware that something is very wrong.

These three conditions ensure the submergence of one’s ‘mind’, ‘spirit’, and ‘body’ under the weight of the obscuring rules of the leader
So within the submerged conditions described there is no hope of becoming aware of the Sacred.

 

3.2. E-Mergence Conditions

So let us assume that we resist the temptations to escape the socially-imposed dilemmas of ‘individuality’. In this case we have to fully encounter the living in a bodyhood of an ‘individual self’ which is, at the same time, a lie. Here we must confront two main conditions of our experiencing -

[a] Firstly the condition of feeling our self-definition as depending upon the alienating contrasts with the selves of others. Even as children we feel this negatively when we find ourselves poorly contrasted with our brother/sister/cousin/friends by an angry or disappointed parent. ‘Why are you not more like your sister?’ they scream in fury - and we understand that we are different to our sister in a way that makes us less desirable and less acceptable to them.
We feel the enormous GAP that exists between ‘me’ and my ‘sister’. Not only is it impossible to close this gap, we find that our very identity depends on the gap being conserved. Any effort on our part to make this difference disappear, only makes things worse. We are accused of only ‘pretending to be different/better’. Our sister is ‘really good’, we are only ‘pretending to be good’. And of course it doesn’t last.

[b] Secondly, we are continually forced into a subsequent impossible task - that of trying to balance out the amount of investment we make in trying to ‘suit ourselves’ as opposed to trying to ‘show relevance’ to the group upon whom we depend for our existence. We must continually struggle to please others [e.g. the boss at work] for fear of losing our job, and at the same time try to find a personal meaning in what we are doing. This often proves to be impossible since we find that we have to do awful things in order to ‘please’ others.
The more unbalanced this Self-Other ratio is the more our lives are dreadful nightmares or at best dreadfully boring - and the more unhealthily we live this life.

 

3.3. Mergence Conditions

The conditions under which we may approach the Sacred as an experience of merging with the world are laid down in the mother-infant embodied relationship from the very start.

Verden-Zoller comments on human playfulness like this -

"The human baby encounters the mother in play before he begins to language. The human mother, however, can encounter the baby in non-play because she is already in language when she begins the conversations that constitute her baby. If the human mother encounters the baby in play, that is, in a congruent biological reaction of total acceptance of his or her bodyhood, the baby is seen as such, and his or her biology is confirmed in the flow of his or her body growth and transformation as a human baby in human interactions. If the human mother does not encounter the baby in play, either due to her expectations, desires, hopes or aspirations, or if the mother’s and baby’s gaze or orientations in actions do not meet and pass each other, the biology of the baby is denied or not confirmed in the flow of his or her body growth and transformation as a human baby in human interactions. ...If the miss-encounter between baby and mother becomes systematic the growth of the baby is impaired, and a handicapped child may appear instead of a normal one. " [p. 18]

When the mother encounters the baby in play - in ‘a congruent biological reaction of total acceptance of his bodyhood’ - then the baby is ‘seen as such’. This means that he is affirmed, acknowledged, recognised in the integrity and fitness of his biology, development and growth as a human person. On the other hand, where the mother does NOT encounter her baby in this way - where there is a mismatch due to her own preoccupations, desires, etc. - then this incoherence in joint actions means that the biology of the baby is ignored, or denied [not affirmed] in its path of growth and development. When this miss-encounter becomes recurrent , the baby’s growth is impaired, and may have serious negative consequences both biologically and socially.

 

4. Openness to the Sacred & Self-Acceptance

Openness to any positive merging experiencing depends in part upon our sense of ‘acceptance’ - by which I mean our ability to openly accept the world as it is, and at the same time our capacity to feel acceptance of ourselves from the world as we are.

The possibilities for us to be open to experiencing the Sacred depends, in part, on the ways that we were allowed to be in our preverbal embodied relationship with our mother as infants. Our ability to be open to others and to accept them as they are depends on our ability for self-acceptance, which in turn depends on our initialising relationship with our mother [and father]. The embodied relationship between infant and mother is a prime opportunity for being in the Sacred.

Verden-Zoller continues to explain -

"Mutual acceptance cannot take place as a spontaneous and maintained manner of living with another if there is no self-acceptance. And self-acceptance cannot arise as a feature of the child’s ontogeny in the mother-child relation if this relation does not flow in the total mutual bodily acceptance entailed in the operationality of the non-intentional body interactions of play."
"...mother-child mutual body acceptance cannot take place when the mother sees the baby or the child as a future adult, or when she lives her interactions and relations with him or her as a process in his or her education. To be accepted is to be seen in an interaction, not to be seen in an interaction is to be denied. [How we interact with each other is a matter of emotions, because our emotions specify at every instant the domain of actions in which we are at that instant. Or, in other words, it is our emotions that specify our actions, not what we do in terms of movements or kinds of bodily operations."]
"The development of a child as a biological as well as a social being requires recurrent mother body contact in full acceptance in the present. But a mother cannot encounter her child in the body contact of total acceptance if she is, as a result of a productive attitude, oriented to the consequences of her interactions with the child and not towards her actual child in the present. "

So mutual acceptance with others depends upon the existence of self-acceptance which in turn depends on the spontaneity of the mother-infant bodily relationship as classically manifested in play. This depends on the mother interacting spontaneously in the here and now with her baby. It means avoiding purposeful, intentional, product-oriented thinking - related to either the past or the future or both. Acceptance is thus defined as the type of spontaneous interaction where one ‘is seen’. Not to be seen in an interaction is to be negated.

 

4.1. You cannot ‘engineer’ the ‘right Self’

We have already seen the lack of acceptance of the Self manifested in the type of self-manipulation leading to plastic surgery - trying to sculpt a ‘more acceptable self’. But by definition this self-sculpting is doomed to failure, since it is an irreversible statement of self-negation - ‘I don’t accept the shape of my nose, so I will cut bits of it off’. Instead it must be understood that self-acceptance [or self-negation] derives from the initialising relationship with one’s parents - especially the mother. No amount of mechanical surgery can mysteriously replace this early relationship process.

Mutual acceptance with others is obviously premised upon the prior sense of SELF-acceptance that we have achieved. The more we can accept ourselves, then the more easily it is to accept ‘being accepted’ by others. Even if others accept us, we may NOT accept their accepting of us if we do not feel we are truly ‘acceptable’.

So we must go back another step to where we learn self-acceptance, or self-negation. It is in the embodied interactions of mother-infant that we can easily see how ‘accepted’ the infant is on the part of the mother. To the degree that this relationship is configured as ‘spontaneous interactions in play’ where the infant is ‘seen’ by the mother then there is generated the phenomenon of ‘acceptance’. To the degree that this is absent, then there is generated the phenomenon of ‘refusal’ or ‘negation’. This may have been what Carl Rogers was getting at in his description of unconditional positive regard.

Within this sense of E-mergence of our individual Self we can at best become aware of the Sacred in terms of its Lack in the centre of our living experience as someOne - how cut off, and apart, and lonely we feel in our living.

Just as plastic surgery is not a mechanism for generating self-acceptance, nor is psychotherapy such a mechanism, unless and insofar as it is oriented to following closely the inherent sense of the person’s experientially lived project. Since everyone can only to start to change from where they are now, then unobscuring the inherent understanding of their personal project is the necessary starting point.

 

4.2. Neither Mechanism nor Supernaturalism

Personal Construct Psychology was specifically invented [published in 1955] to transcend the mechanism of behaviourism and the mystifications of freudianism - both very dominant models in the first half of this century. Kelly developed a language and a model which was to overcome also the dualism of mind Vs body, proposing his notion of the ‘construct’ which describes the meaningful experience of the whole person - not just of the ‘cognitive’ part or of the ‘emotional’ part. There are no such parts according to Kelly. Construing involves a whole-person discriminative action, rather than a ‘cognitive act’ or an ‘affective act’. There is not necessarily anything ‘cognitive’ nor ‘affective’ about our construals. It is the total person who construes, not merely one’s brains or one’s guts. It is the sense-making enterprise of the whole organism that we must understand. The term ‘constructive’ is meant to convey a transcendence of the dichotomy ‘fragmental’ Vs ‘holistic’.

Bateson was also clear that his notion of the Sacred had to avoid the simplifications of both the mechanistic approaches and also the ‘supernatural’ form of explanations.

‘I do not know what to do except to make abundantly clear what opinions I hold regarding the supernatural on the one hand and the mechanical on the other. Very simply, let me say that I despise and fear both of these extremes of opinion and that I believe both extremes to be epistemologically naive, epistemologically wrong, and political dangerous. They are also dangerous to something which we may loosely call mental health.’ [Bateson, p.52-53]

At this stage we may assume that some initial ingredients of the Sacred include the following - The respectful awareness of the limits to human knowledge-creation, which recognises the necessary gaps in the human grasp, the inevitability of slippage, the non-collapsibility of the domain of explanations with that of the domain of experiencing [as Maturana would have it], and the need to recurrently ‘start from scratch, with a positive sense of ‘error-friendliness’.

 

‘What will it take to react to interfaces in more complex ways? At the very least, it requires ways of seeing that affirm our own complexity and the systemic complexity of the other and that propose the possibility that they might together constitute an inclusive system, with a common network of mind and elements of the necessarily mysterious. Such a perception of both self and other is the affirmation of the sacred.’ [p.176, Angels]

Therapy must also be an approach to the systemic complexity of persons’ lives and not be seen as something for ‘curing’ people of ‘themselves’ - it is for pursuing their idiosyncratic implications for personal change into their own nearby future. Therapy - in order for it to be constructive - must avoid the human temptations to mechanise, literalise, and to mystify. Bateson criticised the family therapy movement in America for just these errors. For example, in this father-daughter dialogue -

"Father: There’s still the other problem for Angels Fear, the problem of the misuse of ideas. The engineers get hold of them. Look at the whole god-awful business of family therapy, therapists making ‘paradoxical interventions’ in order to change people or families, or counting ‘double binds’. You can’t count double binds.

Daughter: No, I know, because double binds have to do with the total contextual structure, so that a given instance of double binding that you might notice in a therapy session is one tip of an iceberg whose basic structure is the whole life of the family. But you can’t stop people from trying to count double binds. This business of breaking up process into entities is pretty fundamental to human perception. Maybe correcting for it will turn out to be part of what religion is all about. But you became so grumpy about it, and rather nasty to people who admired you immensely. " [Angels Fear ]

In any case, insofar as family therapy is of the kind abhorred by Bateson it can only contribute to the further ‘thingness’ of individual and family existence.

 

4.3. The Manipulative Psychologies - Power & Control

George Kelly was also keen to help his students and others avoid this trap of conscious purpose in the ‘application’ of his theory of the psychology of personal constructs. It is so easy to slip into the psychology of manipulation even when you are trying to do the opposite. Once our attention gets displaced from the being of the person with whom we are, to some other [imagined, implied, desired, projected] version of the person, we have already changed the nature of our relationship towards the direction of manipulation. Kelly comments on his own writings that -

"I promised you this would not be a how-to-do-it handbook for counsellors who want to make people behave themselves without having to go into the grubby business of understanding them." [p. 187 Kelly]

The more we enter into using the manipulative approach [narrow focused conscious intentions] the more distance we place between ourselves as ‘whole’ and the more blind we become to the Sacredness of Wholeness - which is [at least] about a vision of complex wholeness, an understanding of self-regulation, self-production, self-correction, self-maintenance and self-healing.

Insofar as a psychotherapy proposes these features as distinguishing marks of the psychotherapy relationship then we can say we are touching parts of the sacred in our therapeutic work.

From the point of view of personal construct therapy the therapist must bring forth the systemic self-constructing processes of the person in order to understand how he came to be in trouble in his living and also to understand how to be of help in co-constructing viable alternative, new, modes of system self-construction. All of this is easier when done in the whole family of the person which is defined as a problem-producing conversational system. The process of psychotherapy is to reconstruct the person-constructing-culture of the family. As such it is clearly a politically challenging enterprise since it runs counter to the person-producing rules and mechanisms dominant in the society.

Bateson insisted that whatever about other defining features of the Sacred, our attitude to the Sacred was to be marked by being able to openly question whatever it might seem to be, and to have a capacity for humility in relation to the emerging answers.

Both of these attitudes - bringing things into question and being humble - are two of the important defining features of constructivism which says that

[a] There is no One final answer or conclusion that can be made in human affairs (Everything is open to question, always), and
[b] No One person can know the whole story [so no one can aspire to arrogance instead of being humble in the face of our ignorance]

Translating this into another form I can offer you the constructivist’s ‘prayer’ which would go something like this -

 

4.4. The Constructivist Prayer

noOne-ness : - Knowing Anything & Everything

noOne person can know everything
noOne version of events can be complete
noOne realisation of reality can be the final version of human becoming

Anything now known will in the future be rendered irrelevant
Anything now useful will become redundant
Anything now seeming to be definitive will later on be revealed to be lacking

Everything we come to know could never exhaust the domain of the unknown
Everything we think we know only serves to obscure our unknown ignorance
Everything we choose to believe necessarily negates alternative worlds

 

5. Merging, E-Merging & Sub-Merging

At this point I can offer you a map for finding out where you could be in relation to the Sacred in terms of your positioning in the three domains of -

Merging
E-merging
, and
Sub-Merging

 

MERGING with the greater unity [Cosmic Bliss ]

E-MERGING from connectivity with the greater system [Existential Despair]

SUB-MERGING our awareness of the existence of the greater system [Profound Ignorance]

 

5.1. THE WEB OF THE SACRED - 8 Ways of Sensing the Sacred

 

 

5.2. SENSING THE SACRED

In this map we can see that there are 8 Ways of Sensing the Sacred - gathered into 3 main groupings as illustrated. At the top of the map we have the phenomenon of Mergence - where we have opportunities to feel ourselves merging with the greater whole of which we are a part. [8, 1, 2]. On the right-hand side we have E-Mergence [3,4], which describes the processes whereby we are set apart from the whole by being invented as separate individuals. Here we sense the Sacred as a Lack in our lives. Thirdly, at points 5,6, & 7 we have Sub-Mergence, where our systemic nature is submerged beneath the dominant ideologies of the network in which we have to exist. Here the sacred comes to be sensed in terms of what is fundamentally wrong with the way that we have to live in community with others. It is the deep cultural malaise of a population being swept way by their non-questioning of their system values.

[The numbers below refer to one of the eight positions on the map]

 

THREE SIGNS OF MERGENCE - SENSATIONS

1. Sensing that there is something greater than oneSelf in the Universe [Awe Awareness]. The Sacred in this definition means that that which we recurrently sense MUST exist as our larger system or medium. It is the larger context within which we are all contained or embedded. Collateral emotions here are ‘awe’, ‘being overwhelmed’ etc. This arises in situations where we feel we must try to reach beyond our grasp to stretch towards that which we sense to be present in our experience. Outwith our domain of language we jointly imply and infer the existence of something other than that sayable in words. We also know that such a sense may always remain unknowable within the frame of languaged consciousness.

2. This is the sense that one is a part of the greater Cosmic Wholeness [Belonging, Fitting] - feeling ‘at home’ in the universe. Here the Sacred is the sense of unity, unification or identification which we can experience living in the Universe - Cosmic bliss. Collateral emotions here are contentment, deep satisfaction, deep tranquillity etc.

8. Our awareness of the inevitability of the breakdown of human anticipations, plans, systems, projects leads us to perceive that there is ‘always more than meets the eye’ in even our most simple predictions of what is going to happen. Our experiencing of surprises, unintended consequences, and the often disastrous unanticipated effects of our actions can offer us a glimpse into the complexity of the world in which we are living. We are continually reminded of our basic blindness to the future and of the need to always revise our experience in the light of these unexpected outcomes to our efforts. The collateral emotions here are those of uncertainty, anxiety, threat, fear, confusion, chaos, panic etc. The degree to which we can actually ‘learn from our experience’ and change what we thought we knew for sure is a measure of our capacity to detect the workings of the Sacred behind our recurrent encounters with disappointment and failure. We need to develop ‘error-friendliness’. If we are lucky, we can use these experiences to develop an appreciation of the ongoing workings of a world beyond our reductive analysis.

 

TWO SIGNS OF E-MERGENCE - DEPRIVATIONS

3. This is based upon your Sense of being apart from or cut off from the rest of humanity by virtue of your given individuality [Suffering Distancing / Loneliness]. This is often underlined by the need to be individually competitive with others. [‘I am different from you and better!’]. Competitiveness necessarily means to negate others. This definition says that a Sense of the Sacred arises from its absence in our individual living. To the degree that we are individually distinguished from others, and by virtue of this distinction find ourselves marooned within the skin of our given personhood, we are thus a long way from the sense of being ‘joined with’ the world. Here ‘individuality’ is seen to be a useful fiction of western societies more interested in production and intentionality than in ‘humanising’ human beings. Collateral emotions here are loneliness, distance, alienation. There is a sense of suffering a great Lack at being put apart from the Wholeness of the lived world. It is an absence of the connectivity found in item 2.

4. Here is the awareness of the struggle to conserve [survive as] one’s Self while being expected to conform to social expectations [to conserve one’s relevance, one’s market-value, one’s productive capacities]. The struggle to realise Selfhood as against being cast as a manipulated cog in the machine of others underlies our sense of alienation from the world as it is framed in commercial and capitalist cultures. Collateral emotions here are feelings of being ‘under pressure’, anger, feeling exploited, feeling cheated, compromised, inauthentic, etc.

Elaborating this struggle we come to feel the implicit dissatisfaction with the incompatibility of the twin tasks of self conservation and conservation of fit. The more society is based on believing in ‘individualism’ and at the same time forces individuals to compromise their individualism in order to fit into the system like a good cog in the machine, the more people suffer from this invented paradox.

 

THREE SIGNS OF SUB-MERGENCE - NEGATIONS

5. We try to resolve the impossible conflicts of 3 & 4 by immersing ourselves within our sense of belongingness within your local networks of conversations. ‘To be is to belong to others’. ‘Make yourself useful to others’. ‘Don’t rock the boat’. ‘Don’t lose your place in the group’. To the degree that these networks demand a high level of conformity to the dominant cultural rules the less we can be free to sense the Sacred except by contacting our sense of malaise arising from living within such strictures. Collateral emotions here are resentment at mutual manipulation, abuse, lack of respect and lack of acceptance - together with the impossibility of truly expressing oneself to the others for fear of being ex-communicated, i.e. being thrown out of the communicative network.

6. Here we are coming up against the ‘permitted limits to human actions’ - limits of our possibilities to act. Our awareness is that there are always limits to what we are ‘allowed to do’, and while we can take this as a challenge to transcend such limits, we are always within a small framework of rational action, which often does not manage to deal with the challenges of living very well. So collateral emotions here are frustration, sense of impotence etc. at being unable to do something because it is ‘not allowed’. The more strict the limits, the more we can come to feel that we are living within a prison where it is impossible to realise our personal desires, projects, or preferred way of living. We can only dream of that which lies outwith the prison walls.

7. Here we are becoming aware of the permitted limits to our human understandings. We are allowed to think, or make sense of our life only within a given framework or ideology. Another prototypical definition of the human state is that we are always caught in the GAP between our range of Experiencing and the available Explanations for such experiences. These are two fundamental dimensions which we are never able to join one to the other. Our recurrent experience of this gap, is a main source for becoming aware of the Sacred. From this point of view the ‘Sacred’ could be defined as being equivalent to the Lacanian ‘Real’ - that which is left over after our best effort to explain and describe it has been exhausted. The Sacred then is the sense of the Real which continuously and necessarily eludes us. Collateral emotions here are confusion, intellectual frustration, rage, etc.

Our sense of mental strait-jacketing is created by the dominance of the local values, ideologies, religions, etc. Sensing that there is much more to be thought, that there must be better ways of describing and being in touch with our human experience, leads people off into the search for alternative ways. Hitting up against this cultural cognitive ceiling for how we must understand events is another way of delimiting the felt constraints which separate us from the sacred.

 

6. Ahhh! There is the Sacred!

This summer I was on an almost deserted beach in Sardinia. In front of me there was a little baby girl who had just realised that she could ‘walk’ if, having got up onto her feet, she threw herself forward she could stumble four or five paces before losing momentum and falling down again. She was totally absorbed with this new discovery of free movement. She continued with this cycle of rising, lunging forward, taking some steps and falling again for several minutes. At a certain point her attention was taken by the marks left in the sand by her hands as she fell. She had made another discovery! She realised that by hitting the sand with her hands, she could make all kinds of fascinating holes and indentations. As she was busy with this new discovery, the waves swept in reaching just to where she was sitting and washed the sand smooth and clear of any marks at all. Another discovery!! What was it that she had witnessed? She then repeated the whole sequence - running, falling, making hand-marks in the sand - then watching the water come in and erase everything. Amazing!!! Next she ran a few steps and made more holes. Again the tide wiped all her markings on the world away. She ran back to the previous spot, making holes, watching the water erase everything. Now she ran back and forth between the two points where she was making marks - as if trying to conserve some marks against the erasing of the water. She continued this experiment for several minutes. Then again something new! A single piece of seaweed was left behind by the waves. She picked it up, gazing at its glistening, shining, colours - waving it back and forth, catching the sunlight’s reflections. This was too exciting! She ran and fell back down the beach to where her parents were. She demonstrated her exciting discovery, screeching with joy, waving it in the sunlight - but it seemed that her father had already seen seaweed. He took it from her and threw it down on the sand. Then lifted her up and placed her in her new brightly coloured rubber floating ring, and pushed her out into the water for some proper beach activity. As soon as he stopped pushing, she twisted around in the rubber ring, turning back towards the beach, striving forward with a great effort, she arrived back to the sand, threw herself out of the ring, and ran back to where the seaweed had been thrown. She picked it up again, and this time went to her mother to share her exciting discovery. This time her mother took her sharing seriously and engaged with her daughter in the immediacy of her astonishing discovery. I later asked them how old she was, and they told me she was just 13 months.

I tell you this story because I want to leave you with an image of the Sacred in action. This baby girl was in a state of Sacredness, being able to spontaneously live her amazement of being-in-the-world, discovering exciting connectedness between herself and everything around her. Each of us had this capability of living in the Sacred before language caught us and made us into humans-with-conscious-purposes. Thereafter we become blind to the operation of the Sacred within our own being. If we are lucky, we retain the ability to be occasionally amazed, astonished, in awe of the whole system within which our living is embedded.

The little girl, not yet having entered into languaging, is free to spontaneously be in the sacred. We, on the other side of the languaging barrier, are no longer free to do so - unless we are very lucky, and we find ourselves in astonishment before some phenomenon of nature. We must impossibly struggle to free ourselves of the grasp of language in order to be able to sense the systemic complexity of our living.

Our current cultural orientation to ‘creating a product’ blinds us to the here and now of our interactions with others. It is therefore difficult to be in the present in our relationships - including the mother-infant relationship in the play situation. To remain in ‘total mutual acceptance without expectations’ is very difficult for many people.

It is worth underlining the way in which this outlook helps to define what Kelly meant by the Psychology of Understandings - it is a way of living in relationships with others so that we are able to sustain our ‘personal presence’ in an ongoing ‘present moment’. Or, to put it differently, we are in a relationship of reciprocal presence together. What the Psychology of Understandings implies therefore is that we are in relation with the other person in a series of present moments in such a way that we do NOT operate under the explicit or tacit intention of ‘doing something’ to, with, or for the other person. We are simply, personally, present.

I conclude with a final quote from Wittgenstein -

"Man has to thrust against the limits of language. Think for instance about one's astonishment that anything exists. This astonishment cannot be expressed in the form of a question and there is no answer to it. Anything we say must, a priori, be only nonsense. Nevertheless we thrust against the limits of language. Kierkegaard, too, recognised this thrust and even described it in much the same way [as a thrust against paradox]. This thrust against the limits of language is ethics. I regard it as very important to put an end to all the chatter about ethics - whether there is knowledge in ethics, whether there are values, whether the Good can be defined, etc. In ethics, one constantly tries to say something that does not concern and can never concern the essence of the matter. It is a priori certain that, whatever definition one may give of the Good, it is always a misunderstanding to suppose that the formulation corresponds to what one really means, [Moore]. But the tendency, the thrust, points to something. " [pp. 12 - 13]

 

 

REFERENCES

Gregory Bateson [1967]. They threw God out of the garden. Letters from Gregory Bateson to Philip Wylie and Warren McCulloch [ed. Rodney E. Donaldson]. Co-Evolution Quarterly, No. 36, Winter 1982. p.p.62-67.

Gregory Bateson & Mary Catherine Bateson [1988].Angels Fear - an investigation into the nature and meaning of the sacred. Rider: London.

George Kelly [1969]. The Language of Hypothesis. In Maher [ed.] 'Clinical Psychology and Personality'. Wiley.

Joshu Sasaki Roshi [1983]. Where is the Self? in 'Awakening the Heart' [ed.] John Welwood, New Science Library, Shambhala Boston & London.

David Smail [1993]. The Origins of Unhappiness: A New Understanding of Personal Distress. Harper Collins : London.

Gerda Verden-Zoller [1989]. Mother-Child Play: The Biological Foundation of Self and Social Consciousness. Unpublished Manuscript.

John Welwood [1983]. Vulnerability and Power in the Therapeutic Process. In 'Awakening the Heart' [ed.] John Welwood, New Science Library, Shambhala Boston & London.

Ludwig Wittgenstein. [1965]. Wittgenstein's Lecture on Ethics. Philosophical Review, Vol. LXXIV. no. 1. [Jan]. [lecture delivered Sept. 1929 at Cambridge]

 

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