A LETTER TO MY
ANIL MITRA, COPYRIGHT © 1996 – 2015
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My dear Parents,
Thanks for the letter of June 5… I want to address some of the issues raised in the letter. If I disagree with some of your perceptions, it is not to prove someone right and someone wrong, but because I think that our perceptions of others are important and therefore it is also important for these perceptions to be faithful and true.
Please know that the salutation “My dear Parents” at the head of this letter is intended as a formal acknowledgement of an aspect of reality; but does not in any way, either in fact or in intention, imply a lack of love, caring or respect. In fact I find the formal form fitting and my intention is to emphasize respect, caring and love.
I should add that this letter includes a statement of some of my attitudes towards life… and that not everything is in response - either direct or indirect - to what you may have said.
First, in response to your letter, there is the issue of pain. I mentioned, and want to repeat, that I have had throughout much of my life and continue to have a very large share of happiness, satisfaction and beauty. I think, at this time in my life, my normal state is generally one of contentment - with who I am, where I am, with the here and now, and with my ambitions and goals. I report to others that I am “happy” only when I am unusually pleased - and unusual pleasure is an occasional occurrence.
I believe that I have learned - perhaps always known - the art of enjoying life. In fact I have cultivated and learned how to cultivate an enjoyment of the basic elements of life including my own thoughts, feelings. Fear and pain are, of course, adaptive. However, not every feeling of fear or pain is adaptive or useful. Much, though not all, of the occurrence of negative emotions is as a result of faulty perception, faulty thinking and anticipation, what we are told in society. It would be improbable for all social and cultural “messages” to be maladaptive but I believe that many are and that yet others can be misinterpreted. In part, as a result of my thinking about all aspects of society, I have also thought about the common social values regarding what is pleasurable and what is painful and of the human and personal validity of these values. And, although the process was and is intellectual, the result is emotional, existential. This is one way in which - perhaps at first inadvertently or as the result of unconscious motives - I have cultivated the positive… As a result I find it ironic when you focus on the supposed lacks in my life and on pain.
I do believe that truth and authenticity are at least as important as happiness (etc.). However, truth and positive emotion are not at all incompatible. Later in this letter you will see how truth and feeling have an intimate relation in my life. I wish that, in addition to feeling, you would also appreciate and express such appreciation of the elements of truth in my life. Of course this cannot be expected if you do not see a presence of truth.
Yes, I have also had a share of pain but this is not something to be dwelt on as if it were some kind of burden or anything unusual in the realm of human experience. Nor do I dwell on it except that it is good to have a complete perspective of the sum of one's experience, to see how and how much it results in the present and what one may learn from all of this. I think it is precisely this circumstance together with other developments that have made me stronger, more resilient, wiser in the face of “loss”. Resilient in that I am able to recover (and forgive) more rapidly - in my estimation - than most people, stronger in not being fundamentally needy, and wiser in understanding the nature of loss and its transience. This understanding is not merely intellectual but is part of a basic emotional (existential) attitude toward life. Many people have problems understanding this because it is not part of their experience, and perhaps to accept it would point out or heighten their relative inadequacy. Four sources of this aspect of myself that I can identify are (1) love of the elements of nature where I live and am - wherever that happens to be. Time in the mountains is an aspect of this experience and is also valuable as a source of inspiration and occasion for extended reflection; (2) having supportive, loving parents, who helped instill values of joy, perseverance, discipline and truth… and who have encouraged and been interested in my health, life, education and future - which is all positive despite disagreements over these issues; (3) my studies and exploration into the nature of all being and knowing… initially an exciting adventure but with the result of an emotional (existential) awareness every day of the meaning of my life (and ultimate death) in relation to all being, (4) perhaps some factors innate to me.
I mentioned - in a recent phone conversation - what I believe to be two fundamental human problems (A) death, and (B) pain. As I stated, I feel that I have, for myself, resolved the problem of death: the source of this is, perhaps items (1)-(4) above. The problem of pain is more of the attitude toward pain, of fear of pain. One might have an accident and an arm or a leg could be sliced off… or one could suffer brain damage and forever after be a confused emotional mess without the ability to do anything about the situation…one would be alive and yet dead. The list of what could happen, physical and emotional, is endless. I believe I have also resolved this problem more recently. The fundamental problems could be reformulated as a triad: death - fear - pain. The resolution: do not hide from or avoid the idea of pain. I have learned that sorrow is not suffering, that suffering is feeling pain to be a burden - resistance to and denial of pain. Sorrow is not suffering - and being open to both sorrow and joy without excessive seeking or resistance is akin to enjoyment. The ability to feel pain is adaptive (even though specific manifestations may be neurotic) and the resolution is to openly accept and acknowledge the potential for pain along with joy and so on. An ability to accept limitations and death, to know and understand the meaning of limits is related to an ability to know joy and enjoyment. The next paragraphs expand on these ideas.
A wonderful experience that I had in 1979 was reading Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard first published in August 1978. It is the story of the trek by a wildlife biologist George Schaller (now well known) that the author made in the Tibetan Plateau “seeking”, as the cover says, “a glimpse of the near-mythical leopard.” For Mathiessen the trek was natural and beautiful as well as spiritual. It describes the environment, the snow, the passes, the mountains, the ravines, the swift flowing clear cold streams, the villages, the monasteries, the Tibetan-Buddhist traditions and legends. I have probably written of this book to you before. One of the legends recounted is about the tenth century (AD) Tibetan poet saint Milarepa, whose mother was “the White Garland of the Nyang”.
Returning to his village after many years (he was born about fifty miles north of Katmandu, on the Tibetan side of the present-day frontier), Mila discovers the decayed corpse of his mother, no more than a mound of dirt and rags in her fallen hut; shaken by grief and horror, he remembers the instruction of his guru, the Lama Marpa, to embrace all that he most fears or finds repugnant, the better to realize that everything in the Universe, being inseparably related, is therefore holy. And so he makes a headrest of the sad remains of the erstwhile White Garland of the Nyang and lies upon them for seven days, in a deep, clear state of samadhi. This Tantric discipline to overcome ideas of “horror”, often performed while sitting on a corpse or in the graveyard in the dark of night, is known as chöd…
This approach to overcoming (neurotic) fear, to embracing life, is also at the root of some modern psychotherapeutic techniques. The feared object may be “held” mentally. Or, to improve the quality of my life - the wholeness of my psychic structure - I could seek out, “hold”, examine whatever I fear most.
Pleasure and ecstasy are identical to pain…for all are contact with the real. All are elements of contact, opportunity, becoming…and growth from part to whole, from atom to universe, from appearance to reality…
I will now consider the issue of “the pain he (Your father) feels because you have not got the work, for which your intelligence…” and “I too have a share of this…” It would be untrue to say that this is never an issue for me, but it seems to be (much) more of an issue for you than for me. I feel that this pain is unnecessary, not to the point, and is based on assumptions about my situation, on attitudes which are mistaken even if natural - in some ways - in your circumstance. I will explain below. But what is or has been puzzling to me is that these assumptions and attitudes appear to be unshakable and unshaken despite many protestations and explanations by me, and despite the fact that the assumptions are about me and my feelings.
I am saying that your perceptions of me and my situation are in error. What follows is an explanation. I am also going to explain why I think this explanation is important and useful. I don't know whether it will change anything because my attempts at persuasion, explanation have not been successful in the past.
This letter is long in part because of the importance. It is also long because it has gone through six or seven versions in which I have added material without any significant revision. Therefore there is repetition.
Some good reasons for the explanation are as follows. Assume that I am not in any pain over my life. Assume instead that I am happy. Assume further that these feelings are based neither in ignorance, nor in courage but in intelligent recognition that my life and situation is the best, the highest it can be and also based in intelligent choices made knowingly by me. Then it does not make sense for anyone else to feel pain over my life. (And, as I shall explain, all of this is true.) For another reason, start with the consideration that you feel some pain at some times over my life. If this is reasonable for you to do, it must follow that you think that I too feel this pain or should feel it. It then follows that this probably colors your interpretation of much of what I say. If I say, “I am happy” you think “brave chap”, and if I say, “I love the deep blue sky” you may think, “He finds solace. Wonderful of course but solace nonetheless”. This is the way in which the interpretations are colored and the color is gray. There is a certain gloom which, if it is misplaced, should be cleared up. Further, this Grey gloomy interpretation serves to confirm to you your original assumption that I feel the alleged pain. These are good reasons to provide explanations of why I think your perceptions are erroneous.
Here is another example that also shows again how expectations can affect what one sees. Suppose a person A writes to B saying (1): “I do not believe in happiness. I believe in a higher thing called duty.” Suppose, also that B is predisposed to a pessimistic interpretation. Pessimism is not an expectation regarding A; it is an expectation regarding the world that includes A. Perhaps B is predisposed, only, to seeing A as having hard times and, say, seeing A as facing this with courage, perhaps as rationalizing his feelings. In any case, B might then think “A is unhappy, has pain but faces life as duty.” B might add, “How noble”… Later A says (2): “I do think happiness and joy are significant after all.” A also writes about all the things that he enjoys. Now B thinks something like: “Now A wants happiness after all and again faces his life through courage and optimism”, but nothing as simple as: “A is happy and content.”
There is another interpretation and it is that A has always had happiness - along with pain and frustration - and has something of a predisposition to joy and contentment. Perhaps most of A's friends agree to this as well. [Predisposition to joy means that the joy flows naturally and may be enhanced by but is not created through courage or some philosophical reinterpretation of life, its meaning, etc.] Earlier in his life A thought: “My commitment to this beautiful world is important” and so wrote in praise of duty - (1) above.
Then A continues to seek his duty - “what is it, how can I do it,” he thinks and then acts accordingly. A has life experiences. The concept of “his duty” continues to grow. This is important to him. He, to some extent, disregards the “trodden path”. But he does not forget the original point to the idea of duty: the earth, the world, the universe are beautiful - he will know and understand this beauty; people live in the world, in societies, and everywhere people want their lives to be positive. A wants to contribute, to be an agent. He realizes: “Duty is knowing and doing and being the highest thing possible.” But he also realizes a point to his psychology that he thinks may also apply to all people: “Joy flows from doing and being the highest that one can… “ And so he now writes - in what may be or seem to be a partial reversal of his earlier position - about the importance of joy - (2) above.
I, Anil, know that I am A. I do not know whether you are B. Certainly I am not saying that you have had B's specific thoughts in this example or that you are completely like B. I do think that you are and have been something like B in that you have sometimes misinterpreted what I have said, sometimes incorrectly assessed my feelings; and underestimated my ability to live fully, the nature of my commitments, the extents of my choice, awareness and control over my life.
In this example we see that muddled communication, through mismatch of time scales, leads to misperception and therefore that matching of scales may lead to improved communication and vision.
I may have quoted these line by Rabi Thakur to you in the past: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy/ I woke and found that life is duty/ I acted and found that duty is joy.” This has been a favorite quote for many years.
In my case the sleep is the dreaming sleep of youth and the waking is the experience of my life. In truth, I am still sleeping and dreaming and am yet awake.
As another famous example of the sleep/wake metaphor, when Buddha was asked what set him apart from others, he said, “I am awake.”
Need I add that my selection of famous persons as examples is not to compare myself with them? Rather it may be to illustrate an idea. More importantly, we all live in, contribute meaning to and take meaning from the same world which must also have meaning - at least potentially - because it also resulted in us; the examples, then, add significance and understanding to the world and its nature and so, also, to my own life which is a synthesis of external and internal sources, experience, action and learning.
This is also a good point to address the issue of failure which may be and or may have been in your mind, and may be “hanging over my head”. Let me discuss, as the most important case, the situations of my past university faculty positions. As I have pointed out before, my leaving Humboldt State University was largely a political issue. I should also point out that reviews of my academic abilities at Humboldt State (and at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Delaware) were uniformly excellent. I also received excellent reviews for technical papers, one of which was published in the Journal of Applied Mechanics - one of the most prestigious of mechanical engineering journals. Regarding this paper, I received requests for further information from within and outside America. Reviews of my teaching at Texas and Humboldt were also excellent except for a small group of students at Humboldt whose complaint was “the grading was too hard and unfair”. I agree and agreed that the grading was hard, but not that it was too hard or unfair. I point out all this in relation to the question of whether my performance was a failure. I should also point out that I had begun, even as a graduate student at the University of Delaware, to think about leaving engineering and universities to do other things. Not that engineering and universities were or are boring or unimportant. Rather the other things - ideas, truth, contact with nature, with reality - were more important, more whole, more exciting. It is tempting to rewrite history and difficult to avoid this, but I am attempting to recount my personal history without devaluing the views of others or overvaluing my own opinions. I believe that my inclinations affected the emphasis but not quality or even quantity of my work. I do not know whether others were intimidated by me but that may have been the case. I do know that some objected to or resented my “outside” interests (philosophy, etc.) and independence. In brief summary: the situation was political, and universities and engineering were clearly not my fundamental interest or commitment. Therefore, after significant debate with the faculty at Humboldt, I decided to cease to contest the negative judgment, despite the existence of what I believe and believed to have been good reasons for contest, and to seek my fundamental interest. A question arises whether this was the right thing to do, since the “good reasons” included performance and reasons to believe other persons were being unfair. Details are unimportant, but I believed at the time that my choice was right because it was right for me - as explained - and because although the unfairness was significant, I believed the number of persons involved to be small. It is at this point that the real question of failure begins.
I will first mention an incidental issue. The balance between pursuing some “right” and letting go of the pursuit in favor of “the good and the true” as perceived by me has, to some extent, pervaded my life. Important situations where this issue arose include my relationships with Beverly and with Carissa.
I now take up the question of failure. The question is not whether the situation at Humboldt in particular or university positions in general were failures. It is whether the experience so affected me that I became hesitant to try again - whether engineering or teaching - whether I became discouraged, whether I failed to follow up on my true potential.
Initially, of course, I did not know what my fundamental interest was. It was the real and the true and so on, of course, but these were vague and undefined - but potent - ideas. As a practical point, I decided to look at what was most important in mechanical engineering. After two weeks or so I came up with design. As I began to look into design and to understand the nature of the process, I saw parallels with the entire human process…and then parallels with the universal processes of evolution. This went on for some months. A number of preliminary studies, ultimately important, were performed for somewhat intuitive reasons. Finally, during two weeks in September 1986 in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area, I conceived of Evolution & Design and of its outline.
I decided to do two weeks of study into the topics in the outline. Two weeks turned into five months - and study and perhaps writing down a few points turned into Evolution & Design.
At this point I knew what my most fundamental commitment was. There was really no turning back. However, the process had required courage and perseverance, even though it was also exciting, an adventure. Sitting up at night shivering and studying and writing. Worrying about money. Should I look for work? What will happen to my career? These issues had to be faced during each step or phase of the process and required to be overcome again and again especially at the transitions between the steps. Therefore, the result of my experience cannot be regarded as one of discouragement or failure. That is, my actions were based on intelligently seeking, discovering, and creating the positive - initially by courage and in the dark - rather than avoiding anything negative - or even blindly plodding on.
Interesting questions to me: What is or was the nature of the courage and the dark. Where did the courage come from, how long had it been there, was it cultivated? How black was the dark? To what degree was it softened by preparation, intuition, intelligence and vision, or lack of these elements? Something to answer at another time…
At the end of the process described above, courage was no longer necessary. I knew. In a sense what had been latent became distinct, compelling and potent. Of course this “knowledge” continued and continues to grow. The new element of this knowledge: a more connected, explicit, universal view of being at rational and existential levels, that was relatively independent of the views of others and more directly derived from “reality” itself. Truth began to take over from courage; and light began to replace the dark.
What is the nature of this truth and this light? A further reason for providing explanations. In the explanations that follow I will show why I believe, without hesitation or reservation, that I am following the highest path open to me. There will be an explanation of what I am doing; why I occasionally but not persistently seek alternatives; why there is no need for pain; why pain can and should, in light of what the situation truly is, be replaced by positive feeling. Further reasons for the explanation will be provided. I now turn to the explanation itself which, of course, is already begun in the description of the process by which knowledge of my fundamental commitment was established.
The situation is that I work at Mental Health for money. This is why I originally took the position. I had also contemplated a need to experience a situation without privilege…to experience reality…And I have learned much that is not detailed in this letter - life, empathy, grounding that is useful and good and will be so in whatever I do. This is, in part, what has made the work intrinsically valuable.
When I see the world as being fundamentally made up of the realms of (1) nature, (2) society, (3) the mind and spirit, and (4) the universal - the unknown - and the unconsciousness…then I pattern my experience accordingly. It is not a case of pure design but of iterative learning and design that is sometimes difficult and which is not other than my life. In other words while there is design and perspective, there is also immersion and living. This work is an aspect of experience in the realm of the social…
The work is often rewarding but that is incidental - I am not doing it for the reward. I have also learned many things about human behavior, human minds, human relationships, and the nature of personality including its adaptability. This is and very likely will be useful in my future work and life, but again this learning is incidental: I am not primarily working at Mental Health for the learning; although the rewards and the learning - and friendship with coworkers - result in work that is enjoyable and even exciting. And, although reward and learning are not the main purpose of my position at Mental Health, I do believe that your “pain” is based, in part, on inaccurate and negative assumptions as to the nature of the work and my reasons for doing it. The main advantage, however, of the work is that there is no homework - studying, grading papers, preparing for lectures, meetings, etc. This leaves me free to do what I want with the rest of my time: read, think, learn, have ideas, experience and experiences, and write. A primary goal is to write the next version of Evolution & Design (you have a copy of the first version). Excellent progress towards the second version has been made. Although I occasionally seek some other position, that would not be an end in itself, the end is the work: evolution and design, the knowledge, the understanding, etc. [Of course evolution and design is part of a larger process, but it is not my purpose here to describe that process. I have done this for you on many occasions.]
I seek such positions as alternate and perhaps more efficient ways to further my fundamental commitment and to maintain awareness of alternatives and how to seek them, and because this process is good and enjoyable; I seek them occasionally and not persistently because it is the commitment that is important and not the position.
How might alternate positions be more “efficient”? Before explaining this, the following question arises: efficient with respect to what? As I have explained in detail in this letter, this must be with respect to my fundamental commitment, which is: understanding - and knowing, and using such understanding and knowing. More efficient, therefore, means (i) I will have more time and energy to devote to the fundamental commitment and/or (ii) I would earn so much more money that I would be able to save enough so as to also be able to have time and energy later - this is actually not different than item i. However I would need to be careful about ii since the promise might be misleading. This is especially true since I have realized since October last year that the time to work on what is important (and fundamental) is now and not at some “ideal” comfortable time in the future. I have begun this and, though my work at Mental Health does take time and energy, I am finding ways of compensating: maintaining focus; improving efficiency of the time I do have; cutting out waste, including avoiding and resisting my own “temptations” and the temptations from others to “waste” time; being more healthy by a program of exercise, not eating or drinking to excess, eating healthy food, and so on; finding time at work - it is in the nature of the work that we are sometimes extremely active with many things happening at once, while there are times when there is no work to be done, and the amount of such time can be increased by efficiency and focus - to do things that do not need great or extended concentration.
The issue of position and influence is similar to the issue of money: position and influence can be deployed towards the fundamental commitment, but I should be careful because the possibility of such deployment may be deceptive and because I am not immune to the “appeal” of position of influence - and of money.
There may come a time, an opportunity, a change within me, and an insight that will make a change seem proper or necessary or imperative. Therefore, while I seek alternatives occasionally, I am always scanning for then, even scanning for and thinking about ways to create such positions - America is still the land of opportunity, still a place where - at least in some quarters - such seeking is considered to be a primary value… and at the same time I am seeking ways to be more focused and productive in my present situation… and also keeping both approaches and their elements and details in balance.
What will happen if, when the time comes, I do not have the energy to seek such positions? As a practical matter, modern computer and communications technology, together with the American emphasis on individual initiative, are permitting individuals to do what may not have been possible before - to find and to create such positions from a situation of limited mobility and energy. Realistically, of course, regardless of technology, I will age, perhaps become infirm, and die. Of course the transition from a productive life to death is not always marked by infirmity. Of course the future is unknown. One should not cling to old hopes and ambitions at all costs. We are essentially talking about intertwined problems of death and pain I discussed earlier. In the present issue the proper attitude is, I believe, to maintain the best relationship between oneself and all of being which includes self, family, others, world and universe.
More practically, however, I am aware of the normal stages of life and death and probable variations in my case.
This is an important point to consider. It relates to the question of the use of statistics and the idea of normality and of normal variations. I am not a critic of the idea of the normal - it is intuitive, in place and predates statistics and science as we know it. My hypothesis is that the dimensionality of the space of human potential is so large, the structure so intricate, the measure of the space so small compared to the space of descriptive parameters, and the response to the circumstances and opportunity so fine…that statistics, probabilities and what is normally considered to be normality do not define the singular but essential nature of the edge of human endeavor and potential, of “genius” and “leadership” and of the ultimate in connection between being and Being . And, this applies to individuals in search of their own potential as well as to human potential in general.
Actual variations are unpredictable and to plan and prepare for or to unnecessarily dwell on all possibilities - this is not to suggest avoiding acceptance and awareness of such possibilities, of the random and the unpredictable - is a form of submission in the face of the problems of death and pain… And my actual plans and intentions account for the normal stages and probable variations noted above.
And, as already noted, I am not sure that alternative positions would actually be better (I do think it important, as explained above, to continue to explore options). Here is one point of view. Suppose, for example, that I were hired at the University of California at Berkeley. There would be pressure to think in certain ways. There would be pressure to effect an essential narrowing and distortion of focus. These would not be overt or stated pressures, but when one is paid to teach or do research one is paid to teach and research certain topics and certain styles… and not other topics or other styles. And in any such position I would undoubtedly be spending many hours outside of the work itself, devoted to the work. My knowledge of all of this is not based on imagination or speculation: as you know I was a university student for eleven years and a faculty member for nine years, twenty years or so in all. All throughout this period I “knew” something was missing - and while I worked hard, though of course not “perfectly”, there is no question that I resisted the pressures, followed directions I thought to be important. Now that I know better what was missing, I am glad that I chose and followed my own direction. And, in consequence of the above, I need to be careful about energy devoted to seeking positions and the type of position, and very careful that any position I accept will enhance my fundamental commitment.
In my present situation my own time is my own. Any work with more “prestige” and more money means - as a rule - your time is not your own. And, relative to personal reward, the value of prestige, power, money, position is - it is well known - illusory. This means that, although money, recognition and so on are useful and somewhat necessary, they are not in themselves productive of enduring happiness, satisfaction, and self-worth. And it is true that to do the kind of work I am doing, time and freedom from constraint and schedule are important. By way of illustration of my point, the work of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates was not done in institutions. Socrates was allegedly sentenced to death for his work and his adherence to his truth. The comparison here is of how or where the work is done, and not of the individuals. The work of Isaac Newton and of Albert Einstein was done outside the walls of the university, as was much of the founding work of modern mathematics, philosophy, biology, medicine, psychology, and even engineering. This includes the work of C. F. Gauss, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud… Some of the finest mathematicians and philosophers of Europe had some kind of employment or independent means, but pursued their fundamental interest in addition to work. There are reasons for this. Truth, which requires openness, is powerful and fragile - the most powerful being, perhaps, the most fragile. As institutions, universities provide too much security and in some ways alienation from what is real.
Institutions are subject to the following tension: (1) social functions exist and develop, (2) the functions become formalized and perpetuated in institutions, (3) this isolates the institution from the real needs of understanding, liberation and contact. As a trivial example, this applies to recognition… therefore, most of the most original and essential work, including the creation of useful institutions, happens, to a significant degree, outside the institution.
Of course, good work is being done in institutions but nowhere do I see truly fundamental work being done in universities. Then there is also the fact that my life is open to struggle, to change… and this brings a certain fundamental truth to it. The freedom of the university brings a certain intellectual freedom as well as certain constraints as noted above, but misses certain fundamental openness to all of life and being… Considerations of this nature were present in 1988-1989 when I needed work and contemplated what I might learn from a position without privilege and prestige… If you could see into my soul you would see progress that is slow and halting at times, but also rightness and great reward from my life and a great sense of promise. You would also see the large extent to which my life is an act of choice rather than something buffeted by the winds of fate.
The examples of Newton, Einstein and others are intended to show that much of the fundamental work in the development of the tradition of knowledge was done outside of universities and traditional institutions. This does not prove that what I am doing in my life is right, but it does show that an emphasis on position as a measure of success or as something that would result in achievement is mistaken.
Having lived and worked within a number of institutions - and for four to five years 1985-1990 without the context and support of any institution, and this, combined with understanding, has given me a detachment from and understanding of the roles and uses and limitations of institutions.
There is also an extended history of examples - including the lives of a number of the individuals named above - which shows that despite the modern emphasis on publishing as much as possible as soon as possible, it is right to wait until the work is mature before publication. Again, this history is not why I wait to publish. Rather, I wait because I judge that it would at present be premature to do so.
As examples I note that Immanuel Kant published his best work when he was over fifty, and the British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead published his major work in philosophy when he was sixty-six. As before, the examples are not intended as some kind of proof but as a framework from which others may effectively understand the issues I am discussing.
I add that the sense of what is right for me, although enhanced by my knowledge of the history of the development of knowledge, comes primarily from my judgment of my work and its potential.
Regarding this work: the machine is working, the gears are meshed, and the pieces are falling into place: a program has been outlined… Parts have been written towards the final product -- the next version of Evolution & Design, tentatively named Evolution, Design and The Absolute (Evolution, Design and the Absolute). This despite my father's statement that he didn't think I'd be able to do so… and in the spirit of truth, I am more concerned about producing the best possible work than with recognition… not that recognition would not be at all rewarding, but the internal sense of truth and self-direction is a higher and more enduring reward, with recognition being a partial external token of truth and accomplishment. And, again, in the spirit of truth, one recognizes that the process, the effort is as important as the product because it is in the nature of the process to be one of trial and error with many trials by many people and few successes by few people… The ultimate failure would be for me to accept these negative valuations of my situation, the “pain” at the supposed lack of recognition and position… and so on… and to stop the effort and the process as I see most fit… I hope at the end of my life, if that end be natural, to be able to say that I did the best thing I could… which is how I currently view my life. And I believe that I have made essentially the same statement to you many times before.
I frequently look out at the world, see how beautiful it is, look at my own place in it, and feel alive and powerful. This does not stem from courage and security, but from understanding and that uncertainty which is the true nature of any life lived at the boundary between the known and the unknown.
Perhaps one of the problems of perception comes from my father's having put much effort into working within institutions, whereas for me the institution is not as important. Even at times when I was doing “well” academically etc., there was always a certain detachment, a certain feeling of something missing with inner truth (even if immature in earlier years) serving as compass. This does not mean that the two approaches are opposite, that one is right and one wrong: both are necessary and are mutually complementary. And of course it is not the situation that one seeks - the situation is a means to an end… Now, it might be thought that I am merely trying to rationalize or justify my situation after the events, but with this I must simply disagree. Further, ample explanation of this basis for this disagreement has been provided in this letter.
Another problem of perception may be the result of being parents, of being protective, of perceiving the adult as he was when a child. The old perception that persists is one of the immature, somewhat helpless, child. And this could well be occurring at a level that is not explicitly conscious and therefore the perception is elusive, difficult to acknowledge and correct. And, as I have said or alluded elsewhere, all adults contain in their psyche - at varying degrees of manifestation and synthesis - the kernel of the child; this, too, affects the perceptions and feelings of parents (or any other adult, for that matter), resulting in a confusion between objectivity and the feelings that one feels or might feel if one were in what one perceives based on one's own range of experience, integration, acceptance (and on what one hears) to be the (life) situation of the other. Parents are frequently like this. It is not unusual. However, this explains some parental perceptions but does not make them correct.
Other reasons for differences in perception and maintaining old perception are some kind of competition between parent and adult child, and pressure on the adult child to modify behavior and life style. These are frequent themes in human relationships. Although I do not overtly speculate on the theme of “pressure”, my father has on occasion stated this to be one of his motives… In any case, my position is to act and conduct my life neither in conformity with nor in reaction against such kinds of competition or pressure - parental or otherwise - but to base actions and conduct on internal imperatives. This is not to say that the views and opinions and motives of others are improper [even if incorrect] or are ignored or viewed as worthless.
We could also be having different perceptions and feelings because our views of the world and what is important may be different. Perhaps you wish that when talking to others or when thinking about me you could say “Our son is…” Of course, I am not immune from such feelings. But, for reasons I am explaining in this letter, such thoughts and feelings are a small part of my total experience. They are transient, occasionally irritating, but at other times something to be contemplated as part of reality without any particular attached feeling. And, also for reasons explained here, to give in, to yield to such feelings would be destructive in terms of what I stand for and am trying to do.
Regarding the question of differences in worldviews, I will insert the following quote from C. G. Jung which is somewhat illustrative of my point. I do not agree with his emphases, especially the complete isolation of the individual from the rest of humanity. However, the alleged isolation does point to difficulties of communication which include both differences-limitations of perspective and resistance. Further, while I do think cultivation of one's personal truth is important, I think it is also important to make this truth as universal and as reality-based as one's powers permit and to communicate and learn together with others and with experience. And while I do also think that individual realization is meaningful, I do not think that this is the only meaningful life and I would be careful about the meanings to be attached to the phrase “absolute and unconditional” in the quote, which now follows:
The fact that many a man who goes his own way ends in ruin means nothing… He must obey his own law, as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths… There are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice, whereupon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, for any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices. “You are no different from anybody else,” they will chorus, or, “there's no such thing,” and even if there is such a thing, it is immediately branded as “morbid”… He is at once set apart and isolated, as he has resolved to obey the law that commands him from within. “His own law!” everybody will cry. But he knows better: it is the law… The only meaningful life is a life that strives for the individual realization - absolute and unconditional - of its own particular law… To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being… he has failed to realize his life's meaning.
The undiscovered vein within us is a living part of the psyche; classical Chinese philosophy names this interior way “Tao”, and likens it to a flow of water that moves irresistibly towards its goal. To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, one's destination reached, one's mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in all things.
What I take from this passage is the importance and beauty of fulfillment from “obeying one's own law”. The resistance of others must be resisted. But one must go beyond this from “one's own law” to the universal law, and from resistance and isolation to communion and communication. And it is the communion with others and with being that transforms the initial solipsism of “one's own law” and any arrogance to universality and equanimity.
Yet the communication is difficult. As an example, after Buddha had discovered enlightenment he almost abandoned the sharing of his knowledge because he despaired of being understood.
2001 note: this is replaced by Being and the Elements of Being or the Potential and Elements of Being
One of the purposes of Evolution, Design and the Absolute is to communicate. Science is science largely because it is communicable, it is common property. You will see, later, of my ongoing discovery of new (to me at least) ways to speak to others.
I sometimes wonder whether investment is too large a part of your relationship with me. Not that investment is bad, but it is ideally kept in balance with detachment. I think this balance is good for all relations including one's relation with oneself and with life. Imbalance in the direction of investment leads to perception being distorted by desires. Perhaps I'm not intelligent or not quite intelligent enough. Perhaps I just do not quite know how to use my intelligence. Perhaps I'm unlucky. Perhaps God does not like me… what then? Are we going to be condemned to be forever unhappy? Not necessarily, for if we are sufficiently detached we can look out of the window and see that the sky is still deep blue and the grass brilliant green.
Detachment in proper and dynamic balance with investment is also ideal for the realization of potential abilities, for developing and maintaining both conscious and other modes - in balance - or contact with and knowledge of what is real.
Perhaps you are too much prone to worrying and (as my father has said) negative judgment - at least in certain ways and in certain situations. “Too much” in the sense that the worry is counterproductive of right actions and satisfaction. Being too prone to worry is itself a form of or a result and cause of incorrect perception. The world is large and complex, and there is a place and perhaps even “function” for all kinds of people including “worriers”, but I see no essential reason to change my statement regarding the effect of excessive worry on perception.
Finally, incorrect perceptions result from not being perceptive - that is, from not being open to what is being perceived, from wanting to know before one has seen. I am talking, here, of your perceptions of me and the attendant feelings. Perhaps these feelings are based on how you think you would feel if you were in what you perceive to be my situation. What I am talking about is, in part, perception of an individual's inner life based on external features. There are many errors possible. First, which external features do we focus on? Second, what is the nature of the individual's inner processing - the relation between the external and the inner or the whole. I have friends who deduce that my inner life is positive and who feel very positive about my life and situation. I think, however, that listening to me would be an important part of knowing me and my feelings and whether my situation is one of choice and whether it is positive… just as listening and looking are an important part of knowing in general. When one truly listens one can hear…and then it is not necessary to make assumptions or deductions. That is, if you listen to what I say, if you wait for me to finish what I say, then you will have an opportunity to know how and what I feel - it will not be necessary to deduce or wonder. Yet I do not think you have listened to or do listen to what I say. I think this is true - even in our most recent phone conversations. I can think of reasons - including the issues of perception I mentioned above, but I do not truly know the reasons, and the extent of the “not-listening”, as I see it, to what is said and to hearing what is not said, has been large and puzzling.
An additional note on perception but not on incorrect perception. This is about the complexities of perception. The system of details of the inner life of most persons is so complex that seeing the details and how they stand in relation to one another, requires openness, time. This is true - perhaps especially true - for members of the same family. It is true even in the case of self-perception. All this is at least implicit in what has already been said. Additionally, considering: the variety and quantity of my experience, endeavor, work and product; that much of this has been pursued in detail and depth - and with great enjoyment of the process; that - at least loosely in the beginning - these elements have stood and stand together as stemming from fundamental perspectives and as the experiences, work and so on of one individual; that the unity of the perspectives and the coherence of the individual is something that has grown and is growing, not only by scanning, seeking, and accumulation, but also by excision, consolidation, and organization of both details and principles and their relationship… it is understandable that all this might be difficult to see in its entirety, its balance, its completeness and its organic unity.
What lies behind all this? An individual who is part of the world: myself. I see the world - and universe - as beautiful, to be experienced and known. The relationship between individual and society is such that society and its values are important and loom large in the life of the individual. Yet I see that I, humanity, societies, civilization are a part - an incomplete part - of the whole, which therefore also has a primary importance. When I look at the following relationships: my inner relations, myself with society and the whole, society with the whole, I see incompleteness and process. That process - rather, those processes - include “becoming whole”. I am most happy and it is most excellent for me to be part of and involved in this.
I think: to be alive is to be part of the process. But: one does not always know or realize this. Such knowledge can come from thinking and experience, but more immediately - if not immediately - from feeling and seeing.
I have tried to understand your feelings about and perceptions of me, in part to show that they are unnecessary and somewhat misplaced in that they are not based in my feelings or perceptions of my self. This is not to say that I expect or am dedicated to changes based in what I say, although I would like such changes. Nor am I saying that the making of judgments is an invalid thing to do, is wrong; but I would prefer favorable judgment and encouragement in what I am doing. Further, there is no implication that I do not listen to or consider what you say or write; rather, it is that, having considered and reflected upon all sources including my own awareness and knowledge, I conclude and have concluded that what I am doing and trying to do is good and the manner of accomplishment is right. As I have said - it is the highest endeavor.
I wish to add that what I have said is not intended as criticism, but as solution - or part of an attempt at solution - to what is something of a problem to me. There are differences in perception, which result in negative judgment by you. By negative judgment I do not mean that I perceive you as saying that my situation and I are “good” or “bad”. I refer instead to your evaluation that, as you say, “you have not got the work, the life, for which, in your intelligence, he (we) wanted and wants you to have”. I have wanted such work, such positions in the past - and have had such. There may also come a time when my work will justify, and I may want and seek - for the work itself and for personal reasons - what would then be a more appropriate position. However, as I have explained, I view alternative - say academic - situations as counterproductive and I see my present situation - though not devoid of problem and challenge - as necessary, having many positive attributes; and, regarding my life work - my fundamental commitment - I view my present life and situation as being “most excellent”.
But let me suppose, for argument's sake, that my life is not excellent, that it is merely “so-so” with some enjoyment, some work, some sleep, some love, some pain… An average life. What then? Would we then be required to burden ourselves with negative judgments with what should have been? I should assure you that I cannot imagine my acquiescing in “averageness”, but if circumstances resulted in an average life with clearly no way out, I would be busy enjoying that average life as much as I could. What would your position then be? Would you be reminding me of the supposed lacks in that life, or would you be encouraging and joining me in the enjoyment?
The problem for me, then, is threefold: difference in perception instead of concurrence and understanding; negative evaluation instead of encouragement; pain instead of joy and appreciation. The problem, in general, is polarization and self focus - I mean our focusing on our different situations and each individual focusing on his or her self - instead of unity of vision and focus on our place, path, and even destiny in the midst of Being.
If the foregoing - the use of the word “Being” - seems abstract or indefinite, there is a reason for this. In this case Being signifies all of creation, all of existence as it is and not necessarily as we see it here and now. The indefiniteness is the difference between our present perception and the reality; and: this permits us to talk about something that we don't know fully - like the “x” of algebra - while remaining aware of the fact of our partial ignorance. The abstraction is the use of a single word “Being” which is devoid of most particulars and details. The idea of “Being”, however, emphasizes, perhaps, the organic unity of the whole. When we begin to use the word, however, we do so in relation to the world, which includes details and particulars. This enables us to modify and refine our ideas regarding the whole - “Being” - and the details - the “world”. Thus abstraction is a powerful tool of understanding; and of action - because understanding conditions and improves action and its quality. Thus abstraction is a powerful tool for both practical persons who live in the everyday world of “10,000 things” and for idealistic persons for whom unifying ideas - the whole - are important. Of course, the two worlds - the world of “10,000 things” and the world as “Being” are the same world and acknowledgement of this improves the quality of our understanding, our actions, and our lives.
Earlier I mentioned “each individual focusing on his or her feelings”. I did not imply or mean to imply that your feelings are unimportant. My reactions to them, including this letter, should be clear evidence of that. I did imply, however, that the proper focus in not only of each of us on our own feelings, nor is it of all of us on all of our feelings and thoughts; but it is on all of us as a unity in relation to the whole - in relation to and as part of Being. In my life, therefore, the proper focus is not what is the world doing for me (important though that may be), but what am I doing in the world - which includes me. This is the focus of my feelings and thoughts. Of course, the fact that this is my focus is not because it should be so, but because that is what or how I am or have become. And regardless or whether I focus on myself or on myself-in-the-world, my attitude and feelings and thoughts and reward are, as I have emphasized, very positive.
And since the issue about which I (we) have been talking is my life, since I am at present the actor, the person seeking to live in and know all of Being, the world, and act in - that is, “use the understanding and knowledge for” - all of Being, the world, it seems to me that, while your feelings are important as such, my feelings and perceptions are primary - that, significantly, your feelings (in this case) would depend on mine. Stated simply, if I am happy (and I am) about my life and choices, there is no reason for you to feel unhappy or pain for me.
Certainly, what I have been saying describes my attitude regardless of whether I am thinking about you, about Robin, about Susan, about Robin-and-Susan, about mental health patients, about Carissa, about myself, or about Carissa-and-myself… or the world.
Regarding Carissa, as an important example in my life, there are two important factors: (1) I do not know much of her, her attitudes, what is happening in her life and (2) I have little power in relation to her. In fact, seeking such power would likely be counterproductive, not to mention being a violation of what I see as right. My attitude, therefore, is to acknowledge and let her be aware of my feelings - love and concern - and to maintain an openness to her and an alertness regarding her life, situation, thoughts, feelings, and so on. While it is true that I have missed her and would like a fuller relationship, I also know that this might never happen; and I have never felt anxiety, pain or suffering in these regards.
I want to reflect a little on my relationship with you, your relationship with me - another important relationship in my life. We have both tried to influence each other. Of course it is the nature of our relationship that there will be significant effect and influence with or without trying. I am thinking of the intended influence and the attempt to influence and more specifically of such attempts since August 1970 when I left India for America. I would have to say that these attempts at influence - both yours and mine - have been somewhat ineffectual. From the point of view of being effectual, the attempts have been insufficient; but considering the results, the attempts have been too much. We have been dancing around each other without looking out upon the larger whole of which we form a part. I am not saying at all that this is all there is to our relationship. This is, however, a frequent theme in human relationships. Turning around without moving forward. It is the way personalities meet and then their different parts lock into a pattern which turns and rotates but does not move forward, which is focused inward and not out upon reality.
From the point of view of explanation, I should redouble my efforts and intelligence - hence this letter. Or, instead, I should stop explaining altogether (and simply enjoy the relationship) and hence, as I will say again later in this letter - “further explanation would be repetition. Of course, I will answer questions… “ “Redoubling my efforts” does not mean try harder or more. It means not allowing doubt or hesitation, regarding either myself or you, to impede a full exposition. And the objective is not to change anyone without regard to principles, but to show and explain my self, my life, to provide the information that would be the foundation of change. And the change in question is primarily one of focus outward upon the world and secondarily a new understanding of me.
This concludes what has been - in part - an explanation of why I have tried to understand your feelings. For the same and similar reasons and in the interest of openness I will also share my reaction to your views.
From the present letter it is most probably evident that I have a reaction. The whole letter is a statement of my perceptions and feelings regarding my own life. Although the present occasion is reflection upon what you have said, the statement itself is a whole and relatively complete statement. What follows immediately, however, is a statement of my specific feelings about, perceptions of, and reactions to what you have said.
As I have said, the continued differences in our perceptions have been puzzling to me. Additionally I have felt both pain and disappointment. Explanations and reasons follow.
First, as I have said, I believe that what I am doing and the manner of its accomplishment are good - the highest I can imagine. However, my system of ideals and objectives is not and cannot be static, is not and should not be imperturbable - fortress like. “Highest” does not mean “perfect”. The ideals and objectives are part of a process, a search; they require renewal, openness to doubt and question. Doubt regarding the goals and doubt regarding myself because I am part of the process. This is sometimes difficult if necessary. Criticism is sometimes difficult to deal with - especially criticism from those I would like to respect, and criticism which does not respect my intelligence, awareness and ability to criticize and review myself and work, and ongoing self-criticism and review. However, such criticism - regardless of its nature and motives and whether of the ideas or of my goals, or of the process or of me - is useful, especially when difficult - because it results in reexamination and, as a consequence, it also results - frequently - in change and improvement or revaluation and reaffirmation of my basic position.
Real and true “criticism” is of the following type. One understands the other person and their ideas. The person is not, of course, completely distinct from his or her ideas. So criticism must involve person “and” ideas. But understanding comes first. The critic identifies, then begins his or her reasoning process, and the processes of “critic” and “criticized” interact. In fact, there is no criticized or critic. Rather, one individual initiates a process and others join in. This of course is an ideal version of the real process involving real persons.
And so, walls (defenses) against pain and criticism turn out to also be walls surrounding the spirit, cutting it off from truth and joy. As a result, when this is understood, accepted and absorbed, pain is not suffering - it is transformed into understanding; and transient feelings of doubt are replaced by enduring appreciation of my own life. As a result I understand myself and my fundamental commitment better. I become clearer, more focused, and more open to the commitment and the process. I do not say that this development is complete, but I have learned and absorbed its principle through exposure, reflection, experience, and use.
The writing of and thinking about this letter is, itself, an occasion for revaluation and reaffirmation and, to some extent, reformulation and restatement regarding the questions of my life: what I am trying to do - what are my ambitions and goals, why are they my ambitions and goals, and how should I attempt to achieve them.
A second source of my feelings is my special relationship to you. Due to respect and caring, your feelings and opinions are especially important to me. Regarding feelings, I certainly wish you would not feel pain. This is one reason why I have been attempting to show why pain is unnecessary in connection with me. Of course, even though I think I have made a good case that such pain is unnecessary, the pain may stay. This is something that I will accept even though I do not want it. I have said this before and reasons follow.
Regarding your opinions, approval is an issue. Approval breaks down into a number of factors. I will take up three of these. First, to function in society some approval from others is necessary. Second, approval is good because it is positive for people to act according to the same values and towards the same ends. This is especially true in close relationships. To put it another way, I believe that there is meaning in the world, that we bring and contribute some meaning, that we are actors and agents, not mere spectators or puppets. It is good therefore to act together rather than in opposition. However this is not always possible. In fact, although unity is good, it is not always good since alternative approaches are also good. It remains true, in this connection, that it would be positive to hear that your pain has become joy and that your judgment has become one of approval and encouragement. The lack of this has been disappointing.
Third, approval is a form of affirmation and lack of approval or disapproval can result in self-doubt and uncertainty. This has been a source of pain - self-doubt is not always comfortable. However, approval and agreement are not always possible or even good. Out of the same respect and caring that I mentioned above, that is especially due to you but is also due to all persons and, despite my puzzlement and feelings, I must and do accept that you have your own judgment and feelings which are yours, not mine, which are your right.
As I said earlier, self-doubt promotes self-questioning, a process of self-examination and finally self-affirmation. One modifies what was mistaken, one reaffirms what was right. Thus pain transforms into affirmation and understanding. And through experience pain ceases to be suffering and self-doubt ceases to be pain and becomes openness. The accumulation of doubts and self-doubts and their resolution becomes, not a burden, but awareness.
The same process of the transformation of pain also follows from the principle of respect, which also implies self-respect. This is necessary and perhaps prior to the process of affirmation, for one cannot always know what is right and what is wrong. From self-respect one proceeds from intuition and experiment despite doubt.
I believe I must have always had a certain self-respect despite whatever “deficits” my personality may have had. Initially perhaps the self-respect was a defense. With time it became the core of the process, which, along with intelligence, became the basis of understanding, knowledge, independence and the affirming process described above.
(Parenthetic note: Although I have thought about these issues before, this is the first time I have tried to analyze my reactions to you, the sources and nature of these reactions in a careful, critical and complete way. Completeness means looking at all aspects, critical means questioning my answers and trying to avoid self-deception, careful means not being overcritical or too lenient, and not letting go of an issue or conclusion till I am satisfied that I have been at least somewhat truthful - to myself - regarding the issue. I want - for my own sake - to improve upon this and to consider my interactions with all other people.)
So, I make the following assertion - which has never been in doubt. I can and will continue what I have been trying to do and achieve as I see right - and this includes the smooth and the predictable as well as the unexpected, unpredicted and unpredictable. I can and will do this with or without approval, including self-approval, and without certainty, that is, with doubt - and this follows from the principle of respect. I will, however, seek the ideas, affirmation and approval of others when possible as a positive thing for myself and for the process I undertake. I believe that this assertion (affirmation) is itself positive for myself and my goals and ambitions.
I have never thought any of this to be disrespectful of anyone - assuming, of course, that what I do is not intrinsically wrong or harmful or intended to be so.
Doing justice to your concerns and respecting you in this connection, then, involves (i) listening to, respecting your views regardless of whether I am aware of the content. I do this by considering, reflecting and incorporating what you say. This of course does not mean agreeing; it can mean self-doubt and reaffirmation, (ii) providing as complete and as powerful an explanation as I can (given limited time) so that you have the best opportunity that I can provide for you to know and understand me and my life, my ambitions and goals, my choices and means or approaches to these ambitions. This letter is an attempt at such an explanation.
In conclusion to this part of this letter in which I have focused on why I have tried to understand your views and on my reactions and their sources, I will add final comments. First, it has been a very positive and good experience to evaluate and reaffirm myself, my work, and my approach. However, there have been difficulties. I have tried consistently to be truthful and accurate; to be imaginative and free in my thoughts, but also to review, criticize from my own perspective and from the possible perspectives of others, and refine these thoughts. This has been very difficult, even emotionally taxing, because I have had to, and have forced myself to look carefully at the negative aspects - possible failures, possible self-deceptions, the possibility that my reactions may be merely out of anger, out of a mere attempt to bolster up a failure or a half-hearted attempt or “submission in the face of the problems of death and pain, in the face of pain and punishment by the overpowering winds of fate”. Of course this is an ongoing process dating back, at least in some form or forms, to childhood, school and college years. And the process continues. However, despite the difficulty, the process has also been positive. And the result is positive because I have realized that I have had to face and overcome various general and specific problems and circumstances and in so doing have a positive, rationally based view of my life, and have also produced a large volume of work which is, in my evaluation, excellent and full of promise, though still premature for publication.
The other main difficulty is due to the fact that it is to you, my parents, that I am writing. I constantly review my thoughts, feelings, and reactions to evaluate whether my motives are negative. I have been concerned about upsetting you, worrying you… and about giving cause for consternation to Robin - and perhaps even Susan.
Additionally, if self-deception - as noted in the previous paragraph - has been one of my concerns, then the accuracy and faithfulness of your perceptions is also an issue. This has been difficult to deal with because - in addition to the questions of my motives - I have tried to distinguish between my perceptions and what is real. This is a complex issue involving one person's perceptions of the other people's perceptions with all the potential distorting effects - and their interactions - including defenses on both sides; and these interactions include, on each side, that individual or side as distinct as well as the sides taken together as a unit. While I think that my understanding has merit, I have attempted to deal with pitfalls by admitting to, meditating upon and addressing potential and obvious defects and distortions on my part, but also by not assuming that all defects and distortions are mine and by viewing such aspects of perception as may be ascribed to you as possible or probable or for consideration. In short, I have attempted to be as accurate as is reasonable given the areas of my ignorance; I have attempted to avoid attempts to “blame” (nor am I implying that grounds for “blame” exist), and have attempted to focus on the triple motives of receiving understanding - encouragement, asserting my wishes in the case, and on the question of your pain which, though not invalid, appears to me to be based in misperception.
I have also been concerned about taxing you with what may be or seem to be a long, complex, abstract or conceptual, somewhat repetitious and didactic letter. If these are in fact valid concerns, I hope that the taxation is balanced by affirmation, illumination and light. Please regard and accept the letter as an offering to you and its content as an affirmation in the interest of unity of vision and being.
Despite a focus on some “negative” areas, I wish to emphasize (1) the purpose is “positive”, and (2) my awareness that there are and have been many positive aspects to our lives and relationships. I say this from a perspective which includes knowledge of many healthy and functional people and families as well as the knowledge of many others who I know from personal experience and from my work at mental health and the understanding that comes from this experience. And there is also the emphasis on our moving forward in the world, in Being, rather than a mere focus on me, you or me-and-you.
Review of the purposes of this letter: communication; the whole that is my life; my life as positive and good
The purposes of this letter are simple. One purpose is to communicate, to explain my life and attitudes to life and my place in it. One reason that the letter is long is that my explanations do not seem to have had any result in the past, that you have continued to doubt and worry (regardless of how I feel about my life and what I have said about these feelings) and to find new things for doubt and worry. Therefore I thought it might be good to make one good attempt at complete explanation. So I have described numerous facets of my life. However, examples do not provide complete explanation no matter how many examples are provided. Something is needed to tie the examples together so that what is being communicated stands together and can be seen as a connected whole. And if the connected whole is seen as positive, there is no need for one more doubt or one more worry. I see my life in its organic unity. And if the organic unity, the connected whole is not seen directly, it can be understood through concepts, unifying principles. This is one reason for the abstract (or conceptual) aspect of this letter.
In addition to the repetitions in this letter, I have also noticed some apparent contradictions and changes in emphasis. This is in part due to the fact that my understanding has become more clear while thinking about writing the letter. Since I do not think these aspects of the letter significantly affect its essence, I am not going to eliminate them in favor of consistency and uniformity.
I have previously tried to explain myself, my life, my motives, my choices in the past with little ultimate and enduring success. This is perhaps no fault of yours. Your valuation of my situation is not a unique one. But it is a valuation - although I understand it, I think - with which I do not agree. I come to the conclusion that explanation is not or has not been working. I know I have been criticized for being non-disclosing but my experience of this point is one of not being understood, believed or even really heard; that there has been difficulty accepting what I say, who I am… and that this has been met with both anger and hurt. It is time for you to understand - all the elements of explanation have been laid out for you many times. But you continue to make invalid judgments, feel unnecessary pain, to not understand. It is time for you to understand my situation and conduct as it is - not as an act (on my part) of submission, nor even as an act of courage in the face of alleged or presumed adversity, but as an act of truth. Time to stop the negation of my judgment and conduct - especially as these pertain to my life. I also believe that if you would understand how I relate to my own life, your view of your own lives would be improved.
Why am I being so emphatic? Of course I believe what I say to be true, but that is not the reason for the statement or the emphasis. In addition to the negative effect on you resulting from your incorrect perceptions of me and of what is truly important to me, it is counterproductive to have you holding incorrect and negative perceptions of me that have no real or ultimate basis in my experience. Instead of hearing about the pain and worry about the supposed lacks in my life, I could be hearing positive words of encouragement regarding what I am doing and attempting to do.
Of course, such words and the proper perception, though important and valuable, are not necessary; I can and will do what I think right and proper for me - for my life, and relative to my place in the world - with or without them. Nor do I demand such words and perceptions. But I do request this and hope that you will make some attempt to see my life as I believe it is correct to do.
You are probably familiar with the following analogy: If you have a cup that is half empty, it is also half full. So, in life the idea is to dwell on what one does have and not what one does not have. However this is not my view of life; that is, this is not a metaphor that I apply to my own life. My practical but not theoretical view is that it is not possible or desirable to have “everything”. However, despite this, the cup can be full and overflowing. This is my preferred and actual perception.
I will now restate and amplify some points about the nature of reward and recognition and their function.
The world is full with potential and promise. There is the world of doing, progress and accomplishment. Working within institutions, universities, companies is one way of the world of accomplishment. But this, as pointed out earlier, is limited. Limitations come from the fact that institutions are the establishment with rules based in success in the domain of what is known. But the process I am talking about is at the edge of the known world… then there is also the world of being: friendship, nature, rivers, trees, stars, clouds. Thus, while recognition might be rewarding, such reward is not ultimate; and to focus on it or to feel pain in relation to a lack of recognition is based on an impoverished view of the world. This is a double impoverishment because accomplishment can be rewarding without recognition and life rewarding without accomplishment.
And: the beauty of the deep blue of the sky and the brilliant green of the grass is there “also and not instead of” the worlds of accomplishment and recognition.
Relation of individual and the institutions of society; contribution within the institution and growth beyond
Institutions such as families, schools, universities, companies, governments are an organization of the functions of societies. A social system functions within the world. But as we know from both history and reflection, such systems are not perfectly adapted to their function for all times and circumstances. Yet time passes and circumstances change. New opportunities arise. And institutions and societies change by growth or by failure-and-replacement on the edge of circumstance, on the edge of what is known.
Individuals grow and develop within the framework of institutions. One learns the rules: getting along with others, law, government, technology, art, logic, science… and, in this process, recognition is natural and rewarding. Although I have occasionally complained about the adequacy of particular institutions, I have also learned much from them in the way of knowledge, understanding and discipline… and in this process I have received and felt reward by recognition.
But then the individual comes or may come to the edge of capability and forward motion of the institution. Recognition can no longer be the source of reward, for this is the edge where the rules are no longer operative or functional. The inner compass of truth now becomes important. It is helpful if the individual has begun this development while still in the cradle of the institution… This is why freedom rather than direction is, or should be, an important part of education and growth.
And now when society and its institutions are on the edge of circumstance, change and opportunity, it is those individuals who are also comfortable with the edge, those with the inner compass, who can walk the unknown path, who become instrumental. The process involves feeling, thinking, awareness, communication, acting and experiment. Recognition and position are superficial - and frequently detrimental - both as reward and as accomplishment. And therefore to focus on recognition or to feel pain in relation to it, is based on an impoverished view of the individual.
And also on an impoverished view of me. Certainly recognition, whether by position, renown or money would be nice. But certainly it is not the driving force in my life. And certainly it is not and will not be the basis of happiness; nor is any lack of recognition a source of pain, nor should it be.
To a significant degree, then, I have achieved what I want. I enjoy my work. The place where I live is beautiful. I have the strength, resilience and intelligence to adapt to and enjoy all kinds of circumstance. I have excellent friends, and although all this is true I say it more for you than as important for me. And perhaps, most importantly, there is my “work” - evolution & design and so on - that I have described to you many times. The purpose of this work may be described as follows: (1) understanding the world, the universe and my relationship to it. I say “my relationship” because that is significant, but I mean to include my mind - which includes thinking, feeling, conscious and unconscious elements, others, their mind and consciousness, cultures, societies, civilization… and (2) the use of such understanding - theoretical, conceptual and practical. This has been and continues to be a difficult, challenging, exciting, rewarding enterprise. My intelligence and energy have been taxed and found sufficient for my self-set task. I look back and see how the whole enterprise is based in my own development and attempts at development… and how it is based on the entire human enterprise. I look to the future and I see continuing promise, a continuing opportunity to go beyond where we stand now. The achievement here is the opportunity, in my case largely self-created, to use and enhance my abilities toward the highest, most interesting, most engaged ends of which I can conceive. This process of using and recognizing my own abilities is undoubtedly the most rewarding action that I can imagine. This process is part of feeling, being alive.
Having worked in institutions as student and faculty for about 20 years (1963-1985), and privately for about 10 years (1985-1996), I do not believe that the work just described would be likely to have developed at a university…even though university learning, teaching and research was an important preliminary. Of course, I continue to experiment with alternative possibilities to my present situation (for opportunity and necessity). This may seem like flux… and it is flux; but you may recognize that there is a constant (development and truth) behind the flux… and that the flux and the constant enhance each other.
I've said that I have learned much in and from institutions and universities and that there may come a time and an opportunity when certain parts of the development may be more or most efficiently played out in academic and/or research institutions, but I want to emphasize again the importance of extended periods of development away from such places and their restrictions and implicit and explicit dogmas. This - the independence from the institutions of society - is a recurrent theme in many if not most fundamental developments in the history of humankind, of societies and civilization.
Why my work would not have been accomplished at a university: my work requires a full range of experience
Additionally the variety in my life - described elsewhere - results in abroad and whole view of the world and the human condition but not at the expense of depth.
Since, in my present position, I am not paid to think or know…there is a truth which stems from being subject to day-to-day experience, from not being only in the ivory tower. Additionally, due to this circumstance, my thinking and learning are not forced. As a result, there is time for natural and unconscious processing and for an existential freedom to search, learn, know and be.
I hope I am not seen as trying to be pointlessly critical of universities and other institutions or their functions. At times I miss the intellectual stimulation of the university environment but I consider my own initiatives, intellectual and otherwise, to be more important to my chosen path in its current state.
I think it would be useful to recount my general development as background to the specifics I have described in this letter.
A question arises whether the process is real or “escapist”. Of course any final judgment - other than the judgments of history to which we do not have direct access - must depend on one's values and “worldview”. Naturally, in terms of my own worldview and values, the processes of my own life - despite self-criticism and a process of doubt - are essentially real: the same must be true for any individual who is robust of spirit. Many persons who have known me in varied contexts, including my Ph.D. advisor, have said that I maintain a balance between living in the practical world and the world of ideas and ideals, having an ability to see, to be imaginative and at the same time be careful, pay attention to detail.
Self-awareness and self-knowledge are - I believe - important elements of the process of knowledge in general. The boundaries between self and universe, between knowledge and being are not at all clear and distinct - despite immediate appearance and commonsense. The foregoing is not a new insight, but it is in fact an element of my experience. The following is a brief and partial sketch which I want to expand upon - in terms of breadth and depth - at another time.
While education and experience prepared me - to some extent - for the elements of development, and while institutions provided opportunity in the form of libraries and so on, the sources of the process - internal and external - are elsewhere. My impulse to look out - and in - and know and experience the world is at least as old as my earliest recollection. The idea of a fundamental commitment has been in the “back” of my mind for at least 35 years. The clarity and character of this idea has, of course, evolved. A brief sketch of the academic part of the development follows:
1961-1963: Nature, poetry, music, theory of evolution; 1964: physics; 1965-1968: physics, philosophy, logic, mathematics; 1970-1975: ethics and value; what am I doing and why?; 1975-1978: involvement with nature; 1978-1982: theoretical physics and applied mathematics; philosophy of science; what is the highest thing I can do? Friedrich Nietzsche and philosophy of human nature and achievement; 1982-1985: same question expanded to include technology, society, civilization, world; 1985-1987: fundamental studies; “blind” and “conscious” evolution; universalization of the ideas; 1987-1989: elaboration, further study; 1990-1992: continuing elaboration; mind; 1993-1996: consciousness, dimensions of mind, personality and change; modern civilization and its limits; other cultures; primitive world of nature; meaning of journey and quest; bridge between these worlds; nature of limits; journey at the boundaries - beyond - return; alternatives to the idea of evolution as a way of understanding and living. When, at later times, I have returned to an earlier theme or topic, this has been noted in the preceding sequence of development only when the subsequent treatment or study was especially significant.
Evolution and design and the path to being and the elements of being
I have written to you of the results of this development a number of times. One early result of this is the version Evolution & Design which you possess. Since then (1987) there have been at least three developments that are basic to my growth in understanding of the world: (1) Improvements to the original ideas and arguments; (2) provision of alternate viewpoints (3) seeing both the world-universe-being and my developing understanding of this as being more dynamic, organic, connected; at the same time more detailed, rich, particular; more real and more malleable; more stable yet more fluid; as a place where humanity can be trivial and alien in a material sense yet central as an instance and expression of the essential processes. While Evolution & Design adopted a view of matter evolving in time, an alternative is the idea of mind and consciousness as primal and as capable of existing beyond time. Some important guiding considerations are: while imagination is important, everything must also be viewed from, if not generated by a perspective of experience, criticism and reason; and the older and newer viewpoints must mesh and be complementary.
Some of the pivotal ideas are as follows. The universe contains things that know and act and things that are known and acted upon. Knowing and acting are part of a process in time, but the result or source may be atemporal. Also the things that know (sometimes called minds) are not as distinct as is sometimes thought from the things that are known - bodies, other minds. Both are being. In other words, mind-matter is more a continuum than two distinct categories. Or there is a single inclusive concept -reality behind what is seen. With this perspective there is a principle behind knowing and acting and behind knowledge and being. The objective is to know or apprehend and chart all modes and varieties of this principle which includes all modes and varieties of knowledge-being and process and their interrelationships. Or, as an alternative, there is no one-such-principle, and the objective is to know or apprehend and map all modes and varieties of knowing, knowledge, ways of knowing, being, and objects - the known which includes knowing, etc. - and their processes and interrelationships. All this naturally includes the purposes that I had described earlier: (1) understanding, and (2) the uses of understanding.
You are exposed to some of these ongoing developments which have in part unfolded in the writing of this letter. And despite the fact that some descriptions may be tentative, preliminary, not completely thought out and therefore tinged with excesses of initial enthusiasm, I will let them stand as they are.
There is another earlier description of this development in Chapter (or Area) 1 of the 1987 version of Evolution & Design. Perhaps I have mentioned elsewhere that I think self-study, awareness and knowledge to be important. I see self-study to be important, interesting, powerful, and engaging in the following ways: as a path to psychology - despite the anti-introspectionist focus of academic psychology since the late 18th century; as a way to self-awareness, self-understanding and self-knowledge; and self-awareness - and “meditation” - are in turn a key to the realm of mind below the everyday surface, to the contents of the unconscious; and then, consequently, as a key to the form, nature and significance of the unconscious; and through all of this as alternative and complement to the analysis of dreams and myths; as a key to understanding mind as the (an) instrument of knowledge of the external world - the universe; and then, consequently, as a key to knowing the universe; and, also consequently, as a key to understanding the substantial nature of the universe (questions of ontology and metaphysics) and of Being. The study of the self is an approach to the absolute. Without an immersion in the depth of the self, the world is flat. This is not the indulgent expression of an individual in an indulgent civilization. Creatures of the wild spend their time awake immersed in their selves or in the world. Modernism teaches us to live in neither realm but on the surface between the two realms.
And some explicit considerations and examples
I should add that my work in mental health has been of inestimable value in this study in a number of ways. First, psychiatry - though it focuses on mental disorders - is an approach to the functions of mind. Second, and more important, the locked inpatient unit where I work 40 hours a week is a dynamic cauldron of interacting personalities, severely disturbed, conflicted and conflictual persons – patients, staff - with whom, despite the need for what is called professional detachment, one enters into relationships. Initially I was detached because I was new and fresh. Then I lost this detachment as the elements of my personality locked into the “dance which turns and rotates but does not move forward”. Of course the loss of detachment was not complete. I remained known for my abilities to remain calm and detached, but I began to notice a change. However, I began to learn to disengage from the locking in, from being too invested - without even wanting to be invested. I learned that there is really no such thing as losing face. I learned to say, “I was mistaken but this is not a reason to continue to act in that way, this is not an excuse for exceptional behavior. Together we will move forward.” The essential was observation - of the signs of my own mind-ego becoming locked in; and of the elements of behavior of the patients - and myself - which would precipitate the locking in. The process was initially somewhat random. But then, as a result of noticing its success, I began to cultivate it. As a result I learned, and continue to learn, in a practical way, the art of self-observation of observation of the processes below the surface of what is immediately conscious; and I learned, in a practical way, in part by uncovering these unconscious determinants of behavior and exposing them, about the flexibility of personality. Some of this learning had begun in other relationships and situations, but the main element was the conflictual environment where relationships are formed and cycled through on weekly basis - the unit, Sempervirens, is a short-term or acute psychiatric facility where individuals in crises - suicidal, homicidal, severely confused - come for evaluation and intensive treatment for periods which are typically 2 to 17 days before release or, in a limited number of cases, 30-45 days before referral to a long-term or chronic facility. Relationships come, go; and - since many clients have numerous admissions - are cycled through much more rapidly than in normal circumstances. This summary is somewhat analogous to an animated cartoon of the geology of the earth where 2,000,000 years is condensed into a second so that one sees (the cartoon would be about 45 minutes in length) what one otherwise has to theorize. Yes, the environment is somewhat artificial. But the learning is from this environment and the totality of one's experience. It is part of an integral development that became conscious and focused in my current work. Anyway, I have also learned, as a result of all this, how and why to be detached without walls and barriers against relating. How to care without needing the other or needing to care. How to care and love persons who may be angry, who may express anger, hate, scorn, who may be disturbed in their mental and/or life and relational processes. This development is ongoing and “imperfect”. I think, perhaps, I have always had (incidentally, whenever I say “perhaps I have always had”, you may interpret this as “one among a number of elements” and “dating back to early development”) this element of detachment; but psychiatric work has resulted in its development, my awareness of it, understanding it and cultivating it. I should add that I am not claiming that my mental health work is necessary for these developments; careful observation and any area of human relationships that is typical of life in society - especially multiple and varied relationships - should be sufficient.
It is interesting that while the dynamic and conflictual environment of acute mental health work has been one source of self-observation, another source is the quiet time I spend in nature - in the mountains.
The process and art of self-observation which began in one area has, by cultivation, spread to and is being used in other areas, such as the study of consciousness. The process is interactive, with the self-observation forming an experiential component to the study of consciousness…and with the investigations of consciousness providing an element of direction for self-observation.
Multiplicity and multi-modality of experience, which might not have happened had I stayed in academic circles, has led to a process of learning by observation, comparison, improvement and cultivation.
Regarding consciousness, some questions are (1) what are its elements; (2) revelation of its levels as in the peeling of an onion - an analogy used by Henri Bergson - including the transformation: unconscious ® conscious and the form of the result of such transformation; (3) different centers of consciousness within the individual - a concept that contrasts with the usual idea of there being one center: “the brain” or “the mind” - and known as a result of (2); (4) the unity or unities of this multiplicity and, therefore, (5) if what is seen as a unity is an interactive multiplicity, cannot what is seen as a multiplicity - seen and known to have interactivity: all persons, animals, plants, rocks, planets, the universe… all beings be truly a unity, be Being, (6) seeing what is thus known in (5)… and this involves also accelerating the mental processes as in the earlier example with analogy to a compression of geologic time or, in the case of mental events that are below a certain threshold - amplification and slowing down.
The dual objectives of this process are (1) to be the director of one's own vision, and (2) contact with, apprehension of, the real; this includes learning together with other individuals.
My development in these areas has been self-directed. The process starts with the observation of “inner” events, the learning of others, observations on determinants of the process and events, a variety of experience so that one learns through the agency of one's own powers, the internal dynamics, controls and augmentation of these processes. I will consider some examples, generalize, and explain the basis of the generalization.
Here and elsewhere in this letter you will note the resonance - with and shades of knowledge, experience and thought from - a number of traditions from the history of humanity.
Here is another instance, an example, of the kind of observation I have been talking about and the related circle of ideas. The example relates to the dynamics of the experience of loss and the transformation (when it occurs) from a sense of deficiency to wholeness. Elizabeth Kubler Ross - I attended a talk by her in the 1970s - is well known in the United States for her work with the dying and her observation of the following stages of psychological adjustment: Denial - anger - bargaining - depression - acceptance. These stages were observed to occur in a sequence similar to the one presented but numerous variations are possible: “out of sequence” process, repetition, omission, or stagnating in one or more of the stages. The process varies with the individual.
It should also vary with the culture. Modern Western civilization, especially that of the United States, supposedly has difficulty accepting, talking about death. Other traditions may have a positive acceptance of death as part of a natural cycle; some cultures or subcultures promote awareness of death as a means to learn about life. Death may be welcomed. There are probably some constraints “required” by survival. Perhaps there are some universal features across cultures and perhaps even across species. The idea of being aware of a pattern of psychological process in response to dying, especially in a culture that has difficulty with death, is to help families, caregivers and the dying.
Other models exist. Such single subject models become conceptual and grounded by being related to other single subject models and integrated into a larger whole.
We know all this. It is preliminary to what I want to say.
Regarding loss - of which being aware that one's death is somewhat imminent is an instance - there are two preliminary issues.
(1) For something to be a loss - the loss of a limb, health, a friend, a career, youth, money… - it must be perceived or interpreted as a loss. As human beings and as animals, we are a mix of independence - autonomy, and dependence - interdependence, and therefore loss is real. As a result it is adaptive to have the faculty to be able to recognize and feel loss. This does not mean that every feeling of loss is adaptive. The feeling may be due to not realizing or giving up of “normal” autonomy. Much of loss is “perception”: as taught by society… and as interpreted by the individual. There is some freedom - in relation to the question of what feelings of loss are “healthy” - here. Additionally there is no one purpose or function of society and humanity. The broad array of arrangements that are consistent with survival is another source of freedom. Other sources of freedom are that not all aspects of individual and group survival need be built into individuals or each individual, and that the fact that we have survived may give us predispositions to survive but does not require us to have all such predispositions or to survive at all… What this freedom means is that some, perhaps much, of what “we” perceive as and feel to be loss is not a necessary result of our natures or needs. Therefore we have both actual and moral freedoms regarding our feelings, and despite the various vaguenesses associated with “the moral”, there is a real core to it. Of course the actual and the moral need not coincide in all views and that presents an interesting issue which I will not take up here, if ever. My concern would be the actual freedom and more specifically the actual as it may be restricted by the moral.
(2) What is the dynamics of the reaction to loss, what is the role of experience and learning (I have had good and intelligent friends and there are also very famous persons who have said that despite experience, response to loss does not depart from its stages including the processing of grief through shock-denial-chaos and reorganization, and so on. While I regard such reactions as natural, I do not regard them as fixed in their manifestation, processing or intensity)… And are “feelings”, “perception”, “emotion”, “thinking” as separate-unrelated as is commonly thought or seen or felt to be the case? For example, is not feeling a perception of an inner state-process and does not thought also involve inner perception and volition? And is there not an aspect to the complex of perception of an outer state which is “perception” of the material physiological result of the object of perception?…
Regarding reaction to loss (and all emotional processing), a preliminary question of dynamics is that of time: how long does the process take? The distinctions that I want to make are (a) the process is so slow that its stages - or some of its stages - appear frozen in time: changes are not noticed (like geologic or biological evolution); (b) it is so fast that it or its details are not noticed (as in a volcanic eruption or other explosion); or (c) the process occurs at an observable speed - that is, the details of change and the process of change are noticed and noted.
It is reasonable to claim that in this instance (loss) reaction (b) is not adaptive, whereas (a) and (c) perform adaptive functions. However (a) is unnecessary in some ways and is also counter-adaptive in some ways. (a) is better, in some ways, than no reaction and has a “use” as part of cumulative experience so that one can see and understand one's own growth… and learn from this.
There may be a dynamic involving both (b) and (a): (b) involves quick unreflective reaction to some stimuli based perhaps in conditioning, resulting in (a) being frozen into or sluggish in relation to an emotional (or thought) response as a result of (b). As a result, the response (b) remains fixed. This is a counterproductive or counter-adaptive dynamic.
There may also be a learning process:
Start with style (a): accept - quicken - notice - observe, resulting in (c).
Start with style (b): begin to notice so slow and observe resulting in (c).
Regardless of how (c) is arrived at, once there, the process can now be truly dynamic. (1) Understand and accept and observe = enjoy the process = being alive; (2) become open to uncertainty, so avoid over-control and stagnation; (3) acceptance so loss and pain are not suffering; (4) knowing the roots of the process in development = higher order dynamic; (5) by understanding and experiment knowing what modifies feeling, learning this = truly dynamic at levels of the process and of learning and, therefore, having choice in both of these processes. This choice, of course, does not imply total control but may result in significant self-direction. This is a rather different idea of emotion and emotional processing that the usual one.
The analogy with “geology” comes up again.
Now consider the following. An individual goes through development, has experiences which include affirmation, joy, wonder, loss, pain and the interactive cycles of these. Those close to that individual focus on one or more aspects and so, especially in early development, amplify the resonance, the importance of some aspects. I have observed this in friends, patients at mental health, others. No doubt the focus so chosen includes a well-intentioned basis, but the result often is negative: the individual comes to live out a pattern of negative feeling, negative reaction, because this is the way in which this individual receives support and justifies behavior. And the intention is not always positive: sometimes the persons who promote focus on the negative are implicitly justifying their own negativity or negativism… and the individual is “frozen” into these patterns. Equally problematic is the situation where one denies or refuses to acknowledge the negative and so becomes frozen into denial… in either case the learning process, which requires experience with feeling and its progression is turned off. This is, no doubt, related to Freud's idea of psychoanalysis and self-revelation through association and dreams: one begins to observe what had been present, but repressed… The “best” that others can do is (a) be supportive but not demanding. Support implies that the individual can be aware of his/her processes; not demanding implies the individual can learn at a natural pace. Other things that others can do, include modeling.
In this letter I have not tried to hide or avoid any of the negative aspects of my life. However, my emphasis has been on the positive and on transformation from the negative to the positive, especially in relation to my ambitions and goals. There are a number of reasons for this. First, as I have attempted to explain in the previous paragraph, an over-focus on negative aspects on pain results in living out what one focuses on. Second, I think joy and evolution and growth are something like temperature: there is a lower limit: an absolute zero (-273C), but no upper limit; therefore, while the negative cannot be avoided and awareness of it should not be avoided or repressed, much more can be done with focus on the positive which includes the positive itself - joy, creation, evolution - but also the transformation of the negative. And this includes understanding and acceptance of negative elements when necessary, when they indicate that something needs resolution or requires attention.
Third, because I have perceived you as tending to focus on the negative, my focus is somewhat in reaction and defense. More accurately, the focus itself is not in reaction and defense - it is my nature to focus on the positive while accepting and working with the negative; rather, the fact that I am at pains to emphasize this positive focus in this letter is somewhat in reaction and defense. Fourth, regardless of what aspects of my life you may or may not focus on, I would like you to have complete information on how I view my life, what I want to do with it, what I am doing with it. Finally, as mentioned at other places in this letter, I would like and invite you to join me in my “adventure of forward motion within Being”.
It has often occurred to me that many of the ideas about which I think and write, including those in this letter, may be useful to you. This is not one of the purposes of this letter. The letter has a number of purposes which include explanation, understanding and usefulness. But the usefulness is to me and/or us. I would of course be most pleased to be useful to you but I do not want to presume that my thoughts will be useful to you. This is in no way to disparage my thoughts. Although I am always properly critical of my thinking, I have a good opinion of my thinking and ideas, and my self-confidence sometimes approaches arrogance (I know this); it also includes humility in the face of truth. However, although being useful in general is one of my objectives, out of respect I do not presume to instruct or be useful to others, but I do think it valid and respectful to intend and hope to be useful, even to occasionally instruct, all which includes me. For if the universe is great and good, then I must, as part of it, partake of that greatness and goodness. And if the universe is trivial, absurd, meaningless, then what I do does not and cannot matter. But I do not think the universe is meaningless. While some focus on humanity's folly and conclude that the world is absurd, I tend to the opposite view. But I go beyond that and hold that there cannot be good without evil, meaning without meaninglessness, creation without dissolution… for all of these polarities have origin in the same one agency of creativity and choice. This does not mean evil, for example, is necessary although it may be. In order to choose the good, one must know it. Here our finite minds run into difficulty. We cannot, despite eons of pontification, always know the difference even if we understand it. So we experiment and slip. But this experimentation is part of learning and so part of the creative principle. Therefore we must know and learn to live with and accept as contingent (fact) if not necessary (essential) the occasional pain and absurdity which comes our way. But while we accept the fact, we do not accept the ultimate necessity and therefore we may seek and learn to transform pain and absurdity as I am at pains to explain in this letter. I have a predominantly sanguine attitude. This is all part of the creative principle.
The developments of which I am writing, though tentative and incomplete, are at the same time definite and positive - that is, the fact of the development is definite while the form is tentative and the content incomplete. If you look at your copy of Journey Quest: Guide to the Process (which is now an old version since it seems to get rewritten about once each year), pages 13 and 14 titled “The Quest for Vision and Being”, you will see that the idea of the developments is not new to me. Also see pages 9-12. In fact, the explicit idea dates back to at least 1979. If I were to come up with a name for the idea as it stands, it would be: “What Can Be Known; How Can the Known Be Seen; How Can What Is Seen Be Experienced and Become” which can be abbreviated to “Knowledge, Vision, Experience and Being” or even “Knowing and Being” - this latter is, however, the title of a book by Michael Polanyi.
The way in which all this has come about and its form are quite unexpected. I have speculated about the form theoretically and may have had some kind of belief and expectation. To some extent, aided by theoretical knowledge, I have realized that I have known about “Knowledge… and Being” for some time and, to repeat what I have said, it is very positive that the content etc. can be explicit and actual rather than merely intuitive. More precisely, the realization is that what I have known and known that I have known for some time has grown to the point where the knowledge and the knowledge of the knowledge are definite and explicit and this has made it possible for me to see that was what I was looking for in “The Quest for Vision and Being” has been found - in the ways and forms I describe in this letter.
As you may deduce or see, the entire process “Knowledge… Being” is not as yet complete or explicit. Additionally there is a variety of suggestions on pages 13, 14 of Journey Quest: Guide… which have not been incorporated and may turn out to be unnecessary. Some of the suggestions still seem interesting and important to me.
An important point relative to my goals is that: “Knowledge, vision, experience, being” (“K,V,E,B”) satisfies the requirements - what I was looking for - in The Journey Quest - that is, in seeking to spend a year or so in nature. This means that (i) I may not need to spend as long (I have already spent cumulatively over a year), (ii) I may spend a good period of time in the mountains and the quest for “K,V,E,B” will be more defined, I will know more precisely what I am looking for, what to elaborate, or I will have more time for other objectives including what I have thought of as pure experience or pure being… The importance of pure experience/being is - in addition to the sheer moment-to-moment enjoyment with perhaps joy as liberation in contrast to what I said elsewhere - is that I think that undirected experience, study may be very useful. Maybe.
Now I think I will take up yet another example of the art and technique of observation and its role in transformation. Actually it will start as an example and turn out, by induction, to be a somewhat complete set of examples…perception, thought, action, and experience are essential components to progress from the individual to the universal, from the infinitesimal to the infinite What I want to emphasize is that while much of what I write is tentative - I am realizing, reformulating, learning as I write - this example is especially tentative. However, it is the first try, I share it with you. That the thinking may be a little sloppy is acceptable - I can tighten up the thinking and so on later or discard if this is not possible. But the basic principles about which I talk are firm.
What are these basic principles and ideas? The art and technique of observation, of vision is one. First, one observes what one did not observe before. Initially this is random. Then through multifaceted experience one learns in stages: keys to control the application of the keys, learning efficient application. Then transformation from passive experience to active engagement, development of self-understanding and trust, entering into dynamics…what was immutable becomes fluid. Then coming against limits, understanding the limits and the extent to which limits are a result of a lack of understanding and so entering into mutability of being, process, universe (and its categories: nature - society - mind - universe) and ourselves. The process can be symbolically depicted: 0 ® 1 ® limit or law ® understanding and assimilation ® new level ® repeat and merge ® ∞. These include the elements of variation and selection and of building upon existing structures. An essence of such processes is their singularity and, despite the singularity, the universality of their direction. Individuals recreate (ontogeny) and extend the existing structure or pattern (phylogeny). The final principles are that this process of vision and being is a unifying agent for, specifically, the elements of societies and cultures including the disciplines of the sciences and humanities of the modern world and generally of being; and that the processes of learning and unification are explicit and actual - and therefore describable and communicable - manifestations of the agencies of mind. And what can be described may be subject to reason and experiment.
Here, now, is the example which combines two themes of this letter. The first theme is pain-is-not-suffering. The second is the growth of self-awareness by observation - self-awareness studies itself. The two ideas interact - pain-is-not-suffering permits observation and observation results in knowledge of the true nature of feeling and of knowledge which includes pain. But by extended observation and learning, including observation of (instead of resistance to) pain, one goes beyond acceptance to transformation and change. Note, incidentally, that if pain-is-not-suffering, then joy-is-not-liberation. More accurately, if pain as suffering is seen as a trap which keeps one bound to pain, then joy as liberation may also keep one at an arrested state of development. We have abilities, through the agency of intelligence, to integrate pain, joy into growth and evolution.
The example I want to discuss relates to illness and the idea of being aware of the needs of the body. In question, in the following are the concepts of health, of medicine and - as always in reflexive or in integrated analyses - of the concept of the “concept”. When one is ill, a number of things happen: one feels unwell, one takes certain medicines or treatments, one goes to someone else - a doctor - for help, one rests, one enjoys the occasion to rest and reflect and focus, one wants to be well, one wishes that one were well, one notices nuances of the illness and the illness ® wellness process, one attempts to will oneself well, and this willing may be a teeth-clenching ordeal or - in contrast - an alert persuasion, and one observes the nuances of all this, including the nuances themselves from one occasion of illness to another and so on, from one type of illness to another and so on. One begins to distinguish the passive act of recovery from the active aspects of the process. One notices that there are certain active processes which enhance the process ill ® well and its quality. Among these active processes are acts of self-communication. One notices what kinds of acts and when such acts enhance the process. One thinks about self-observation in other areas of life. One begins to note that what one thought to be the passive body is not inert and distinct from the active mind and that there is a continuum from distinct consciousness to diffuse awareness which, perhaps, characterizes the situation better than does the concept of the mind-body polarity. There are still realities. One does not merely will oneself healed. But one notices that certain activities and active attitudes enhance this process. One sees that there are certain times when accepting a pain is more efficient than fighting it, that there are times when action and activity are better than rest, that certain acts and modes of self-communication aid and accelerate healing, that these include but are not restricted to linguistic acts. One begins to recognize and characterize all this and so moves on from passivity to an efficient-active approach, one enters into and recreates the dynamics of the situation. One also begins to see that the realities themselves are malleable - especially since reality itself is perceived - and are themselves open to observation, to the active principle, to dynamics and to yet more (or less) reality.
These ideas - that is, observation, learning and induction from multiple and multifaceted experience, transforming layer-by-layer passive experience into active engagement, and initiative, entering into dynamics - apply to many situations - and, as was manifest at the end of the previous paragraph, to the process of being itself - including loss, personality, and therefore also, as suggested earlier, to development and knowledge and living out of the ideas that pain-is-not-suffering and joy-is-not-liberation; the conscious-unconscious spectrum, the life-death spectrum, the alleged mind-body polarity, the self-Being distinction - alleged or otherwise; the existence of time, the nature of knowledge, ideas and Being…
It is evident that the processes of induction are grounded and not merely theoretical. There is induction from observations - with concepts - to the examples here. Then there is induction from the examples to the “method” and from the method…to limits and to grounding in being.
There is also another polarity or polarization which may be addressed in this connection. There is on the one hand the conservative or critical view which has a number of faces such as: people are puppets of fate with only the illusion of choice, the world is material and anything else is a deception even if a happy deception… On the other hand is the speculative view sometimes recently - in some of its aspects - called “new age” which too has a number of faces, some of them wildly unrealistic but others based in possibility and hope; and these include - as extreme caricatures - there are no limits, one can choose to be anything, do anything but also - as more reasonable - the existence of limits, but that the limits are not completely known and are themselves conditional and perhaps contingent, that people can make choices but that one may need to work at this and at knowing what choices are possible… My own viewpoint is that these are possibilities, hopes and ideals; and there are limits - I do not precisely know what these are; that traditional ideas and knowledge are important but incomplete; that there is an active principle in addition to mere receptivity to who and what we are and what the universe “is”; that I will distinguish between possibility and actuality; that, however, this distinction is not clear in fact; that more can be known than is traditionally and conservatively held; that whatever can be known can be known without recourse to mere faith and mere belief but through the agencies of mind and being which include but need not be limited to our traditional concepts of perception, experience, thought which include the traditional disciplines of science, philosophy, arts, religion; that at the level of this discourse philosophy and religion can be also experimental (in addition to being reflective) disciplines in which we experiment with questions such as who or what are persons, what is being, mind, idea, thought…
I think that the examples I have given on “observation”, “being”, “becoming”, and their dynamics are good if tentative and specialized examples of the points I am making which include: adoption of the critical tradition without being completely restricted by it; supplement by imagination and hypothesis; broadening and founding by including all sources and areas of knowledge; going beyond this and seeing what may be real by experience and observation and cultivating and honing powers of observation and experience; one of the motives of this is to go beyond the idea of a perception as an instance and beyond the idea - in so far as may be possible - of the idea, the concept, the theory as a mere collection or pattern of instances. That is the examples are important not merely as examples, nor merely as instances of a theory or process but also as illustrations of the theory and real process of the dynamics of being and observation which can stand by itself.
[Criticism and hypothesis are commonplace. It is the “hypothetico-deductive” method of science, the falsifiability or testability of Karl Popper, the critical and speculative synthesis of A. N. Whitehead, and the variation and selection of Darwinian evolution.]
Examples are important in many ways. As illustrations, as ways to sharpen discovering, understanding and being in the general process.
The original examples. 1. The phases and issues of a life. 2. Interpersonal dynamics and its reflexive evolution. Self-observation and consciousness. 3. Dynamics of real choice and real action. Example: dynamics of loss. 4. Body awareness, learning to see and know and healing.
Additional examples. 5. The dynamics of this letter. 6. Dynamics of relationships…7. How body kinetics develop. 8. Perceptual dynamics in relation to reality. 9. Dynamics of creative acts and activity. 10. The elements of my life and… their integration. 11. Personality dynamics… 12. Omitted. 13. Being deep in interaction with others. 14. Integration of reality and perception dynamics in relation to yoga, shamanism, the ideas of Freud and Jung… 15. Dynamics of relationships… 16. Reality and perception dynamics as dynamic elements… 17. Immersion in new environments, worlds, cultures, nature … 18. The unconscious - conscious and universe - self processes… 19. Games and competition. 20. Nutrition, taste, rhythm, selection, vision and preparation of food. 21. Integration of the mental functions.
The examples above - of the dynamics of being, of perception and action, of the real, of limits - with some elaboration are as follows. 1. The phases and issues of a life: experience, learning and substance at various levels. This letter is an implicit illustration of this example. 2. Interpersonal dynamics and its reflexive evolution. Self-observation and consciousness. Evolution of reflexivity and agency. Cultivating awareness of consciousness, its contents, its varieties, its dynamics including relations to events in the “external world” and to other mental phenomena including the unconscious. 3. Dynamics of loss and death…relation to self-observation. This generalizes to: Dynamics of real choice and real action. 4. Body awareness, learning to see and know and healing. Implicit in this discussion are implications for what is called the medical model. The value of this model as a framework is acknowledged. However it ignores or tends to ignore individual ability to learn, individual values, real values, agency, agency and healing, and individual variations. Dynamics of healing...entry into the dynamics...dynamics of the autonomous system [This is more than just feedback. It also requires openness to phenomena, observation and cultivation of observation of phenomena and relationships between action and phenomena, observation of relationships by comparison of multiple instances, cultivation of this process...Also see discussion on the art and technique of observation, below]
Here are some further potential examples. There is a range from specific to general and among element s of the world. This permits induction to the universal. The present set of examples is a beginning to this end. The objective is to go beyond cataloging to structuring and selecting the examples to further universalization. Some effort to that end has been applied to generation of the examples that now follow.
5. The dynamics of this letter is an example. This refers primarily to content and understanding what I should say in order to communicate what I want to. The development of general understanding while writing is interesting. 6. Dynamics of relationships…especially my relationship with my parents. 7. How body kinetics develop. This starts at birth. I can observe the process in nature. 8. Perceptual dynamics in relation to reality and their development form an example. Example: for the Absolute eternity is an instant. 9. Research, art…other creative endeavors. Music - primal and cultured. Dynamic integration of art, emotion, action - individual and social. My development: pushing modern knowledge to its limits to find limits, and to find the absolute or non-absolute nature of those limits. 10. The elements of my life and relation to the universal…their integration. The modes of being: nature, society, psyche and the universal; the modes of process: action, dynamics, evolution; the modes of relationship: caring, force…
11. Personality dynamics…the crux of personality dynamics has to do with fixity and freedom in patterns of feeling and behavior with others - in social context. Thought is important too but is somewhat secondary to feeling in this context. Freedom can only be in relation to the potential. The following dimensions open up: (a) Approaches to presentation and energy: preparation with openness, interpretation - individualism vs. mutualism, anticipation and transformation to advantage, lack of anticipation and use of detachment, use of mood in general to advantage, flow. (b) Risk: what is it, opening to it, contact, accepting the unknown and unpredictable consequences. Opening to the other and to failure and success. (c) Catalysts: openness to change, diffusion, disintegration, plasticity of self. Personality as a concept. Sources of vision are important. Sources: presentation, acting, interpretation, attitude, caring, accepting moments, anger. (d) Dynamics: observation and understanding - the critical moment. Time stretching, consciousness amplification - silent inner whispers become voices. Observing object relations. Multiple voices. (e) The world as a personality laboratory.
13. Being deep in interaction with others - this allows but does not cultivate the negative. This is fundamental to freedom and development of dynamics in groups. Self-focus in relation to others. Motivation of self and others. 14. Integration of reality and perception dynamics in relation to yoga, shamanism, the ideas of Freud and Jung…15. Dynamics of relationships…16. Reality and perception dynamics as dynamic elements… Dynamics of limits and laws. 17. Immersion in new environments, worlds, cultures, nature … 18. The unconscious - conscious and universe - self processes… Dynamics of the entity...what is the entity I call myself? 19. Games and competition: response to momentum and pace, mind and no-mind, cobra and mongoose…in typing the fingers move faster than conscious awareness…so trying to be consciously in control slows the process…but what happens when, in the no-mind state, mistakes occur?…the situation is then brought by a scanning process - elaborate - into consciousness which begins to examine or search for the source of error and correct at the source while comparing the result with the desired result…consciousness is associated with “re-programming” - this use is metaphorical - that is, with adaptability…and the mind no-mind process can be ongoing and interactive… Physical arts. 20. Nutrition, taste, rhythm, selection and vision in preparation of food.
…21. Integration of the mental functions - and dynamics of the individual functions and their perception. As an example consider anger. Anger may result from perception, irritation, inference, valuation, reflex, overload…thus while it is functional in principle it can be inappropriate - counter-adaptive - and benefit from revaluation. Are the primary processes accurate, is the expression of anger working and registering, what is mode and way in which anger is being expressed, is it dominating one's expressive and emotional life. Due to the interactions and the processing anger has been called a secondary emotion but to a degree all mental function is interactive for it is the whole of the organism that functions in the whole of the environment. The primary processes - those resulting in the emotion of anger may be unobserved by the individual. Bring anger back into dynamics so that it is integrated and functional require observation, analysis and desensitization. Thus the process of dynamism requires the entire range of mental function. As a result fixed patterns and responses become flexible, moments become minutes, massive inertia becomes fluid…and so adaptable and adaptive. Experience and experiment, hard and soft, goal and flow, the Zen formula of mind and no-mind, conscious and unconscious, central and autonomic nervous system...
The nature of these examples notwithstanding, the techniques of vision - still in development and learning - result in seeing quiet voices, whispers, and so to aspects of the nature of consciousness and ultimately to mind and consciousness as a direct window to Being and the universe.
The processes and principles described are not “other” than modern science, philosophy, and the processes of modern institutions and in fact include these developments. However, the formal developments of the modern disciplines tend to suppress the existence of techniques of vision and to ignore the passive ® active/dynamic transformation while emphasizing instead the human role as one of the isolated spectator. There are some good reasons for this and some of the power of modernism derives from this but there is a price to pay in terms of alienation. This alienation should not be necessary if we regard modernism as a part rather than the whole of the process… The process I have been describing - very tentatively at this point - is akin to poetry, mythology, mystic vision but provides an explicit, conscious rather than implicit-unconscious description and in so doing also includes and bridges over to science, philosophy and so on. This shows the identities of intuition and reason, of mystic vision and apperception…and science. These identities become clear and manifest when we are aware and enter all dimensions and levels of processing. Thus and therefore these techniques provide a unification of all disciplines - modes of knowing and being - including sciences, philosophy, humanities, religion…
I wish to emphasize the tentative nature of these conclusions - I am well aware of the possible excesses of initial enthusiasm. And perhaps the idea of unification of all disciplines should be replaced by reunification, since there was a time of wholeness before the specialization and specialism of the twentieth century and perhaps before the advent of Western civilization.
It may be the reunification will be - since explicit - more powerful than the original unity. It will be more powerful in that it will be inclusive, understood, and therefore an element in process…that is, it will be applicable in addition to being a fact.
But where is the substance, what puts me in a position to say all this?
Although I do have intelligence, I do not think that is the essential element. It is also beside the present point to get into the question of what intelligence might mean. More to the point is to list some traits. What I see as important are: flexibility, tenacity, appetite and perceptivity. Appetite is appetite for experience. Tenacity is motivated by appetite but is not the mere single-minded tenacity that is like the jaws of the bulldog. Flexibility combines with tenacity in an ability to relinquish a line of approach that is not going anywhere, take up another approach but being still open to other approaches including those earlier relinquished. Perceptivity includes curiosity and the willingness to see, to be open, to not make up one's mind for all time; perceptivity includes the willingness to say “I don't know” so that the state of not-knowing remains open to transformation; it does not mean no backbone - not having positions; but it does mean not having a rigid backbone - being open to new positions.
The result of all this is two fold. First, much and varied experience. But because of the other factors, the experience is not merely random and not merely a collection of unrelated experiences but includes elements of direction and purpose. Therefore, there is unity of experience. Second, as a result of perceptivity and flexible tenacity is the organization of the array of experience into patterns, into concepts, into unities. The experiences exemplify and are generalized by the concepts and unities; the concepts give meaning to and relate to one another the experiences.
The resulting system includes the following:
Experience in engineering, mathematics, science, and humanities… Dreams and metaphysics… Outdoor living: the mountains - cumulatively over a year…The Tarahumar. Running a small business - the Indian cooking of a few years ago. Twenty years in India and twenty-six years in America…Delaware, upstate New York, Texas, California. Mexico, England…Relationships. Marriages. Having a child. Roommates. Travel - Canada, UK, India, and US, MEXICO. Teaching an unusual variety of courses over a period of ten years. Six years of work outside the “ivory tower” - natural intelligence… Some consulting… Research. Mental health work. Short period (8 months) of work in a convalescent hospital. Four years of weekly meetings (1978-1982) in Austin, Texas devoted to talks and discussions in topics from psychology and related areas. The important aspects of this experience were (1) its breadth, (2) the depth of what I learned, even though there was a lack of depth and rigor to what was taught. Four years of my life (1985-1989) living outside of the usual institutional and career path and being or becoming independent of this path…and production of the Evolution and Design Project.
Contents, interrelations, nature, origins - known and possible, history, and processes of: the universe and its phases (matter - life = nature, society, mind, being) and systems of knowledge of the same. Of course the universe includes knowledge. And traditional knowledge includes sciences, humanities, mathematics, philosophy, technology, history, religion.
I have made a study of all these elements. I have learned, analyzed, understood, modified, synthesized, created and written.
Evolution & Design - which you have - was the “tip of the iceberg” as of 1987. It was the tip in two senses: i) as the pinnacle of the rest of the work and ii) as a small part of the total system described in Evolution and Design - Outline of the Main Work and Supplements which you have and in Background to Evolution and Design. The work has continued since that time - I have described this, too, in this letter.
I do not know, personally, another individual with this variety of experience: breadth and depth.
Some persons may see these developments as a limitation. I do not. There is a classical concept in education and career of an individual with a broad base in a discipline which supports and is given significance by a specialty area. I have developed breadth in a number of disciplines and in the system of disciplines as a whole; and expertise in a number of areas. This results in an unusual perspective on the modern tradition of knowledge: one that is broad, deep and dynamic. But I have gone beyond this in search of all modes of knowing, known and being (as explained in some detail in this letter).
I am attempting to give a comprehensive description of my experiences. Of course the individual elements are not even in their development and there are limits. I am willing to talk about these limits, to have a give and take conversation and learn, but I do not accept that anyone else (or myself for that matter) can once and for all time define or dictate these limits and the nature of them - just as I do not think that I can define the limits of others.
One thing that is perhaps a limit regards the use of psychotropic “mind altering” chemicals or drugs. More precisely, I should emphasize the use of substances that are foreign to my body. The word “foreign”, too, should be used with some care because most psychotropic drugs are so because they have similarities to or affinities with chemicals or other entities that are found naturally in the brain. I have not used or introduced “foreign” substances to enhance my experience, knowledge or being as I have described. Well, that is not accurate - I do drink and enjoy coffee and coffee is a stimulant. But I have not “done” the chemicals or plants such as amphetamines, LSD, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, PCP, psylocybin, peyote, mushrooms etc. etc. as part of my experience, learning or growth, or to enhance the same. In other words, my learning process (indirect from schools, universities, books) and direct (from being and existence) has not been dependent on the uses of psychotropic drugs - illicit or accepted. It is not that I am against these substances or their use. Of course they can have harmful effects. We see this every day at Mental Health. Even single uses - it is reported - can be harmful. I do not wish to “fry” my brains. But the real reason is as follows. It is not that I think that drug-induced experience is useless or epistemically illicit. But I suspect it is inferior and incomplete. Consider the kinds of process I have been describing: observation and amplification of mental (including feeling) processes. I have learned about this without recourse to drugs. The important points are: since the learning is experimental, it is true learning: one learns control, the active principle, the dynamics of the process. And one goes beyond each layer to further layers and each experience to systems of experiences. Thus I think it is more complete than the psychotropic experience - since it is based in who I am. Nonetheless I have not used psychotropic drugs to this end and I admit that this might be a limitation.
An important point is that the processes and principles I am discussing - observation, entering into the dynamics of reality, into being - are directly accessible being neither esoteric (explicit, conscious description is possible) nor externally induced - they are under the control of the individual, not due to drugs or other discontinuous shifts (not discussed here) such as hypnosis, dreams, schizophrenia, stress…
But this is not to deny the uses - either therapeutic, or transformational, or epistemic - of hypnosis, dreams, schizophrenia, stress…
The processes described above are a form of experimental and experiential study and need to be and are balanced by ideas, theoretical investigation and study. Even without active study, one is dependent on what has been done before whether formally or in the natural development of language and ideas as reflected in the use of concepts such as mind, awareness, consciousness and the unconscious.
This detour on “my development and self-knowledge” is in addition to sharing myself and life with you, also sharing of part of the process and development towards the next version of Evolution & Design.
I do intend, of course, that the process I have been describing will yield a product or products. There is to date much produced with what I think to be useful ideas… but that was written in a learning and discovery mode without an explicit intent to publish. The whole process is my process of “fundamental development”; the part of that process devoted to the product is the “Evolution and Design Program” and the product on which work has begun is Evolution, Design and The Absolute (a possible title) and related work which I intend for publication. There may be recognition of various types, and I would appreciate that. However, the opportunity to be and have been alive, awake and to be engaged in something deep and connected, to have used and developed my abilities, is the primary reward. It is the process, at times slow, which is the primary and enduring “satisfaction”. And this is the way it must be, for to focus on the product or on recognition for their own sakes would be to the detriment of the process, of the inner compass called “truth” and finally to the detriment of the product itself… and would yield recognition as empty. Also as noted in an earlier letter to Robin and Susan (copy enclosed), this goal is also something of a dedication, a sacrifice, a means to an end.
I hope you can see, at this point, why, from my point of view, “pain” regarding my life and situation is unnecessary, not to the point, and is based on assumptions about my situation which are mistaken even if natural - in some ways - in your circumstance. I can see why you would feel some disappointment due to (i) what you have regarded as important in your life, and (ii) your hopes and ambitions for me. This is natural enough and I can understand why recognition and position might be especially important to parents. Of course, I wish you would not feel any disappointment and would see why it is unnecessary and in an essential way misplaced. In fact I wish the opposite. I wish for you to feel happiness even to the point of singing and dancing… but, I must add: while I can understand disappointment, I think that pain is unnecessary because (a) it is not good or necessary for you, (b) it is not based in my feelings or perceptions or the essential reality of my life, or of the world.
I also hope you understand my reaction: that I see these mistaken perceptions pervading almost every discussion with you of my life; that your holding such perceptions is not a positive or necessary or useful experience for me (except that it prompts me to think, rethink, affirm and reaffirm my attitudes toward my life); that such perceptions constitute a negative statement about the process of my life; that for me it is not through submission or fatalism nor is it by courage that I endure or weather my fate - although fatalism and courage have their places in human experience - but it is through perception of what is good and true that I see my life, past-present-future, as potent, wonderful and positive - and real and that reality is never intrinsically negative, although it can be seen that way; that I see and feel my life as being lived rather than weathered; that each day is an act of aware, renewed choice - based in the sum of my experience and learning integrated as knowledge - from among a hierarchic system - also based in this knowledge - of alternatives; that these alternatives include goals, ambitions and also being in full relationship with the world; that occasional courage and refocusing are necessary but that generally these attitudes are a simple, almost habitual, act of understanding and truth which includes, also, the acts of focusing, refocusing and courage to a significant but not absolute degree; that the gap between “significance” and “absolute” is one place where I am open to the unknown, the unpredictable - it is a point where dissolution may occur, it is the “Achilles' heel” but at the same time it is positive, for unless one is open to failure one cannot be open to success… it is an element of real contact with what is real; that I request but do not demand that you attempt to change your perceptions - that you attempt to see my life as I believe it is correct to do; that you appreciate what I have been doing and attempting to do (especially for the past 10 years) and that I intend to continue to do and to attempt to do; and that I request that your focus change from pain to appreciation and satisfaction and from the supposed lacks to positive words of encouragement; and, finally, that nothing I have said means or is intended to mean that other ways of working out hopes, ambitions, contribution, reward (such as yours) are “wrong” or unnecessary.
Of course I do not want such changes unless they are truly meant and felt. Since we believe in truth, honest “pain” is better than simulation of something else. But I do believe my requests and explanations are based in what is true, good and real and I do believe that I have given you what is from my point of view a complete explanation relative to my requests. And since you report feeling “pain” and I find inaccurate perception of me at the root of the pain, I think the provision of sufficient open and true explanation to be important.
At this point I have, I believe, given full and adequate explanation - in this letter and previously - of the nature of my life and conduct, my choices, reasons. I do not know whether this will be helpful in giving you a positive outlook on my life, but further explanation would be repetition. I will of course answer any questions…
I should add that the expression by others of their perceptions of me, especially when in conflict with my own perceptions of myself, are often very useful even when my immediate reaction to the external perceptions is negative - emotionally or rationally. The value lies in the “challenge” to my own comfortable self-perceptions and in the resulting revaluation and affirmation of my perceptions and beliefs.
Now I take up my mother's statement “… This stupidity of actions has affected the people I love most… “ It is true that we affect other people, especially those to whom we are close, profoundly. But even in disagreement, it has been my belief that you have had my best interests as your essential focus. However, past issues are not something that I dwell on except as they surface in or relate to the present. But even so, my focus is not on what is right or wrong but on what is true and on being understood… and disagreeing, taking issue, even getting angry are - if we agree that an opposite of love is indifference - signs of the presence of love rather than the lack of it.
As you know, I have applied for U.S. citizenship. My interview will be coming up in the near future. It is not certain that my application will be successful.
I am pleased that you have received and enjoyed the recording of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The title of the CD from which your tape was recorded is “Qawwal”. I have also enjoyed listening to it - in fact it is playing as I write this sentence… I have an old three LP set “An Anthology of Indian Music” Volume I, bought in 1974. I have not found the second or subsequent volumes - do not know if they exist. The anthology begins with ragas by Ravi Shankar and by Ali Akbar Khan. There follows some classical music from Southern India, an excellent flute recording by Ramani, and then a number of tabla performances. The conclusion is “a history and appreciation of Indian music with appropriate musical examples” selected and narrated by Ravi Shankar. The examples include the origins of devotional music and the theme of the identity of music and the essence of being. Among the final selections, if my recollection is correct, is some folk music… If I am able to make a recording - I do not have an LP to cassette dubbing system - I will send you a copy.
Please share “Qawwal” and any recordings I may send to you in the future with Robin and Susan.
I mentioned Dead Man Walking in the earlier letter to Robin and Susan - which I found to be excellent. One of the artists providing the musical themes was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I have a new set of recordings by him, also on tape, called “Night Song”. Its character is different from that of “Qawwal” - more controlled - but also excellent.
I am finding the following comments hard to resist. Your letter commented on the tape I sent you: “…As he sang on it was more & more wonderful”. You then mentioned “a wild and stormy night in the 60s” when Ravi Shankar “played and played giving me a similar buzz” from 3 AM through dawn, “under the wonderful dawn sky so typical of our scene in Hijli”, and when he finished at 7 AM “…gone were the… dark rings under his eyes and he was a young man again.”
This and similar experiences have been called peak experiences and religious or revelatory experiences, terms which I dislike because they suggest to me something isolated, fragmented, occasional, merely esoteric. The word experience is limited because it is frequently used to focus - in a somewhat incorrect usage - only on the individual and not on the relationship of the individual to the world. Its common use does not focus on the transformational and relational (to all being) aspects but, rather, is thought of as an entertainment. In a similar manner, and for reasons - including political and economic reasons - which are not difficult to identify, modern English usage is systematically degraded to focus only on the immediate, the practical, the individual, the world of “10,000 things”, the material, the secular, so that the world seems tired, absurd, jaded.
Of course one cannot be on the peak all the time. One must sleep, one must take care of the mundane. But I think that a whole life can be infused with the spirit and the principle of the experience. There may be times of heightened awareness, perceptivity, receptivity, and creativity and, in addition, the whole life may be affected by this principle - the silent, but felt, “poetry and music of the soul”. Affected to the core - not just embroidered.
The gray cloud is beautiful because it is beautiful and not just because it has a silver lining.
I think the essence is wholeness: the whole life of the whole of the person is connected to the whole of Being, of the universe. But the experience of a fragment of this is also good.
Here is a somewhat personal catalog of experiences or occasions infused with and heightened by the “principle of poetry”: actual music and poetry, being in the presence of revelatory art, being in a cathedral, cups of coffee, doing an examination and diddling around for one and a half hours but completing five questions in 30 minutes, overcoming and transforming adversity, sitting up all night thinking - studying - conceiving - writing at home, library, or in a tent - perhaps during a storm - in the mountains, being in the mountains: hiking, understanding animals, experience of dawn, reflection and meditation while under the stars at night, understanding someone else, understanding myself, understanding the world-universe-being, certain transformational interactions with mental health patients, being present and perhaps assisting an elderly patient in a nursing home while he faces and accepts the fact that he is dying, being aware of the extent to which I have created myself and of the malleability - toward positive ends, knowledge, understanding and being - of persons including my person, understanding - in some ways - what it means and signifies that I will die…
In fact, seeing, understanding, knowing myself-in-relationship-with-the-world, that is with the universe, with Being, with “the wonderful dawn sky”, is the primal poem or experience which generates and is exemplified by the experiences above.
This account is omitted here due to its sensitivity. Go to A Life.
Looking back over this letter I think: this is something that could have been valuable to write when I was young - say twenty years ago. But twenty years ago I did not have the awareness to have written this letter. Today I am no longer young in that I have a firmer idea of who I am, of what I want to do with my life, and that I know that my life is finite. Yet I am still young in that I am flexible and adaptable; in that I can and do enjoy the moment-to-moment and the day-to-day; and in that, even though my life appears to me to have finitude, I can look outward - and inward - and know and say that there is so much that I can still do, know and be.
I, too, like my father, miss India and certain things about it - the people, the land and the history, the friendship. The intimate contact with life and its realities - and with nature which pervades the life of the people, music… I am reminded of this while listening to the music.
Love and respect,