Epistemology: Theory of Knowledge
The world is a hodgepodge of random phenomena which man endeavors to manage in such a way as to alter or negate those which threaten his existence and to replicate those others which enhance his existence. Knowledge is thought which illumines the course of this endeavor, and mythopoeia founds such a mode of thought. Mythopoeia is the creation of a myth. By myth, I do not mean the popular reference to a false or otherwise specious notion of cause. Rather, I mean myth as a fictive being – be it a god or a force of nature – whose exertions appear to account for a whole set of seemingly random and dissimilar phenomena.
For instance, consider the predicament of a fisherman who is making his way up the coastline toward his home port when he encounters a terrific storm. Unable to continue, he enters a bay and comes upon a small island where he docks his boat. Even better, he discovers an unoccupied vacation house upon the island and he takes refuge in it from the storm. Then, he begins to hear and see strange occurrences within the house.
During the night, he hears footsteps and voices and he sees shadows moving about as well. But when he investigates, he finds no one else in the house. In the morning, he finds water faucets turned on and running. In the afternoon, he finds the kitchen table set for lunch, and, in the evening, he finds a fire burning in the living room fireplace. All of these occurrences cause him great anxiety because -he doesn’t understand them. More to the point, with so much happening around him and upon him, he feels the need to act-so that he may manage and thereby control what is happening, but he is utterly powerless to do so. Finally, he makes a great leap of faith which drastically changes his predicament: he posits a ghost.
By supposing the existence of a ghost, he makes all of the strange occurrences explicable as effects of the ghost’s will. With that, he understands the cause — or origin — of the phenomena that he observes, which is the first step in the process of taking control. Next, he endeavors to divine the nature of the ghost. If the ghost is evil, then he may take it’s intent as something which will cause him harm, sooner or later. On the other hand, if the ghost is good, then he may take it’s intent as something which will not necessarily cause him harm and may prove to be merely a nuisance. With that divination, he makes an attempt to predict the strange occurrences before they actually happen, which is the second step in the process of taking control. Finally, he attempts to communicate with the ghost for the express purpose of influencing its will in such a way as to replicate those occurrences which are advantageous to him and to prevent those others which are disadvantageous to him. The attempt to influence the will which causes the phenomena is the third step in taking control of those phenomena. In such a way, the wayward fisherman succeeds in taking control of his unfamiliar and unpredictable environment. And it is important for the reader to understand that the whole process is contingent upon the fundamental supposition of the ghost’s existence. None of the three steps of taking control would be possible without the fisherman’s belief in the ghost.
If we could photograph in slow motion the mental processes which play out following the perception of movement, we would see the observer use the details of his perception to create a fictive vision of being to which he then predicates the movement he has observed thereby making his vision the cause of the phenomena. The myth, which in this case is the ghost, yields knowledge of otherwise inexplicable phenomena insofar as it enables the observer to predict, alter, or replicate the phenomena through management of the ghost.
Ancient knowledge was founded upon the mythos divinum, which is to say that all phenomena seemed accountable and thereby explicable as effects of a god’s exertions. A man would look up into the sky, observe the clouds rolling by, and wonder, quite naturally, how and why they moved. Though he would attribute the movement of the clouds to the wind, he would attribute the wind itself to a god. Thus, in times of need, rain became interpretable as a gesture of that god’s good will, and destructive storms became interpretable as a gesture of his ill will. The attribution of random phenomena to a single cause interwove those phenomena into a single cohesive fabric which then constituted a field of knowledge. One god ruled over the realm of meteorological phenomena, another over geological, a third over cosmic phenomena, and so on. If a person desired to study a field of knowledge, it was necessary first to learn the nature of the god who ruled over the realm because divination of the god’s nature would yield predictability of the phenomena he effected. Manageability of phenomena was restricted to the mere conveyance of personal wishes and pleas through prayer.
The value of myth lies not with its proof but with its interpretive capacities. No myth can be proofed, which is to say that no one can prove or disprove the existence of a fictive being since it exists only within the mind. However, a myth can be shattered through contradiction, and it can be affirmed through substantiation. The mythos divinum, by which ancient man postulated a cogent deity as the cause of all phenomena, collapsed not because someone disproved the existence of deities but because additional phenomena became perceptible (as with the advent of scientific instrumentation) whose manifestation could not be explained by the mode of thought that derived from the mythos divinum. When a myth can no longer interpret a realm of phenomena for which it was created, it dies and becomes what is commonly called myth today: a false and foolish notion of cause. In its place, a new and more interpretive myth arises and becomes what is commonly called truth.
In modern times, the mythos vim has replaced the mythos divinum so that all realms of phenomena are “caused” by forces. Instead of struggling to understand the world’s movements in terms relative to the will of a cogent deity, modern man has surmised that the world possesses a will of its own, or rather, a multitude of wills. There are organic forces, geological forces, electrical forces, atomic forces, and so on. And just as ancient man endeavored to divine the nature of a particular god so that he could better comprehend the phenomena caused by that god, modern man endeavors to divine the nature of the world’s many forces so that he can better comprehend the many realms of phenomena that are caused by those forces. Prediction of phenomena has replaced the art of divination with the laws of nature, and management of phenomena has become the science of quantifiable and calculable measurements.
Whether man seeks to understand the world in terms relative to a cogent deity or a force, it is important to understand that knowledge derives from the instinctual postulation of a mythical being as the cause of phenomena and that, without myth, prediction and management of phenomena is not possible. In short, without myth, man cannot interpret the world, and interpretation is essential. .
Ontology: Theory of Human Being
If we accept the hypothesis that the physical world is a chaotic maelstrom of phenomena which is made intelligible by myth, then we can illumine the nature of man. Within the inner world of man, there are only two realms: the physical realm of sensation and the fictive realm of ideation. Let us also surmise that sensation is primordial and that idea is evolved. Let us then go back in time before the existence of mind and illumine the nature of the animal “man.”
Without mind, sensation is exigent. It wells up with a physical and brute force which compels the body to its own immediate and simplistic ends. The animal is unable to resist sensation so that it acts upon him as its object. Like a leaf blowing in the wind, the animal is driven randomly by a multitude of physical drives, instincts, urges, cravings, and impulses. Insofar as the animal cannot resist his physical compulsions, he is of the same lot and nature as sensation. In other words, he is merely a wave within the sea whose existence is short–lived and wholly indistinguishable from any other wave.
Sensation constitutes physical phenomena, the only phenomena there is, and, when man senses it, he instinctually does the same thing which he does when he perceives phenomena in the outer world. He postulates a mythical being as its cause, and that myth then constitutes a mode of thought by which man comprehends and manages the phenomenon of sensation. The myth with which man endeavors to understand and manage the inner world is called Self.
The mythopoeia of Self individuates man from the sensate realm so that he is no longer like a wave within the sea but rather like an entity floating atop the sea, wholly distinguishable from it, yet battered about by the force of this wave and that. Let us try to understand individuation by analogy. If we were to seek an astronomical analog of individuation it would be the precipitation of a star from primordial cosmic gas. The star would be an individuated entity within a universe of amorphous dust by virtue of the indigenous exertions that hold it together as well as the unique movements that chart an individual course which is independent of the chaos in which it is immersed. The sensate realm is analogous to the chaotic and primordial dust, but it exists within the inner cosmos. Within the human animal, there exists no individuated entity whose exertions define itself and chart an individual course which is independent of the course of behavior dictated by the force of physical drives. Within man, however, though sensation still acts upon him with a brute force, he is empowered with the perspective of Self through which he can render his sensations intelligible as well as resist them.
Theory of Individuated Human Being
As stated earlier, the inner world of man is comprised of two realms: the physical realm of sensation and the fictive realm of ideation. Sensation is primordial, but ideation is evolved. Myth lies between the two as assimilator of sensation and progenitor of ideation. In order to understand the nature of mind, we must delineate the evolution of idea from sensation and show how that evolutionary process is constituted and fueled by myth.
The mythopoeia of Self imparts an edification of being amidst the chaotic flux of sensation, and, more than anything else, man strives to preserve this sense of being. However, it is within the nature of myth that it desires to become ever more interpretive. Thus, man instinctually wants to see his Self within every sensation, and, by doing so, he extends the limits of his individuated being, the limits to which the mind can look upon the sensate realm and comprehend and manage it. The dominion of intelligible being over brute sensation requires that sensation be attributed to Self. The attribution of sensation to Self then makes sensation an explicable phenomena, an emotion, a dimension of Self. The luminescence which results from this attribution is what we call consciousness. Through consciousness, sensation is brought into being and man becomes mindful of his feelings. But he also becomes animated and driven by those sensations, and, in some instances, he can become imperiled by them.
The conscious assimilation of sensation into being poses two problems. Since the sensate realm lacks intelligence, sensations are inherently contradictory. As the Self becomes animated and driven by sensations, man becomes mired in their contradictions, such as love and jealousy, so that his well being is threatened and the whole assimilative process is halted. Idea illumines the path by which man reconciles the contradictions and resumes the interpretation of himself in much the same way that idea illumines the path by which the scientist reconciles the contradictions that invalidate his theories about physical phenomena and allows his work to procede. Thus, the ideated realm increases in scope as man wrestles with his emotions and overcomes the imbroglios that inhere in them. In another way, the more powerful sensations, such as lust, can override the sense of Self by virtue of their physical force and drive the individual to action which he would not otherwise take. Thus, while being is defined and enlivened through the assimilation of sensation, it can also be destroyed. The preservation of well being, of the good conscience, provides the criteria for check and balance in the assimilative process. This careful observance of the limits of individuation is what we call conscience and reason.
Theory of Human Will
It is incorrect to think that will is a single force fired by a single thought or idea. It is not a ruthless determination or a blind resolve, nor is it in any way a knife with which to cut into the soul so as to dictate goals haphazardly. The will is an ensemble force of growth, and it is comprised of all the many interpretive processes by which man comprehends and acts upon himself. If we were to compare man to a tree, his will would appear as the force by which the tree grows. As we know, the growth of a tree is contingent upon many processes: the penetration of roots, the absorption of minerals and water through the roots, the assimilation of sunlight through the leaves, the ascension of trunk and the reach of limbs, and the hardening of the bark. No one process occurs without the proficiency of all the others, and neither does only one process constitute growth. But together they constitute an ensemble force which is the growth of the tree itself. It is the same with man.
Will is the whole process of interpretation which is founded by the mythopoeia of Self. It is the explicatory attribution of sensation to Self, the conscious assimilation of sensation into being, the check of destructive sensations, the preservation of conscience, and the genesis of ideas by which man resolves the dilemmas in which he becomes mired. In short, will is the assimilation, interpretation, and management of the sensate realm. Most importantly, will is mythotropic: it is action which preserves, delineates and edifies the idea and sense of Self amidst the chaos and perils of the inner world. Through will, man extends the limits of his individuation, the limits to which the mind can look upon the contradiction inherent in the minatory juxtaposition of his being and the flux of sensation and then divine its reconciliation.
Theory of Sub-Individuated Human Being
Death manifests itself within the soul as a disintegration of the mind. The devolution begins when the conscience goes bad which in turn causes a devaluation of Self and a collapse of myth. Without the mythical Self, there is neither a perspective for interpretation nor a criteria for evaluative management so that the will becomes enfeebled and emotion becomes unmanageable.
We have already seen that an otherwise static idea of Self becomes animated and driven by sensation through conscious assimilation of the sensation. In some instances, very powerful sensations, such as lust or cruelty, come into being and override the otherwise omnipresent and dominant sense of Self. In the absence of Self, the willful check of titanic sensation is suspended and the sensation drives the individual without due regard for consequence. In such instances, man takes action which he would not otherwise be capable of carrying out. Afterwards, he ponders the horror of his action and cannot reconcile his conscience with it. Depending upon the extent of the inequity, his bad conscience may yield enormous pain. In the worst instances, he may begin to loathe his Self.
Unable to bear the worst pain, suffering man dismembers himself. Dismemberment is tantamount to what happens when a person can no longer bear physical pain and passes out. Through dismemberment, man reins in the limits to which he can look upon the sensate realm and assimilate it, thereby creating the vaulted subconscious realm. Suffering man buries his pain and his bad conscience within the subconscious realm, but, in doing so, he also buries his sense of whole Self.
Dismemberment palliates suffering man’s pain by making him insensate, but the impercipience causes profound problems. We have already seen how the perception of phenomena leads to mythopoeia, how man postulates Self when he perceives sensation, and how he extends the limits of his individuated being through interpretation and management of sensation. The scope and depth of individual personality is determined by the success of this interpretive process. When man must turn his back on that corner of the sensate realm in which his Self writhes in pain, he relinquishes the perspective afforded by Self. Unable to resume existence without the perspective of being, a new idea of being arises from within the limited scope and depth of his consciousness. Thus, the collapse of the highly interpretive Self gives rise to the Ego, a significantly less interpretive idea of being. And, if the bad conscience and its associated pain wells up again, man undergoes the whole process of disintegration again, reining in even further the limits of his consciousness and reconstituting his idea and sense of being within those new limits. In the end, the scope and depth of his mythical being may have become so diminished that a vast expanse of the sensate realm is left unchecked and un?managed and the ideated realm (the mind) is reduced to the head of a pin.
The Ego is a significantly less effective myth due to the fact that the will becomes enfeebled by it. Will is the entire interpretive and managerial process that is founded by myth. Myth is born from the perception of phenomena and serves to explain it in such a way that it can be effectively managed. It imparts a sense of being (the conscience) which man endeavors to preserve amidst the onslaught of torrential sensations, and, insofar as myth wants to become ever more interpretive, it drives man to assimilate more sensation into being. In the course of this assimilative interpretation of the sensate realm, man becomes mired in the dilemmas that inhere in contradictory sensations, and he resolves those dilemmas with idea, thereby extending the domain of being and the limits of mind. But the Ego is a myth founded upon a very limited perception of the sensate realm. Insofar as its existence is threatened by that corner of the sensate realm which now comprises the subconscious, it lacks the quintessential desire to become more interpretive of the sensate realm, and the ideated realm reflects an equal diminution. In short, the Ego is a stopgap which stupefies man. It prevents his continued disintegration, but it cannot serve to effectively manage sensation.
The Spectrum of Humanity
The nature of individual man is contingent upon the integrity of myth within the individual. Where the highest idea of Self reigns, man remains individuated from the sensate realm, and his behavior appears wholesome, moderate, and reasonable. He sees his Self in every action, and he never exceeds the limits which define his abilities. Self–control shows itself in all his actions. At the other end of the spectrum, where myth has collapsed, man becomes subindividuated. Without myth, man lacks both a sense and an idea of being. Without an idea of being, he lacks the perspective through which the sensate realm is made intelligible as a dimension of Self so that he does not comprehend himself. And without a sense of being, which he would normally strive to preserve, man lacks a criteria with which to evaluate his feelings and fails to act upon himself, so that his inner world becomes unmanageable. Subindividuated man is a hybrid of man and animal, which the ancient Greeks personified in the caricature of a satyr.
There is a third nature of humanity, and that is the nature of supra-individuated man, which we know commonly as genius. Before we can illumine the evolution of this third nature of man, we must delineate a theory of value and a theory of life, because just as subindividuation results from death, supra-individuation results from renewed life.
Axiology: Theory of Value
The determination of value requires a question of purpose. At the outset, I said that man is born into a chaos of worldly phenomena which he then endeavors to manage in such a way as to repel those phenomena which threaten his existence and to utilize the others which enhance his existence. Within the inner world, the phenomenon which man endeavors to manage is sensation.
We have already illumined the willfulness by which individuated man endeavors to manage himself. More than anything else, he values his idea of Self, and insofar as his Self is defined by his feelings, he also values sensation. He exerts himself to comprehend his feelings, and, when he becomes mired in conflict, he struggles with his conscience to illumine a realistic and effective path out of the dilemma. His values are wholesome and natural, and they constitute his will.
On the other hand, subindividuated man lacks the will with which to manage himself, not because he doesn’t want to manage himself effectively but because he lacks the perspective of myth through which the will is derived. He does not value Self because his Self suffers and he cannot look upon his suffering. Instead, subindividuated man exerts himself to flee his suffering. He flees from his Self and from the reality of his feelings. His values are unwholesome and unnatural, and they assist his escape.
Theory of Life
In the simplest terms, life is a reversal of the disintegration of mind which begins when the conscience goes bad and ends in subindividuation. It is a process of increasingly willful growth that culminates in a full reclamation of the highest sense of Self and a second encounter with the primordial dilemma which caused the initial collapse of myth. If the dilemma is overcome, the victory results in mythopoeia: the creation of a new and ever more comprehensive myth whose limits exceed the limits of individuation. The extension of individuation beyond the limits that are defined by the bad conscience results in a supra-individuated nature which is commonly known as genius. If the dilemma is not overcome, however, the disintegration begins anew.
Life requires a devaluation of the values by which subindividuated man maintains his impoverished existence. It is constituted by a desire for Self, and it is sustained by a protracted hope that the highest sense of Self can be reclaimed from the chaos into which its fragmentation has led. With this fundamental desire for Self, man begins to seek out his Self and delineates mere fragments here and there. Those fragments yield a willfulness, and that willfulness drives him to an eager assimilation of the most difficult and painful emotions because those sensations define his Self, and he desires and hopes to actualize his Self. In the end, the proselyte becomes transported within himself to those inner circumstances of conscience and conflict which initiated his disintegration, wherein he beholds his Self intact though distraught. With recurrent effort, suffering man overcomes his suffering and begins a new and enlightened existence.
Theory of Tragedy
Tragedy plays a pivotal and catalytic role in this process of growth. You will recall that the formation of Ego halted the disintegration of mind but precluded a reversal of the disintegration because its existence was dependent upon dismemberment. Dismemberment gives rise to the subconscious realm into which suffering man buries his torment. Though his torment does not end, he becomes insensate to it and resumes his existence. Insofar as his higher Self is defined by the emotions which torment him, dismembered man loses sight of his Self and myth collapses. Upon the ruins of this collapse, a new idea of Self is postulated from what remains of the sensate realm that can be assimilated. This second and impoverished myth is the Ego, and its continued existence is dependent upon dismemberment. The torment which lies within the subconscious must not see the light of day; otherwise the disintegration will resume and continue until such point that it can be buried again with even more narrow and shallow limits of consciousness. Thus, the formation of the Ego gives rise to a new perspective and a new will. Insofar as man instinctually strives to preserve his sense of being, he willfully maintains the chasm that separates the conscious and subconscious realms. This unnatural willfulness is a critical problem in the life process. If subindividuated man is to reclaim his highest Self, he must look upon that which causes his torment and he must overcome it.
Tragedy manifests itself within the soul as a convergence of the conscious and subconscious realms. It is tragic because it causes the collapse of the Ego. But the Ego collapses not because feelings come into consciousness which shatter the Ego, but because those feelings which define the higher and more interpretive Self come into consciousness, and the impoverished Ego gives way to the wakening reality. The tragic collapse of the Ego is a frightening experience because one literally feels the ground of being give way, but, in the wake of the collapse, one also beholds a more whole and interpretive Self. Tragedy, as I have just described it, cures dismemberment and nullifies the willfulness by which man is driven away from his Self and his suffering. Once that suffering becomes perceptible again, man experiences a new resolve and a heightened hope for reclamation, and, in this way, tragedy is redemptory because it catalyzes an otherwise dying mythotropic will.