Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The states of consciousness

Consciousness has differences in intensity. There are different levels of awareness and conscience. We can be very activated and concerned at certain times and in certain situations, and little in others. There are obvious differences between sleep and relaxation states, on the one hand, and states of emergency and activation on the other. Consciousness reaches more lively in times of crisis, when we hesitate between two or more decisions we know they are important, where we understand that much is at stake, which can be decisive for our adjustment, even for our survival, when we choose something really new, unforeseen, and anticipate possibilities that we had not thought of. The more we create or decide the future, the stronger consciousness and the greater intelligence we mobilize.
Moreover, low activation states of consciousness that are dreams, according to Bergson, appear when memory and sensations converge. They obey to something we remember but that is just a feeling, that is 'empty' by a manner of speaking, that does not have a concrete and real reference in the world, and there isn't therefore an urgent situation nor even the need for a more or less adequate response.
"The remembrance is sharp and accurate, but lifeless inside. The sensation would find a form on which to set indecision of its contours. The remembrance would get a subject to fill, load itself, in order to upgrade itself."
In dreams what matters is the memory, it is what provides most of the information to the experience, not the sensation, which is very blurred. Sensations are more blurred than in wakefulness, but the basic mechanism would be the same. "In wakefulness the knowledge we acquire of an object implies a similar operation which it is performed in the dream. We only perceive the draft of the thing; this launches an appeal to the memory of the whole thing; and the complete remembrance, our spirit was not aware of it, takes the opportunity to throw out. Is this kind of hallucination, inserted in a real framework, what we realize when we 'see' the thing."
Both in dreams and in waking, consciousness manifests real impressions made on the organs of senses and also memories that are recovered. But what then is the difference between perceiving and dreaming? Although the mechanism is the same, it should not work exactly in the same way in dream and in waking.
To sleep, as we see, is not simply to be isolated from outside world. Sleep does not close our senses to outside impressions, since many of them are incorporated into dreams; dream takes away part of the material from there, as we all have seen sometime. Sleep is not simply a rest of the higher functions of thought, a suspension of reasoning. We are not incapable of logic in dreams; dreams have their own logic, follow their own reasoning. They can even be seen as an excess of reasoning, of incoherent images, poorly linked ones to others, without a common nexus that unites and holds them, but instead they flow much more easily than in waking... associating of different mode, more labile.
Bergson says that "our life, in the waking state, is a life of work, even if we do nothing, since at any time we choose, and at any time we must exclude. Always we choose between our feelings and sensations, because we chase from our consciousness thousands of 'subjective' feelings that reappear as soon as we fall asleep. We chose, with extreme precision and delicacy, between our memories, since we aside all remembrance not conform to our present state. This choice we make constantly, this constantly renewed adaptation, is the essential condition of what we call good sense. But election and adaptation they keep us in a state of uninterrupted 'stress'. We do not realize at the time, as we do not feel the pressure of the atmosphere. But eventually we toil. Having good sense is very fatiguing."
When we sleep, on the contrary, we really 'do nothing', we do not work at all, we are unattached to life. Everything is indifferent to us. We desinterest all. "Sleep is to disinterest. One sleeps on the exact extent that he is not interested. A mother sleeping next to her child can not hear thunder, while a sigh of her child awakes her. Does she really slept for her child? We do not sleep for what continues interesting us.” We sleep when we forget to focus on one point, when we stop willing something, "to wake and to will are one and the same thing."
In short, "the same faculties are exercised, whether we are awake, whether we dream, but in one case they are tense and the other relaxed. Dream is the whole mental life, less stress concentration. Still we perceive, still we remember, still we reason: perception, memory and reasoning can abound in the dreamer, because abundance, in the domain of the spirit, does not mean effort. What requires effort is 'the precision of fit'."

The instability of dreams, how quickly they develop, and the preference in them by insignificant memories compared to wakefulness, tend to confirm that, indeed, the mechanism of dreams and of perceptions is the same.
In dreams the same sensation may correspond to very different information and memories, which we travel very easily from one content to another, which we would consider very different in the waking state; and we do it as easily as fast, in seconds, when we would occupy for days to get to relate all these thoughts awake. Dreams are usually developed as images, which quickly precipitate, loosely, since it is a feature of the images that many of them can be given at once ('in panoramic' says Bergson). In the dream the visual memory does not have to take up with the visual sense as happens in the external reality. Almost everything is memory. The images of the visual memory flow much more freely and can precipitate with dizzying rapidity. "In waking state, visual memory that serves to interpret the visual sensation is bound to settle exactly on it; then continues its development, occupies the same time; in short, the recognized perception of external events lasts just the same as them". When is required for some reason 'the precision of fit', the effort appears. interpretive memory is strained, it pays attention to life again, goes of the dream finally, it slows down, "outside events will pattern their flow and decrease their speed".
The preference of dreams to insignificant memories are also due to the inattention and indifference to life which defines in general terms the dream, indeed the simple fact of recover that attention and that interest leads us to wake up quickly, it is incompatible with sleep. This happens when we detect any disturbing external event (the crying of child to the mother), when we realize that something important is about to do, or when the logic of the dream itself leads us to wake up because it is produced any unacceptable situation or incompatible with our life, which strains our attention instantly. The latter happens when we dream that we fall from high altitude or a murderer or a predator is about to catch us, for example. At that moment we awoke.
Sleep is only compatible with insignificant memories or thoughts. Another example of the same is that when we try to focus, by some form of obligation, an activity that we feel uninteresting (a reading, an exhibition, a movie...) when we get bored, we sleep and our mind wanders to equally irrelevant content; unless we make a great effort to regain concentration and get to connect with something significant... Or said in reverse: when sleep naturally comes, what we were doing awake no longer seems interesting and we get bored, if we did not sleep before.
As Bergson says "dreaming ego is a distracted ego, it is distended. The memories that best harmonize with him are the memories of distraction, which do not involve the brand of effort".

At least once a day, every 24 hours, we go from wakefulness to sleep and from sleep to waking state again. But also our consciousness fluctuates in a continuum of intensity. We have a body, variable itself, we are not 'pure spirits', to put it in the words of Bergson. Our body, life, follows its own rules. Inevitably we slept, however interesting is what we are doing; or what normally had little interest may be sometime will enter intensely in our consciousness. Sometimes nothing happens in our environment nor is there any reason to think our memories have been significantly altered and, instead, our conscious radically change; but we can not find out why. Our moods and our conscience can be highly variable from one moment to another.
As we have seen is our consciousness what creates our reality, which is not given objectively; memories and perceptions are nothing fixed but quite the opposite. Awareness not only integrates the energy or stimuli from the external environment but also from the internal environment, which occur inside the body, in its organs, tissues, its organic matter, in life processes. The body is terribly unstable, constantly working to maintain homeostasis. While we must recognize that some processes or physiological conditions may not manifest in the states of consciousness, we know, because of our experience, which many do. So many that we may doubt whether not all, as life and consciousness, as we've seen following the Bergsonian reasoning, are inseparable.
This is the 'immediate consciousness', as Bergson calls, completely fluid and continuous consciousness "that is inherent in the inner life, which feels more than sees; but it feels like a movement, as a continuous overlay with a constantly receding future". It is in this immediate consciousness that 'elan vital' acts, producing the 'impulse of consciousness', which is instinctive and inseparable from life, and escapes the analysis because of its simplicity.
Then there is the 'reflexive consciousness' ''that offers the vision of our inner life as a state that is going to another state, starting each of these states at one point, ending in another. Reflexive consciousness prepares language pathways; it distinguishes, separates and juxtaposes; It is only confortable with what is defined yet and with the immobility; it clings to a static conception of reality”. It is the consciousness that subjects reality to language, we talked about before, which manifests itself in verbal reasoning, replacing the immediate and continuous personal experience by discrete linguistic discourse.
Reflexive consciousness reasons with the essentiall of immediate consciousness through language, in order to retain the moment, to represent it and argue it to communicate, to give some kind of explanation or justification of the behavior of oneself to himself and to others... With this mission, it creates abstract representations with the language, it relationships what we experience in the successive presents to attempt to give them a logic and unity beyond their mere existence.
The language is abstract, the same words can represent different things, it has a slower time adapting well to the events of reality and allows to communicate with others, that is, allows to influence other people and create new situations in the main scope of our action that is the social. Social groups, of whatever kind, are essentially sensitive to verbal communication, so as we are each of us individually. Any action of our communication quickly finds a reaction of other or the group, while we are always at the expectation of the actions of others. The social is our playground, and the main way is language and reflexive consciousness.

Henri Bergson, L'energie spirituelle.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Consciousness, joy, intelligence and society.

Consciousness is what drives us forward, is what decides, what sets targets, what defines our fate. And there is a fundamental sign of the achievement of this goals and satisfaction of our personal motivations, which is joy. Bergson says: "The joy always announces that life has triumphed, that has gained ground, that has achieved a victory: any great joy has a triumphant accent. Wherever joy is, creation is: As creation is richer, joy is more profound. The mother who watches her son is joyful, because she is conscious of having created him, physically and morally. The trader who carries out his business, the factory owner who sees his industry prosper, is he joyful because of the money he earns and the notoriety he acquires? Richness and consideration obviously come much satisfaction he feels, but they bring pleasure rather than joy, and what he enjoys with true joy is the feeling of having mounted a company that marches, of having called something to life. Take exceptional joys, the artist who has performed his thinking, the wise who has discovered or invented. You will hear to say that these men work for glory and that they draw their liveliest joys from admiration that they inspire. Deep mistake! One holds on praise and honors on the exact extent he is not sure he succeeded. But one who is sure, absolutely sure, having produced a viable and durable work, this one has nothing to do with praise and he feels above the glory, because he is the creator, because he knows it, and because the joy he experiences with it is a divine joy." This is about the satisfaction of personal needs of each one, the feeling of power over the circumstances of life and world in which we move, the conviction that the world operates according we think, that events occur as we anticipate. This is the confirmation of the contents of our consciousness in the reality, and this is surely the greatest satisfaction we can have.

We never have any warranty that our knowledges correspond to reality. Often our 'knowledges' rather than approach us, they take us away from reality, they constitute a network of ideas and certainties that we see that reality dismantles again and again, if we test them. Ignorance is not a void of knowledge, but rather it is the madness of excess of certainties that must be dismantled, as argued by A. Finkielkraut.
Without realizing it, anything that happens in reality (in the present) we turn it into words, in a time frame (past and future) of predefined and predictable arguments. This is what makes our consciousness. We articulate a network of fictional representations and thoughts that, even they try to represent it, they separate us from the simple reality. We submit reality to the forms of language; so consciousness works. We strive to narrate, in past and future, the reality of the present. We subordinate ourselves to our narrative world, we take ourselves and our ideas as the measure of things. And 'the more exclusively the man takes himself, as a subject, as a measure of things, more far equivocal is the measurement', as Heidegger says.
This reason is not empirical, disregards the immediate reality. This is a wrong consciousness. It forgets the concrete, the real, the objective, taking just the minimum to keep 'reasoning', it has a tendency to deal just gross generalities, to subjetivize in excess and quickly lose the measure of its object. To no question itself. Holding on to the apparent, going back and forth between the nearby and common ideas is where resides the error, in the sense of aimlessly wandering through the world of easy ideas and alleged knowledge, creating 'reasons' without real referents. This is the source of the errors that disfigure and hide reality. It happens when we put words to facts, when we create representations that replace them, by giving them a narrative texture, just happens when we 'reason'.

Consciousness is, in turn, the intelligence that guides us. We will be able to achieve our goals, to anticipate the future, to understand the world (and be happy) based on our intelligence, on the adequacy of our knowledge to the situation and on our ability to acquire new knowledges when they do not produce satisfactory results. Consciousness can be smart or not, or smarter or less. We are largely dependent on the knowledge we already have, our past experiences, and we will have to show an alert reaction and a more intense awareness to new situations that our knowledge does not allow an adequate response; we will must be more aware to details and to all the information that concurs in the given situation.
It is in society where our conscience and our intelligence are mainly tested, so they are pooled with other individuals. Only in society full satisfaction can be achieved since our behavior mainly occurs in social situations. "The society, which is the pooling of individual energies, benefits from the efforts of anyone and turns easier the effort of anyone. It can only survive if subordinates the individual; it can only make progress if left him: conflicting demands, which would have to be reconciled. If the individual forgets himself, society in turn forgets its destination; one and the other, in a state of somnambulism, made and remade endlessly round the same circle, instead of walking straight forward, with a larger social efficiency and a more complete individual freedom. Only human societies have their eyes fixed to both goals to reach. Fighting with themselves and in war with each other, they try visibly, by friction and collision, round off angles, erode antagonisms, eliminate contradictions, make individual wills were inserted without deforming the social will, and that different societies enter in turn, without losing their originality and independence, in a wider society: disturbing and soothing sight, one can not contemplate without saying that here too, through countless obstacles, life works identifying and integrating to obtain as much as possible, the richer variety, the highest qualities of invention and effort."
The others are the most relevant for our future, what most occupies our attention and our thoughts, what we must further discover how do they work. Society yet gives us the resources to understand and control the physical world; the important thing is to understand people, which are the most complex, unpredictable and what should concern us most.
Society is a confrontation of consciousness. Some are more shared than the others. It sometimes happens, unfortunately, that societies are rigid and impose the dominant reason, and people is subjected to them and loses his freedom, his ability to decide, his creativity; they are authoritarian societies or groups that despise the individual and threate the individual conscience. This are bad places and bad times to live. They confuse the reason (some specific reasons), the arguments of consciousness (some concrete consciences) with reality and absolute truth. In the background, simply they do not understand that they do not understand the mechanism of consciousness, but they seem to only understand the mental contents, which are its outcome; they blindly confuse their subjectivity with reality. Without possibility of reconciliation these societies lose their orientation as soon individuals forget themselves, as Bergson says. Individuals and the group fall in a state of 'somnambulism' and do nothing but roam around endlessly about the same issues that do not lead to anything new, to any kind of progress. There is no progress; subjects are slaves of goals that are not theirs, their consciences are alienated. The wills of individuals are deformed, they have surrendered to the official truths. The progress that should arise from the confrontation individuation-integration no longer exists. No effort, no intelligence, no creation... And all this because of the confusion between consciousness as action and consciousness as knowledge, by reducing the first to the second. We are not always able, admittedly, to understand the reasoning rather than as absolute knowledge and not as a process of personal consciousness, as action, as a motor of change and evolution that it is.
Our thoughts and knowledges, by themselves, do not let us know what we usually think we know about reality. They are only a small part of it and very influenced by our individual expectations. We do not perceive every moment all reality, or remember all our knowledge. On the contrary: we are terribly selective; we just remember, perceive and update a small bunch of information that we believe is useful in that specific circumstance which we live. We ignore the rest; we hide it.

Our consciousness is attention to life, expectation. And as we know in psychology, attention is selective, only attend to one thing at a time. We reduce the infinite potential information to unique, concrete and present one. "It's the brain that gives us the service to keep our attention fixed on life; and life looks ahead; returns back only to the extent that the past can help to illuminate and prepare for the future. Live, to the spirit, is essentially to concentrate on the act to comply. Then it is to be inserted into the things through a mechanism that will extract of consciousness all that is usable for action, at the risk of obscuring most of the rest. Such is the role of the brain in memory operation: it does not work to preserve the past, but to cover it first, then to make transparent what is practically useful."
Consciousness is a mechanism that makes the time, a mechanism which acts in the eternal present and creates the illusion of past and future, cause and effect. It is a mechanical which plots ideas about what may have happened and what could happen, but it has almost no information of its own performance, which does not capture the thinking itself, the act that defines us as human. It does not capture the moment, nor, therefore, the become of the successive moments, his true causality; inevitably it refers to past and future, their own inventions. Reason always justifies itself. No one should therefore take himself too seriously... only the necessary.

Henri Bergson, L'energie spirituelle.

Friday, 31 July 2015


We all have an idea of what consciousness is, but it is not easy to give a definition. Consciousness would be something that every moment is present in our minds in our experience... You can say that it is a working knowledge of the world around us and ourselves, we feel it as exclusively ours and we use it to make personal decisions. We understand that consciousness is something that defines us as individuals. It is knowledge about ourselves and our situation at present, which puts us in the world and directs our behavior.

Memory is a necessary condition of consciousness, because without memory there is no knowledge nor therefore consciousness. Bergson said that memory is indeed the most obvious feature of consciousness: "Consciousness means first memory. Memory may be not wide; it may embrace only a small part of the past; it may not hold more than what just happened; but memory is there, or then consciousness is not. A consciousness that does not retain anything of his past, which continually forgets itself, would perish and be reborn every moment."
Consciousness is the updating memory in the present. It does not have to be wide but there must be some memory, even if just of what happened right now, for there to be consciousness. If nothing is retained there is no a moment of conscience; There exists no consciousness nor even the 'moment' (the experience of the moment), which come to be the same thing.
But more than the actual content of the memories of the past itself, consciousness is the action performed in the present to bring to mind such content; it is to make present in thought the past; it is an action. The actions of consciousness are always in the present, as any other actions; it can not be otherwise. But the action of consciousness is oriented to the future, and this is fundamental. What can happen in the more or less immediate future is the driving force of consciousness, is what attracts it and fixes it to ones or others aspects of the world around us. Consciousness leans forward, directs attention to what we think will happen, to the different possibilities; it keeps us expectant about what may happen. Consciousness is, in short, the action I perform in the present updating what I know of the past in expectation of what is going to come (future). It is the action I perform in the present to produce some practical thoughts for coping and influence the possible events around me.

Bergson said: "All consciousness is to anticipate the future. Consider the direction of your mind at any time: will find that deals with what is, but especially in view of what it will be. Attention is an expectation, and there is no consciousness without some attention to life. The future is there; calls us or rather draws us to him: this continuous traction, which takes us forward on the path of time, it also causes us to act continuously. All action is an overlap with the future."
What attracts us, which continuously draws our attention, it is what will happen. We continuously anticipate the future, and we do it based on what we know-understand-believe that happened or is happening. What is most immediate and most important, what it is more 'urgent', is what attracts us. Consciousness is the attention to the life and to the future, and is the basic mechanism of our psyche and our behavior (and our survival).
Any of our actions reflects an assumption we make about the future, comes on and overlies it, determines it from what we know and what we decide.
"To hold what is not yet, to anticipate what still is not, this is the first function of consciousness. Will not be at present, if present would be reduced to the mathematical instant. That instant is nothing more than the limit, purely theoretical, which separates the past from the future; in fact it can be conceived, never perceived; when we think we catch it, it is away from us. What in fact we perceive is true thickness duration that consists of two parts: our recent past and our immediate future. On this past we are supported, on the future we are tilted; to support and to tilt are so characteristic of a conscious being."
Mental actions, as of all actions, are performed in the pure present, in the exact boundary between the past and the future, but the results of these actions, mental contents, refer to the past and the future, more or less close to this pure present, but never exactly coincide with this zero moment, that is the moment of action and yet not of the outcome, a kind of blind spot of time and psyche.
Every moment our consciousness makes our personal way of being in the world, creates 'a thickness in time', creates a personal past and future beyond the imperceptible instant, creates a singularity of the possible interpretations of the world extended in time.

If consciousness is attention to life, have we to understand that all living things could have consciousness? Bergson asks. All living things have life by definition, have a past and a future, a cause and an effect on the actions they take in the present interacting with their environment. In man consciousness is unquestionably linked to the brain: but beware! it does not follow from this that the existence of a brain is a necessary condition of consciousness, as the stomach is not a necessary condition for digestion into simple beings who, in fact, have no stomach or even differentiated organs, such as the amoeba, although they digest food.
As digestion involves not only the participation of the stomach, consciousness does not involve only the participation of the brain. In both cases it seems that also involves simpler elements and vital processes, beyond any specific organ. In fact, everything that is alive may be aware: consciousness is coextensive with life, Bergson argues. In the lower living beings, which do not have brain, would have to be some form of consciousness, but surely very different from ours, which would be confused with the simplest biological processes of life of these organisms. Would be "a diffuse, confused, reduced to little consciousness, though not reduced to nothing", says Bergson.
In addition to the brain there are much more primitive nerve centers and pathways, other tissues and organic masses, in man and in the simplest living things, which certainly interact with the external environment, which retain some information and act in certain circumstances and at certain elements of the environment. This would be a form of consciousness, rudimentary compared to man, but consciousness, so it has the fundamental elements of it.
The same in humans. The brain is not an isolated organ from the body, on the contrary it is an integrative organ of the rest of the body functioning while integrating energy and stimuli from the external medium. Our body functions as a whole, and therefore our consciousness works with all of it, not just with the brain.

Consciousness, as we have seen, has the function of decision and choice. In all living beings consciousness is what, from knowledge of the past and anticipating the future, choose the action to take in every moment of the present. "To choose need to think about what can be done and remember the consequences of what has been done; is needed to anticipate and to remember". This occurs at different levels of complexity, depending on the complexity of organisms, of course.

Living beings choose, which is the same as saying that they create their own future, says Bergson. With their decisions they influence the future. Consciousness creates a "zone of uncertainty" around the living being. The more consciousness, the greater the uncertainty (or freedom) of being, the greater the 'creativity'. Consciousness is the ability to choose in a situation in which the subject attends and responds individually based on his experience; somehow is the ability to break the determinism of the outside world, by activity of internal environment, to define how the future will go.

Henri Bergson, L'energie spirituelle.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Henri Bergson

'Others will dig even deeper. Under these joys and these sadnesses that can ultimately be translated into words, they will catch something that has nothing in common with words, certain rhythms of life and breathing that are more interior to man than his innermost feelings, alive law being, variable with each person, of his depression and exaltation, of his sorrows and hopes. By releasing, exacerbating this music, they will impose it to our attention; they will make us insert ourselves into it involuntarily, as walkers entering a dance. And through it they will lead us to shake too, completely inside of us, something that has been waiting the moment to vibrate.'

Henri Bergson, L'energie spirituelle

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Splendor of the Fruits of the Trip

What Arabi calls deity or spirit is not static quite the contrary. In fact it is as variable as our mind or our soul, which is terribly labile. Moreover, our soul 'moves' as much as do, because 'the spirit of the universe' moves it, he says. 'Divinity itself 'travels'. And it does so by way of life-giving 'blow', breath, giving live and keeping all creation as a great blower without location or form. But the divine journey is not, however, a route or a linear displacement, like the creatures experience, but a renewed creation at every moment, a sort of pumping or beating, than a moment after another, as a heart present everywhere and nowhere, keep alive and awake the cosmos'. So clever summarizes Carlos Varona Narvión, from the meticulous knowledge of the translator, in the introduction to El esplendor de los frutos del viaje.
There is always in creation (and all creation is creation of our mind) a mixture of body and spirit that is where it reaches the 'blow'. We are body and spirit. The blow reaches each of us, our body, and manifests in our mind, pumping, breathing it. It is said that the spirit is everywhere, lighting and covering all the created, because the air covers us all and creates everything in our psyche. This is how 'Allah' illuminates the universe by his blow, renewing the creation (our thoughts) at every moment by the blow at every cycle of our breath.
'God' is a pulse that reaches the entire cosmos. God has no form but is everywhere shaping the world in the minds of us thinking beings. 'It is a center of the universe that is everywhere and circumference nowhere' style to Leibniz says Carlos Varona.

'The origin of life is movement. It can not be immobility, then it would be back to its source, which is the absence. Never ever ceases trip, nor the upper nor the lower world, and even the divine truths do not complete their journey, coming and going. (...) The movement at every moment of the four elements, and created beings, changes and the transformations generated with each breath, as well as the journey of the mind, both as laudable as reprehensible, trip of blows of who breathes, and of the looks of seen things in waking or sleeping, as the crossing from one world to another with its weighting, all this is definitely a trip to the human mind. Never in all eternity we cease to travel, from the moment of our conception, and the first creation of our foundation. When in front of you appears a house, you affirm that this is the end of your journey, while, in reality, it opens another path to you. In fact, when you see a house, you say, "This is my goal!" But it just come, you do not delay in starting again.' (El esplendor de los frutos del viaje, Chapter 3)
Our minds, along with everything that they creates, do not stop 'traveling'. Truths, even the 'divine', are not static, but vary continuously as much as our head produces. Changes are generated with each breath: in thoughts, morally good or morally bad ('both as laudable as reprehensible'), in perception and dreams ('the looks of things seen in waking or sleeping'), in our will and our motivations, the 'houses' that have to safeguard us in a stable environment, we believe, but just achieved they fade away to open new ways into previously unforeseen goals... The ideas and experiences, by nature, by definition, they come and go.

'Therefore, there is no immobility in this world, but their movement is constant; succeeding the day and night, as do thoughts, states and forms, by alternating, according to the divine truths.'
The breath is air and spirit. It is spirit when it manifests in our mind, but is physically the air of sky. Depending on how it blows this air is manifested in one way or another in us. So Arabi distinguishes different 'skies' or 'divine names' which are a kind of 'celestial' archetypes through which the first essence, 'Allah', reveales in all its creation in general and especially in our minds. Thus our mental states and our experiences take shape, evolve and change. (These are the "seven skies", each with its guardian angel who prints their own mental states and knowledge in us, of the Koran, but they also appear in Christianity, see for example Eckhart.)
'Divine truths descend on the divine name the merciful, as well as on the caller's name to repentance, and the merciful, the provider, the donor, the avenger, and all other names. They also act which falls on you of gift and forecasting, revenge, repentance, forgiveness and mercy.' (Chapter 5)

From this basic configuration of the universe Arabi infers the attitude we should keep to behave in an appropriate way in life: 'The faithful should use on his side thought and reflection, so differentiate into the way, which the divine law will forces, and where happiness resides, between the journey towards Him, in Him and from Him. He must also discern in all these journeys both the law imposes him as not, what it is the duty to walk on earth for the lawful, the travel trade of worldly lucre and other similar gears, or the travel of the breath itself, with its inspiration and expiration. This is, in effect, as no imposed or not determined by law, but is its physical constitution which decides.' (Chapter 6)
In this connection we can distinguish two groups of people, Arabi said. 'The travelers in Him are divided into two groups: the first is that of those who travel in Him by the thoughts and the mind, and have deviated from the path, not finding as a guide in their search than his reason. These are the philosophers, and those who are in this aspect. The second group consists of those who travel with Him, the group of the messengers and prophets, that of the elect among such saints, what are the men of Sufism.' (Chapter 7)
All persons we travel by pure physical nature 'in Him'. But only a few get to understand enough to adapt and travel 'with Him' in fact. Putting on his side, carried away by his movements, knowing them.

Ibn Arabi: El esplendor de los frutos del viaje. Edición de Carlos Varona Narvión. Siruela. Madrid. 2008.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Arabi & Lispector

Ibn Arabi thought that the reality we perceive each of us is renewed every moment, 'the world' that we perceive is born again at every breath, he says, as we breathe 'the blowing of God'.

According to him the air insufflates blows of thought. Our ideas are 'forms' that take the blows. And the flow of our consciousness is merely the result of the succession of these murmurs or blows in time.
But the breath itself is empty of content: it provides the flow, the progression over time of the act of thinking, not the specific purpose of thought, which is a matter of 'receptacle' that we are each of us.
"'God' is as light of a glass that veils and tints the look with its own color. Colorless by itself, it presents you colored to illustrate what is your reality when compared with your Lord. If you say that light is green because glass is of that color, you tell the truth and senses testify to this. If you say that is not green nor has any color, following which tells you good sense, you are also telling the truth and thus give witness to the evidence of a healthy intellect."
Glass is the person and his knowledge and conditionings. Everyone tints with his personal experience the pure light of the intellect. An opaque glass and personality give a color that stains all, a monochrome mode of seeing the world. More transparent glass and personality are brighter and better show forms (ideas) of the world in its diversity, better reveals the reality.

"The color of the water is the color of its container". Insists the Sufi master, and continues: "The works of anybody professing any religion, who only praises the divinity present in his faith and remains steady in it, return to him, and he will not be praising nothing but himself. Indeed, to praise a work is to praise the author of the work, being it lovely or not. So, deity that adores who profess a religion is his own work, designed to himself. The praise he addresses to what he loves is actually a compliment to himself. Therefore criticizes what others love. He would not do that if he was equanimous."
The thought of someone is the reality as himself. Is the reality that he produces, whether it be of a religious or any other content. Praise you make of any element of the world is the praise of the way you have to see that aspect of the world.
This is the difference between event and content. We bring the contents which are the result of our personal experience and knowledge. The event is not: we have no control on our thinking activity, its flow, we do not decide to think more or less, in one direction or another, it just happens. It's nothing individually created but is given to us.
Knowledge of thoughts is our personal creation of the world. The act of thinking, however, is a reality that is beyond our knowledge and that at a time subjugates it: is 'the tension of divinity' or 'the breath of God', says Arabi.

The contents of our thoughts are association of ideas, trial and error, speculation... about reality. The act of thinking is a reality in itself, however, so immediate reality and so veiled to our knowledge that it has always been associated with God or 'divinity', not only in the case of Arabi but in most of the philosophical and religious traditions.
Our Sufi says that 'divinity' is the individualization of universal Spirit or Live in things, while the correlative term 'humanity' is applied to the receptacle are people of this Life or Spirit...

The divine breath is the starting material of the forms of the world, that is, of the ideas we have of the world, of thought. 'God' holds the world's knowledge in the divine breath, somehow keeps it in a tension, until we manifest it in ideas through blow energy, which generates the movement in our mind. The blow releases this energy and ideas take form conditioned by the personal situation of each individual, but is the breath that initiates and maintains the action of thinking.
The world to us success in the breath, thoughts about the world hosts in the breath. Breath and thought, act and content, mind and world acquire an inseparable intimate connection. So, in short "who wants to know the divine breath must acquire knowledge of the world, he who knows himself knows his Lord", says Arabi.

The breath releases the knowledge in a kind of renewal of creation: when acting creates knowledge, creates reality. What happens, however, it is that "nobody has the science of this divine power. The man is not aware that at each divine breath 'he is not, and then he is' even".
Blows are that: comings of thought to our consciousness, so that each one appear to replace the current until then, comings from those normally we are unconscious because they themselves have us abstracted in their contents: we must be aware of the awareness (meta-awareness) to detect the flow of their succession.

* * *

Blow happens over time and simply can not be controlled or predicted. Blow is the assault of time that we can not do more than fit.
Clarice Lispector says: "I am a little afraid: afraid to surrender, because the next moment is the unknown. Is the next moment made by myself? Or it is made by itself? We make it together with breathing. And with the poise of a bullfighter in the arena."

The moments of thought are ephemeral; when we are aware of them, if we are, they have become a new moment; and are ethereal, as breath air that accompanies them: "I tell you: I am trying to capture the fourth dimension of time-yet that such fugitive no longer exists because it has become a new instant-yet it now does not exist yet. I want to take possession of of the 'is' of the thing. These moments that take place in the air I breathe, as fireworks explode mute in space. I want to have the atoms of the time. And I want to capture the present which, by its nature, is forbidden to me; the present eludes me, the present time runs away, the present time is always me in present time. (...) And there is the 'is' of itself in the moment. I want to get my 'is'."
The instant is the 'is' of the thought thing, and at the same time is the 'is' of me that I think.
"The instant-yet is a firefly that flashes on and off. The present is the moment when the wheel of a car at high speed minimally touches the ground. And the part of the wheel that still has not touched, will touch in the immediate future that absorbs present instant and makes it past. I, alive and sparkling as instants, turn on and off. (...) More than an instant I want its fluence."

Instants and moments flow into our consciousness.
The now is pure reality; past and future are actually just thought, simple psychology.
"What I say is pure present and this book ('Aqua viva') is a straight line in space. It is always current. (...) If I say 'I have lived' or 'I will live' is present because I say it now ."
"I'm a concomitant being: I bring together past time, the present and the future, while beating in the ticking of the clocks."
"I am in the midst of shouting and swarming. And it is subtle as the most intangible reality. Meanwhile time is what it lasts a thought."

Breathing is what patterns time and, therefore, thought.
"The world has no visible order and I have only the order of breath. I let happen myself."
"I am writing at the exact time itself. I develop just in the actual. I speak today -not yesterday or tomorrow-, but today and in this exact and perishable instant. My little and framed freedom joins me to the freedom of the world; but what is a window but the air framed by squads?"

You are, more than you think. The flow of time is of existences more than of thoughts. Or of existences beyond thoughts. Too often words fail us to translate our states and existences into thoughts.
"There are many things to say I do not know how to say. Words fail me. But I refuse to invent new ones. The existing ones have to say what you get mean and what is forbidden. And I guess what is forbidden. If there were strength. Beyond thought there are no words. You are. (...) In this land of 'you are' I'm pure crystalline ecstasy. You are. I am."
"I see the fury of visceral impulses, tortured viscera guide me. I do not like what I just wrote; but I'm compelled to accept the whole paragraph because it has happened to me. My essence is unconscious of itself and so I obey blindly."
"Now is an instant.
It is yet another now.
And other. My effort: now bring the future until yet now. I move into my deepest instincts blindly fulfilled."

The objective world, the pure reality of the present, we call it God. We have always called God. All mystics and philosophers have always done, traditionally, from the most ancient times, not only Arabi.
"(...) I know that God is the world. It is what exists. I pray to what exists? It is not dangerous to approach to what exists. The deep prayer is a meditation on nothing. It is a dry and electrical contact with oneself, an impersonal oneself."

Reality simply exists and escapes us, it is veiled. It is the hidden, invisible, omnipresent and timeless truth: These are the qualities of God and yet are the qualities of air, blow, 'pneuma'.
"I'm breathing. Up and down. Up and down. What excites me most is that I do not see things yet exist. The truth is somewhere, but it's useless to think. I'll not find out but I live by it."
"I hear the hollow beating of time. It is the world that forms silently. If I hear is because I exist before the formation of the time. 'I am' is the world. A world without time. My conscience is now light and it is air. The air has no place or time. The air is the non-place where everything will exist. What I'm writing is music of the air. The formation of the world. Gradually comes what will be. What will be already it is. The future is forward and backward and sideways. The future is what has always existed and will always exist. (...) The first flower borns in the air. The ground floor, that is earth, is formed. The rest is air and the rest is slow fire in perpetual mutation. Does not the word 'life' exist because there is no time? But there is the beating. And my existence begins to exist. Does the time begin then?"

The world is born and dies for us at every breath: it is renewed, breathes.
"It has occurred to me suddenly that it is not necessary to have order to live. There is no pattern to follow, and there isn't even the pattern itself. I am born.
I'm not ready to talk about 'he' or 'she'. I demonstrate 'that'. 'That' is a universal law. Birth and death. Birth. Death. Birth is like a breath of the world."
It eludes reason. It is latent. Even if scientifically proved, perhaps common sense would not capture it. "When my existence and the existence of the world are no longer sustainable by reason, then I'm loose and I follow a latent truth. Do I recognize the truth if it was found?"

The breath is a rhythm, a beat, music.
"Regarding the music, after played where does it go? The music just has of concrete the instrument. Far beyond the thought I have a musical background. But still beyond is the beating heart. So the deepest thought is a beating heart."

The air carries the breath and it creates the time in our thinking when the wind hits our soul.
"That open air, that wind hitting me in the soul of the face and leaves it anxious imitating a distressing ecstasy new every time, again and always, every time immersion into something bottomless where I fall always, falling steadily until death and to achieve finally silence. Oh sirocco wind, I don't forgive you the death, you who bring an injured remembrance of things lived which, alas, always repeat, even in other and different forms. The lived thing scares me as scares me the future. This, as passed, is intangible, mere supposition.
I am at that moment in a white empty waiting for the next moment. Counting time is only a working hypothesis. But what exists is perishable and this requires counting the immutable and permanent time. It has never started and will never end. Never."

The time of soul and thought, if it really is air, it is also the weather: the atmosphere, the wind...
"I pride myself on always foresee weather changes. There is something in the air. The body tells that something new is coming and I joy of all. I do not know why."

Life is nothing neutral or abstract. We live moment to moment until death, with all its consequences. With organicity, viscerality, with pleasure, pain, consciousness... The thread of our life, with the absolute specificity of flowing moments, is the air we breathe, breath after breath. The millions of breaths of our life, a finite number whose value nobody knows, each, at every moment, ignorant of the future, defines our thinking and defines us as thinkers.
"Don't you see that this is like the birth of a child? It hurts. The pain is the exacerbated life. The process hurts. Becoming is a slow and slow good pain. It is the wide yawn that makes us stretch ourselves to the limit. And the blood is grateful. I breathe, I breathe. The air is 'it'. The air with windblown is yet a 'he' or a 'she'."
"I've talked a lot about death. But I will tell you now about the breath of life. When one does not breathe is made mouth-to-mouth. You stick the mouth to the other's mouth and breathe. And the other begins breathing again. This exchange of breath is one of the most beautiful things I've heard tell of life. In fact the beauty of this mouth-to-mouth is dazzling me."

The flow of thought, as life itself because it is also the flow of life, is unpredictable.
"Oh, how uncertain is everything. And yet within the Order. I do not even know what I will write in the next sentence. The ultimate truth is never said. Whoever knows the truth has to come. And talk. We will listen afflicted."
"Writing is frustrating to me; when I write I struggle with the impossible. With the enigma of nature. And of God."

Our soul, mind, is like a mirror, reflecting always something, an image, a content. You can not surprise an empty mirror, when you look you don't see the mirror itself but you see yourself. And yet, the essence of the mirror is to be empty, it is not to be which reflects.
"What is a mirror? It's the only invented material that is natural. Whoever looks at a mirror, who gets to see it without seeing himself, who understands that its depth is to be empty, who walks into its transparent space without leaving in it vestige of self image, then this someone has understood its mystery."
"A mirror in which I see myself it is me yet, only an empty mirror is a living mirror. Only a very sensitive person can enter an empty room where there is an empty mirror, and with such a lightness, with such an absence of himself, that the image is not marked. As a reward that delicate person will then have penetrated into one of the inviolable secrets of things, have seen the mirror itself."

We do not choose to thought, as a psychological state or existence it is free of our will. Maybe we should not declare their authors.
"The thought called 'freedom' is free as an act of thought. It is free to the extent that to the thinker himself this thought would seem to have no author.
True thought seems to have no author."

Free thinking does not obey the logic of words, it's a mental blow at the same time it's a blow of air.
"The primary thought thinks in words. The 'freedom' one, on the contrary, is released from the bondage of the word."
"Today is Saturday and is made of pure air, only air."

It's a fluence that never ends: the thought that always arises in the present.
"What will be after is now. Now it is the domain of now. And while improvisation lasts I am born."
"What I write you is a 'this'. It will not stop, continues.
You look at me and love me. No, you look at you and love yourself. That's right.
What I write continues and I am still enchanted."

* * *

Ibn Arabí: Los engarces de las sabidurías. Edaf. Madrid. 2009.
Clarice Lispector: Agua viva. Siruela. Madrid. 2012.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The physical philosophers: Diogenes of Apollonia.

The last of materialistic and monistic philosophers of ancient Ionia, Diogenes of Apollonia, around the years 440-430 BC, also went right down the same path as his predecessors and held, openly and explicitly, that the air is the 'beginning' of all things.
Just some fragments of the writings of this philosopher, belonging to his work 'On the Nature', are preserved, which were collected by Simplicius. But if we listen to different quotations, he seems to have written several more books, one 'Against the Sophists', one 'On meteorology', and one on medicine that he would have entitled 'On the Nature of Man', which Galen would referred when he said that Diogenes had compiled diseases and their causes and remedies in a treaty. Everything indicates that Diogenes of Apollonia was a doctor by profession and would have published, indeed, this medical treatise in which their notions about the origin of diseases would appear related, surely, with the ideas of his general theory, which ones have been preserved and we'll see here.

Diogenes thought the world and its parts were ordered in the best way possible by the intervention of a divine intelligence that would be present in originating substance that is air. By the provisions of this 'air intelligence' the world is not a chaos but a real cosmos, where everything is distributed according to some regularities, like the seasons, day-night cycles, weather variations...
The essential substance the whole of reality is air, said Diogenes, for the obvious reason that living beings if they can live is by breathing air. The air is 'soul' understood as vital principle (which gives life), as deduced from the fact that life leaves the body when breath leaves.
This idea was already in some uses of 'zimós' and 'psijé' of Homer, who Diogenes praised (claimed Filodemo) because "he told on the divine not poetic but truthfully and claimed that Zeus himself is the air explicitly".
Diogenes relates both outdoors air and the air contained in the body, in the vein of Anaximenes, and relates the term 'pneuma', which means soul or spirit, as a synonym for breath and wind. Air is the giver of life, thus becomes God, because if it gives life it has absolute power on everything, on all the phenomena of human existence. It is infinite, eternal and immortal, it is not subject to time limits of life of any body, it does not perish with it (on the contrary, is it that gives and removes life) and it extends everywhere.
The air is responsible for the regularities and irregularities of the cosmos, and also of the human psyche. Not that the air contains intelligence, but it is intelligence because it is what orders and disposes the mind and the entire cosmos, it really is the intellectual soul, is what has knowledge. "The air is great and powerful, eternal and immortal and knowing many things" (Simplicius, Physics 153, 20).

One of the reasons that prompted Diogenes conceive the air as the principle of all things and as 'god' was, as mentioned in the case of Anaximenes, the fact that the air is so subtle substance that eludes the senses and seems intangible or incorporeal. Another reason, also commented, is its omnipresence: "the air rises to the top and down to the lowest and fills all the spaces." Incorporeality and omnipresence are two attributes of the apparent 'metaphysical' or 'divinity' of air, but actually, paradoxically, they are just a pure physical phenomenon of nature.
One difference with Anaximenes lies in the fact that, to Diogenes, changes that would explain the phenomena of nature are not confined to the rarefaction or condensation of air, but also another factor involved is its temperature. To Diogenes, the distinctive feature of divinity and humanity is heat, in complicity with the ideas of Heraclitus on the 'igneous ether'. To Diogenes of Apollonia intelligence is hot air, warmer than the atmosphere although not quite as the ether that surrounds the sun.
The temperature of air producer of intelligence, what Diogenes says is very interesting, would register continuous slight temporary modifications which may explain, in turn, the numerous and unpredictable variations that occur in time in our perception, our thinking and our psyche in general.
A moderate heat would be the distinctive feature of air-soul or 'pneuma', which would explain, according to this wise, fluctuating changes in mental states and acts, from the most subtle variations of thought and perception to the most extreme states of sleep and death, which also correspond to extreme changes of 'pneuma': "Diogenes says that if the blood, spread throughout the body, fills the veins and pushes containing air toward chest and bottom belly, sleep occurs and the central part of the body is heated, but if all the air goes out of the veins, death occurs" (Aetius, V 24, 3).
Clearly Diogenes of Apollonia thought as a physician and led theses of Anaxímenes to the field of physiology. He did not maintain outside the body but he entered to explaining how the air acts in the body to produce the phenomena of soul. The universal air gets into the body by breathing and flows, driven by the blood of the veins of the body, to the brain, which acts as an interpreter of fluctuations or 'logos' of this universal air.
The air inside our body partakes of the 'divinity', is part of it, by transmiting the universal to our personal soul. Our thinking becomes a kind of organ sensitive to fluctuations ('logos') of air. The ethereal element extends throughout the universe and also acts on the bodily 'pneuma' of each person by the action of breathing and blood circulation. Accordingly, changes in our mental and cerebral activity are due to variations in atmospheric air (in terms of temperature, density...) from the outside world but the body 'interpreted' by its natural functioning creating one cerebral and mental 'logos', internal and subjective.

The seat of soul is the brain. The brain is the organ that interprets changes in air, it is which intellects. The brain is the instrument that uses air to think. The (other) sensory organs are subordinated to this main organ that produces the act of understanding. The brain 'resonates' with certain variations of air that give it a 'logos', as ear resonates under certain frequencies to offer sounds and sonorous languages. Outside air 'feeds' the soul and comes first to the brain and stays there; the remainder spreads throughout the body through blood vessels and engages, thus, the whole body in insights and emotions. Whole body, but especially the brain, 'vibrates' with air.
Diogenes maintains that, when a large amount of air is mixed with the blood and lightens it according to its less heavy nature, and penetrates, subtilized, whole body, pleasure originates; and when air is present against its lightweight nature, by action of moisture, and does not mix to be weighed, blood clots, weakens, it becomes denser and hence arises displeasure and pain. Similarly moods, such as trust and its opponents distrust and shame, and health and its contrary illness, originate, says Diogenes.
What is the thought itself is caused by the pure, dry and hot air, as all wet emanation inhibits intelligence. This is the reason, he argues, because the thought appears diminished in sleep, in drunkenness and satiety, because in them the air is concentrated in the belly and it become dirty by elements that are there, he says.
Another proof that moisture removes intelligence is indicated from that other living beings are inferior in intelligence to man because they breathe the air closest to earth, which is wetter and impure, he says. (The birds breathe fresh air, true, but he argues that they have a similar to fish constitution, because its flesh is solid and air does not penetrate completely but is detained around the the abdomen... and understands that plants are totally deprived of intelligence for the simple fact that have no air in.)
To Diogenes intelligence is the same as the vital intensity. This is very interesting. There are different degrees of intelligence and different degrees of vital intensity corresponding to the first. These quantitative differences in intelligence and vitality would be originated from, according to him, besides the properties of the surrounding air, the permeation of air into the body. The least, plants, then fish and birds, have a low degree of vitality and intelligence, it is assumed, by low penetration and diffusion of air inside.
The human being is the one with a higher degree of intelligence and vitality, because he absorbs and disseminates a lot of air into his body, it is understood; but he is also highly variable from one moment to another, there is nothing static in him, quite the contrary. There are times when people live life intensely, when everything flows so fast and absorbent, which are those moments that we have a deeper and more vivid thinking. At other times the opposite happens, we are unable to mentally prepare anything and understanding of things is absent, and our existence is drab and boring. In these times, unlike the first, the degree of our vital intensity is low, such as our intelligence. And this changes would obey to changes in qualities of air and / or in our way of breathing. Intelligence (thought) is so unstable and volatile as the element that generates it...
The thought or intelligence, for the philosopher of Apollonia, is nothing 'superior' emerging from elementary 'lower' activities but is at the same level as sleep, senses, pleasure and pain, feelings, health... All are 'sensations' produced by the air. Everything is at the same level. The outside air comes into contact and mixes (or simply waves) with the air inside the sensory organs and the brain, through the veins or blood vessels.

To Diogenes insights come from air, which takes over the whole body through veins and blood, especially in those propositions in which the veins itselves provide an "adequate anatomy" (Simplicius, Physics 153, 13). The thought, the intellectual soul, is generated by the correspondence between the air and the arrangement of our veins and our brain. The clarity of perception and intellect of a particular proposition depends on the subtlety of air that diffuses into our body, and on the finesse and the straightness of the channels through which spreads: on the resultant of the specific anatomy of involved veins.
When air is mixed with the blood and is permeated in the brain and the whole body, the feeling of pleasure and vivid thought arises. Thought depends on the purity and dryness of air and, as pleasure, arises when air is mixed with blood, subtilizes it, and spreads throughout the body through the vascular network. Thought and pleasure are very similar things in reality. Think the world in an understandable way, understand it (intellective knowing), is a powerful form of pleasure. So, intelligence, thinking, vital intensity and pleasure are totally united in Diogenes. Vitality, enjoyment, insight, understanding, thought, reason... are interrelated in its own essence if they are not the same thing. Many philosophers have intuited that the understanding of the world is the greatest pleasure to which man can aspire, but have failed to explain the reason. Diogenes of Apollonia, the physical, the forgotten, did.

Cappelletti, A. J. Los fragmentos de Diógenes de Apolonia. Tiempo Nuevo, Caracas, 1975.
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