Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
It has been quite awhile since I've referenced the Time-Space-Knowledge vision (TSK) in my discussions here, but I plan to return to this topic eventually, since I do believe (as I argued in my thesis years ago) that this approach is compatible with a "postmetaphysical" orientation. I'm posting this now because a friend of mine, Dr. Steve Randall, has recently created a webinar-style introduction to the TSK vision, which I wanted to share with interested members:
I just watched Steve Randall's introduction to TSK. It gives me the pleasure of finding the familiar in the midst of the unfamiliar. Studying TSK has been my motivation for joining this "Postmetaphysical" site, and I find myself feeling like a new kid at a new school, where even the names on the classroom doors are stange, evoking the feeling "I'm not sure I have the prerequisites for this class". For instance, does on have to be adept at "metaphysical" inquiry before continuing on to the "postmetaphysical"? The comforting thing about TSK (and Steve Randall's introductory presentation emphasizes this characteristic) is that it is not necessary to build on any particular knowledge tradition or intelllectual orientation in order to penetrate the limitations that confine us. And I expect that I will find that quality in the material presented on this website, once I have become more acquainted with it. -- Michael
Love what you did with your old 'dynamic' icon, turning it into the header for this web page, as from a different perspective. Just great. Subtle opening. :-)
Posted it here to force you to return to this page! Ha, ha!!
:-D Thank you, David! I'm glad you like the redecoration; I like the rich colors of that photomicrograph, which of course was the basis also of the avatar you made for me. As for TSK ... good to have it highlighted here again.
I returned yesterday evening from a TSK retreat up in the Sonoma Mountains. The photo above is of one of the meeting halls there.
The retreat was enjoyable, more practice-oriented than last year, with more of a focus on time (multiple approaches, but with an empahsis on the future infinitive) and knowledge (especially knowledge in relation to mystery, unknownness, withdrawal, etc). Because it was a teacher-training retreat, we were each asked to lead a section of the retreat based on a passage from a TSK book. I presented on the passage below, together with two other participants. For fun, I brought in some Lovecraft references to expand on Tarthang Tulku's discussion of the multi-dimensionality of 'x' or the unknown and we also led the group in several supportive practices.
Though we usually understand not-knowing as darkness, a place where the light of knowledge does not shine, this does not tell us what not-knowing truly is. On the one hand, it might be a blank with nothing to offer; on the other, it might reflect a potential for knowing that does not accord with the juxtaposed positions of the already known.
As a symbol of this latter possibility, we can designate the unknown as ‘x’. In ordinary usage, ‘x’ not only marks the unknown, but also designates the infinitely variable. It indicates not only a point where entry is forbidden, but also ‘the spot’: the point that may hold the treasure we seek. The multiple dimensionality of ‘x’ suggests that the unknown might offer great value. Greater appreciation for not-knowing can be developed by investigating the links between knowing and not-knowing through several successive stages.
Stage One: At the outset, knowing and not-knowing are sharply distinguished. But this distinction, by separating the known from the unknown, defines the known and gives it shape. We might say that the unknown is the ‘field’ from within which the known emerges; the ’not this’ from which ‘this’ comes forth. While the difference between knowing and not-knowing predominates, it is already clear that this difference is possible on the basis of something shared. Like the back side of a coin, not-knowing supports the known.
Stage Two: At this stage, the focus is on the barriers and limits to knowledge—the points of contact between known and unknown. These limits give the known its structure, even its authenticity. Without them, the knowable would remain an open and undifferentiated ‘field’, perhaps not even knowledge at all.
Focusing on borders suggests that the line between known and unknown may not be so easy to draw. On the one hand, limits mark the appearance of the not-known within the realm of the known; on the other hand, the same limits are the most distinctive aspect of the known.
Stage Three: Now the focus shifts to the potential for knowing within not-knowing. As the point of not-knowing, ‘x’ is also the point at which old limits can be challenged and new knowledge can emerge. For each new and unknown point, ’x’ allows the possibility that knowledge can open. Now for the first time not-knowing does not limit knowledge at all; it seems possible that knowledge could hold the whole, that knowledge.
As a corollary, not-knowing now becomes the ‘carrier’ of knowledge. At the first stage, when knowing and not-knowing are clearly distinguished from one an other,’carrying’ knowledge would simply mean transporting it from one place to another. But now something different is being suggested. Not-knowing might carry a ‘knowledge’ that can encompass both knowing and not-knowing—a ‘knowledge’ within conventional knowledge that at the same time does not exclude not-knowing.
The view that not-knowing can carry ‘knowledge’ into knowledge requires a reinterpretation of the limitations implicit in juxtaposed positioning. As points of ‘not-knowing’, these limitations are expressions of a more encompassing ‘knowledge’. The conventionality of conventional knowledge—its restriction to a lower level—is likewise an expression of such ‘knowability’. We might say that not-knowing has disappeared, only to reemerge as the ‘knowing’ within first-level conventional knowledge. This second-level ‘knowledge’ shows up everywhere, making no distinctions and knowing no limits.
This transitional view culminates in a final stage:
Stage Four: The unknown as a sponsor of ‘knowledge’. At this stage, ‘knowledge’ invites us to discover a more fundamental ‘not-knowing’ implicit in conventional knowledge. Although earlier views brought knowing and not-knowing closer together, not-knowing was still understood as ‘surrounding’ knowledge or underlying it. Now we can see that not-knowing, in both a first-level and second-level sense, is intrinsic to knowledge. The move that places not-knowing ‘outside’ is a kind of deception practiced by first-level knowledge, a distortion (or ‘not-knowing’) that comes from the failure to acknowledge not-knowing as the limited nature of first-level knowledge.
The dynamic that discloses this interconnection is not-knowing as ‘knowledge’. Newly familiar with not-knowing, we see the way in which we requisition a previous set of arrangements from the storehouse of what is familiar. We see how we have learned to take responsibility for the not-knowing of first-level knowledge, accepting not-knowing as our duty and making it into our position—even defining it as knowledge.
At this fourth stage, not-knowing now delivers ‘knowledge’ in the non-deliverability of knowledge. Accepting the pattern of conventional not-knowing as what is given by ‘knowledge’, not-knowing lets us embody the ‘knowledge’ that is there. Not-knowing challenges each axiom, disclosing the ‘x’ of the axiom as unknown, and as the ‘known’ in the unknown.
The stages outlined here mark a transition from a first to a second level of knowledge. In the non-positioned ‘knowing’ of this newly available second-level knowledge, first-level knowing and not-knowing are inseparable aspects of a limited positioning. This insight is presented not as a critique, but as an invitation: When we no longer confine ourselves to knowing, knowing and not-knowing alike become manifestations of a second-level ‘knowledgeability’.
One of the presenters also shared the following excerpt from a T.S. Eliot poem, which I related to Jean Klein's concept of 'waiting without waiting.'
“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”
― T.S. Eliot
I'll get to the content in a minute, but first a question on the weather/climate. I see the grass is yellow, which is typical in that neck of the woods this time of year. But I heard the central valley is having a severe drought and wondering if that's going on up there too?
Yes, they have drought conditions there, too, so we took it easy on the water use (and the use of matches!). Perhaps the dry-grass, drought conditions were one of the reasons Jack read the "Smokey the Bear Sutra" that I shared on FB...
I need you to translate that reading passage for me.
Yeah, that was sort of our task in the presentation as well: translate or amplify this passage in some way. I'm sure you followed this much already, but the thrust of the passage, as I read it, is to trace a sort of dialectical transformation in the understanding of the relationship between not-knowing and knowledge (arriving at a version of integral a-perspectivity). In TSK, three levels of knowledge (and of time and space) are commonly discussed; this passage describes the transition from level one to level two. He moves from dualistic framing of the terms, to two transitional perspectives in which a) the unknown is seen to manifest in the known (in a way that is inseparable from the structure and authenticity of knowledge, as the limits to knowledge), and b) knowing to manifest in not-knowing or the unknown (as the open "x" of withdrawn potential rather than the forbidding "x" of nothingness or absolute limitation). He then shifts to a view in which the (strong or somewhat weaker) dichotomy of knowledge and not-knowing is seen to be a function of limited positioning itself; this is replaced by a more pervasive, aperspectival knowledgeability (where the self no longer confines itself to, or needs to be, 'knowing' or 'the knower'; and where not-knowing is understood, not just to surround or underlie knowledge, but to be inseparable from or intrinsic to it.) You might relate this to your gal, Khora, or to the future infinitive (which is generative in its always-never-arriving).
Thanks for presenting the four stages through which we can see an intimate relationship between the known and the unknown. As you know I was there for your presentation but still needed your careful written analysis in order to glimpse how it might be possible to draw upon the infinite and fertile field of the unknown. Perhaps this affinity is more readily glimpsed in the relationship between a "known" past (active in the present), and an "unknown" future that resides in a realm of infinite possibilities. There it seems we can shift our relationship to the future--from the anxiety and dread that try to make the future "known"--to an appreciation of the fact that the "unknown" of the future carries all possibilites and is free to manifest any dream. And perhaps the way to do that is to appreciate an unknown (present across the three times) that is not separated from a "known" that we may cling to in a tiny present moment
So here's how these four "transitional stages" sound to the Metaphysics of Adjacency:
The whole "first tier" of human history may be called MOSP civilization -- dominated by the Metaphysics of Simple Presence. Everything is basically assumed to be as it is given to the ordinary mind and senses. This includes KNOWING and NOT-KNOWING. They are straightforward. They are simple presences but they are not symmetrical. There are more things known and unknown. This is a world of various kinds of learnable knowledge. There is a vast open space and we can explore it. We make fire or light bulbs in the darkness of night. We enter something into the blank subject line of emails. We look to see what is going on.
The first style of Metaphysics of Adjacency (MOA-1) is readily associated with quantum and relativistic physics. The former uses probability to make discrete practical use of specific unknowns. The latter reveals that each perspective fails to encompass the whole of Reality. We are authentic when we understand the form of our finitude. A pluralism of ways exist in which each of us are limited by the unknown nature of reality. And this requires CONSCIOUSLY OPEN-ENDED thinking. We start to say, "How you really know that?" and "That's just your opinion, man." The specific knowing of the unknown has entered into our thinking.
At MOA-2 levels we begin the conversion of this reality (which is riddled with the Unknown, per se) into a new form form of knowing. The utility of absence becomes the basis of our new constructions. A meta-understanding becomes conceivable. There is a convergence, or structural mutuality and coherence, of the plurality. Open-ended thinking becomes an architecture. Under these conditions the existence and challenge of "another opinion" no longer poses an incommensurable obstacle to the viability of knowing. Knowing incorporates knowledge of unknowingness.
At MOA-3 levels we begin to dabble in nondual logistics. Knowing and Unknowing can not longer be thought of as either the "same" or "different" because sameness and difference are indistinct. Un/knowing is same-different. They are both compressed maximally into their own edge. We are contemplating thoughtlessly but in a way that connects with thinking. Trans-thought is now available. It is EXACTLY ONLY its known unknowness and unknown knownness with no possible alternative for learning any more or remaining limited with current knowledge. Being and becoming of knowledge are impossible to think apart from each other. Declaring that they are identical even implies more contrast than is legitimate.
Dead Cthulhu waits dreaming, etc...
It is true! Right now in the eldritch house of R'lyeh, right here and still so hard to fathom, the long dead are yet dreaming -- this is the tri-fold dance of nuclear time.
Michael - thanks. That's a nice way to frame it. My Lovecraftian exclamation above was as much directed at your post as at Layman's, by the way.
Layman, I'm glad you stepped in with your MOA framing. In my response to theurj, I had considered using some of your MOA language but held back ... but it's clear that that's a good way to read what Tarthang Tulku is suggesting with these stages: the stepwise drawing adjacent of knowing and unknowing into (intimate) nondual in/distiction.