In my research today I came upon this interesting article, “Here comes everything: the promise of object-oriented ontology” by Timothy Morton. (New link, old one broken.) It is of interest not only to speculative realism but also to some recent discussions on Caputo's ontology, modes of apprehension of such, and quantum theory. The article is 27 pages of text so I've culled some excerpts, lengthy in themselves.




Speculative realism...asserts the deep mystery of a Non-Nature....object-oriented ontology (OOO)...goes further than this, rejecting essentialist Matter.... OOO is a form of realism that asserts that real things exist--these things are objects, not just amorphous “Matter”.... OOO extends Husserl's and Heidegger's arguments that things have an irreducible dark side: no matter how many times we turn over a coin, we never see the other side as the other side--it will have to flip onto “this” side for us to see it, immediately producing another underside. Harman simply extends this irreducible darkness from subject–object relationships to object–object relationships.... Causation is thus vicarious in some sense, never direct. An object is profoundly “withdrawn”--we can never see the whole of it, and nothing else can either.... We've become so used to hearing “object” in relation to “subject” that it takes some time to acclimatize to a view in which there are only objects, one of which is ourselves.


The notion of the “withdrawal” of objects extends my term strange stranger to non-living entities. Strange stranger names an uncanny, radically unpredictable quality of life forms. Life forms recede into strangeness the more we think about them, and whenever they encounter one another--the strangeness is irreducible....the uncanny essence of humans that Heidegger contemplates extends to nonhumans.... The more we know about a strange stranger, the more she (he, it) withdraws. Objects withdraw such that other objects never adequately capture but only (inadequately) “translate” them....This is what “irreducible” means.


Rhetoric is not simply ear candy for humans: indeed, a thorough reading of Plato, Aristotle and Longinus suggests that rhetoric is a technique for contacting the strange stranger....[it] amplifies imagination rather than trying to upstage it, and it revels in dislocation, not location.... Harman's imagery differs from ecophenomenological ecomimesis that confirms the localized position of a subject with privileged access to phenomena.... Harman's rhetoric produces an object-oriented sublime that breaks decisively with the Kantian taboo on noncorrelationist scientific speculation....ekphrasis is not about the reaction of the (human) subject, but about rhetorical modes as affective-contemplative techniques for summoning the alien.


The aesthetic, as we shall see, is the secret door through which OOO discovers a theory of what is called “subject”.... Melancholia is precisely a mode of intimacy with strange objects that can't be digested by the subject.... To lapse into Californian, OOO is so about the subject. There is no good reason to be squeamish about this. The more the ekphrasis zaps us, the more we fall back into the gravity well of melancholy. Sentience is out of phase with objects, at least if you have a nervous system. So melancholia is the default mode of subjectivity: an object-like coexistence with other objects and the otherness of objects--touching them, touching the untouchable, dwelling on the dark side one can never know, living in endless twilight shadows. If the reader has experienced grief she or he will recognize this state as an object-like entity that resides somewhere within the body, with an amortization schedule totally separated from other temporalities (in particular, the strict digital clock time of contemporary life). Through the heart of subjectivity rolls an object-like coexistence, none other than ecological coexistence--the ecological thought fully-fledged as dark ecology . The inward, withdrawn, operationally closed mood called melancholy is something we shake off at our peril in these dark ecological times.


Melancholy starts to tell us the truth about the withdrawn qualities of objects. OOO thus differs from theistic ecophilosophy that asserts, “There is a Nature.” It maintains no absolute distance between subject and object; it limits “subject” to no entity in particular. Žižek's suspicion of SR to do with the “feminine” self-absorption of objects: precisely what he doesn't like about Buddhism. Changing “self-absorption” to “withdrawal” or “operational closure” discloses what's threatening about Buddhism: an object-like entity at the core of what is called subjectivity. Like ecomimesis, Harman's passage affirms a real world beyond mentation. Unlike ecomimesis, this world doesn't surround a subject--it's a world without reference to a subject.


If OOO construes everything as objects, some may believe that it would have a hard time talking about subjects--indeed, Slavoj Žižek has already criticized SR in general along these lines. This subjectivity is profoundly ecological and it departs from normative Western ideas of the subject as transcendence. Thus we see off Nature and its correlate, the (human) subject. I argue that OOO enjoins us to drop Matter just as we must drop Nature, and that this means that it can save the appearance of the most coherent and testable physical theory we have, namely quantum theory.


Let's turn our attention to... far “down things” does OOO really go? Are these things made of some kind of substrate, some kind of unformed matter? Does “withdrawal” mean that objects are impenetrable in some non-figurative, nonhuman sense? Do objects have a spatial “inside”? Surely they might. But the principle of irreducibility must mean that this inside is radically unavailable. It's not simply a case of the right equipment passing through it, like a knife through butter. Even a knife through butter would not access the butter in all its essential butteriness. The proliferation of things that ecology talks about--from trees to nuclear power--do not compromise a holistic Nature. Nor yet are they comprised of some intrinsic, essential stuff. To dispatch Matter, we must explore the most rigorous and testable theory of physical Matter we know: quantum theory.


Unlike some thinkers who discovered OOO in spite of deconstruction, I backed into OOO through deconstruction. SR tends to mistake deconstruction for nominalism, subjectivism and Meillassoux's correlationism.... Contemporary physics concurs with a principle tenet of Lacan and Derrida: there's no “big Other,” no device, for instance, that could measure quantum phenomena without participating in these phenomena. All observations are inside the system, or as Derrida puts it, “There is nothing outside the text” (or, in Gayatri Spivak's alternative, which I prefer, “There is no outside-text”). Arkady Plotnitsky has traced the affinities between deconstruction and quantum physics. People commonly misconstrue “there is no-outside-text” as nominalism: we can only know things by their names. Far more drastically, the axiom means: (1) Any attempt to establish rigid boundaries between reality and information results in unsustainable paradoxes; (2) Language is radically nonhuman--even when humans use it. It would be a mistake to hold that (1) is correlationism. “There is no outsidetext” occurs in a passage in which Derrida is analyzing Rousseau's position on Nature, so it's worth pausing here since this issue is directly relevant to ecocriticism. Derrida tacks close to the text he’s analyzing, which is why he appeals to close readers in the first place. He is not making a sweeping generalization about reality. Derrida is only saying, “Given the kind of closed system textuality that Rousseau prescribes, there is no outside-text.” That is, Rousseau can’t go around making claims about nature, not because there is nothing out there, but because the way he models thinking sets textuality up as a black hole....[but] Derrida abstained from ontology: he considered it tainted by the generalization-disease. Unfortunately this defaults to various forms of antirealism. Derrida's is a sin of omission.... OOO shares one thing at least with deconstruction--refraining from assertions about some general essence or substance at the back of things that guarantees their existence.


OOO is troubling for materialisms that rely on any kind of substrate, whether it consists of discrete atoms or of a continuum.... Certain uncontroversial facts, demonstrable in highly repeatable experiments, shatter essentialist prejudices concerning Matter.... Quantum phenomena are not simply hard to access or only partially “translated” by minds and other objects. They are irreducibly withdrawn.


OOO is form of realism, not materialism. In this it shares affinities with quantum theory. Antirealism pits quantum theory against its opponents, since quantum theory supposedly shows reality is fuzzy or deeply correlated with perception and so forth. In fact, quantum theory is the only existing theory to establish firmly that things really do exist beyond our mind (or any mind). Quantum theory positively guarantees that real objects exist! Not only that--these objects exist beyond one another. Quantum theory does this by viewing phenomena as quanta, as discrete “units” as described in Unit Operations by OOO philosopher Ian Bogost. “Units” strongly resemble OOO “objects.” Thinking in terms of units counteracts problematic features of thinking in terms of systems. A kind of systems thinking posed significant problems for nineteenth-century physicists. Only consider the so-called black body radiation problem. Classical thermodynamics is essentially a systems approach that combines the energy of different waves to figure out the total energy of a system. The black box in question is a kind of oven. As the temperature in the oven increases, results given by summing the wave states according to classical theory become absurd, tending to infinity.


By seeing the energy in the black box as discrete quanta (“units”), the correct result is obtained. Max Planck's discovery of this approach gave birth to quantum theory. Now consider perception, for the sake of which antirealism usually cites quantum theory. What does quantum theory show about our mental interactions with things? Perceptual, sensual phenomena such as hardness and brilliance are at bottom quantum mechanical effects. I can't put my hand through this table because it is statistically beyond unlikely that the quanta at the tip of my finger could bust through the resistance wells in the quanta on the table's surface. That's what solidity is. It's an averagely correct experience of an aggregate of discrete quanta. This statistical quality, far from being a problem, is the first time humans have been able to formalize supposedly experiential phenomena such as solidity. What some people find disturbing about quantum theory (once in a gajillion times I can put my finger through the table) is precisely evidence for the reality of things. (This is a version of an argument in Meillassoux, AF 82–5).


Quantum theory specifies that quanta withdraw from one another, including the quanta with which we measure them. In other words quanta really are discrete, and one mark of this discreteness is the constant (mis)translation of one quantum by another. Thus when you set up quanta to measure the position of a quantum, its momentum withdraws, and vice versa. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle states that when an “observer”--not a subject per se, but a measuring device involving photons or electrons (or whatever)--makes an observation, at least one aspect of the observed is occluded (QT 99–115). Observation is as much part of the Universe of objects as the observable, not some ontologically different state (say of a subject). More generally, what Niels Bohr called complementarity ensures that no quantum has total access to any other quantum. Just as a focusing lens makes one object appear sharper while others appear blurrier, one quantum variable comes into sharp definition at the expense of others (QT 158–61). This isn't about how a human knows an object, but how a photon interacts with a photosensitive molecule. Some phenomena are irreducibly undecidable, both wavelike and particle-like. The way an electron encounters the nucleus of an atom involves a dark side. Objects withdraw from each other at a profound physical level. OOO is deeply congruent with the most profound, accurate and testable theory of physical reality available. Again, it would be better to say it the other way around: quantum theory works because it's object-oriented.


Probing the quantum world, then, is a form of auto-affection. Bohr argued that quantum phenomena don't simply concatenate themselves with their measuring devices. They're identical to it: the equipment and the phenomena form an indivisible whole (QT 139–40, 177). This “quantum coherence” applies close to absolute zero, where particles become the “same” thing.


Implication and explication suggest Matter being enfolded and unfolded from something deeper. Even if it were the case that OOO should defer to physics, in the terms set by physics itself objects aren't made “of” any one thing in particular. Just as there is no top level, there may be no bottom level that is not an (substantial, formed) object.


To this extent, “object” (as a totally positive entity) is a false immediacy. Positive assertions about objects fail because objects have a shadowy dark side, a mysterious interiority like the je ne sais quoi of Kantian beauty. Is this nothing at all? Is there a path from the carnival of things to a bleak nothingness? Nihilism, believing that you have no beliefs, maintains that things emerge from an impenetrable mystery. Nihilism, the cool kids' religion, shuns the inconveniences of intimacy. We have objects--they have us--under our skin. They are our skin. OOO can't be a form of nihilism. It's the opposite view (relationism) that tends towards nihilism. Relationism holds that objects are nothing more than the sum of their relations with other objects. This begs the question of what an object is, since the definition implies a potential infinite regress: what are the “other objects”? Why, nothing more than the sum of their relations with other objects--and so on ad obscurum. At least OOO takes a shot at saying what objects are: they withdraw. This doesn't mean that they don't relate at all. It simply means that how they appear has a shadowy, illusory, magical, “strangely strange” quality. It also means they can't be reduced to one another. OOO holds that strangeness is impossible if objects are reducible to their relations. Since relationism is hamstrung by its reluctance to posit anything, it tends towards obscurantism. Relationism is stuck in a Euthyphronic dilemma: objects consist of relations between other objects—and what are those objects? An object as such is never defined. So while ecological criticism appears to celebrate interconnectedness, it must in the end pay attention to what precisely is interconnected with what.


This radical finitude includes a strange irreducible openness.

Views: 22348

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Some of my past posts in the thread exploring this theme follow. Sorry for the rehash but this helps me remember where I've been and perhaps anticipate where I'll go from here. From this post:

I'm wondering if Bryant's view is a sort of representationalism. Granted the most criticized version of it that J&R discuss is the kind that sees a disembodied conceptualization representing an outside object. Bryant at least asserts that this translation process is strictly material or embodied. And he too rails against the  representationalism inherent to metaphysics. Still, we have this inside translating an outside and representing it to itself via sensuous objects. Whereas image schemas are not such a thing, residing in the extended space-time of the inner-outer assemblage.

And this one:

So it strikes me that perhaps Lakoff's embodied basic categories are akin to Bryant's endo-structural organization. Both provide the frame through which a suobject interprets or translates its environment or perturbations therefrom. While each suobject's basic categories are unique by some infinitesimal amount they are still mostly similar (99.9%?) to other bodies in the same type, like humans. Lakoff also makes clear that our basic categories do not exist in the outer world, that they are unique to humanity in its translative capacity, that they do not provide a 1-to-1 representation of the world as it is. Granted it's close enough to respond to the world and not only survive but thrive. But still, like endo-relations they are inside, not outside.

However the outside still gets inside in both systems, or at least affects the inside, for we must engage successfully in exo-relations to survive. And it is here where our inside-outside boundary becomes more porous than insular. With extended cognition, something not explored by Lakoff that I can see, it appears that even our basic categories might indeed exist in the environment. Or something very much like them that then becomes translated through our biological neurostructure. Here Bryant is instructive in that any suobject has this self-defining endo-structure which translates its environment, so any suobject has its own version of basic categories.

So I'm suggesting that the basic categories themselves are an inherent structure to the material world, not in some Platonic ideal type but as inherent to embodiment of any kind by the very nature of a difference that makes a difference. Ideas then are not involuted from above but generated and evolved from below out of embodied basic structures. Granted it appears ideas require a more complex biological base to materialize, but perhaps this will also be so with machines some day. The point however is that once ideas are generated they too become embodied suobstances with a life of their own which get communicated via signs and infect others of like mind. Again this will be translated uniquely to the degree of maybe 0.1%, but 99.9% of that idea will remain intact across the individual boundary.

And this one: More on this notion of inside/outside:

From TOO: “There is that side of the object pointed towards presence or what I call ‘local manifestation,’ and that side of the object that is radically withdrawn which I call ‘virtual proper being’” (4-5). 

Harman in the debate: “I think the thing has to be free from its outer relations but it can’t be free of its inner relations…’domestic relations’” (115). 

I can see making this distinction but it seems too rigid. Substance only resides on the inside due to a suobject’s drawing of a distinction or boundary, i.e., in its endo-structural relations. And I’m suggesting that difference per se is not just inside but in true metaphysical fashion is indeed an ontic* given that flows across all boundaries and everywhere in between boundaries. 

Recall in TOO Bryant notes that differance demonstrates how succession occurs in time and how things change. As I was noting above, this environmental field of differance is itself the progenitor of change. And it should be no surprise that differance, being both in and outside of a suobject, is its cause.

* Unfortunately the definition of ontic distinguishes the real from the phenomenon, and it is exactly this too strict bifurcation (dualism) that I wish to avoid. Same with real and actual, withdrawn and local manifestation. Differance is not just withdrawn but within every local manifestation, every actual event. This is a tough one to communicate.

And this one: In Clark and Chalmers seminal paper "The extended mind" they are discussing something akin to Bryant's endo- and exo-relations on 7-9. An objection for brain-object coupled cognition is that when the brain is decoupled from the object it retains its own cognitive capacities. This might be considered Bryant's distinction of the substance from its contingent local manifestations, which can and do change (decouple). C&C don't deny the brain-body its own capacities. However a number of those internal capacities were in fact shaped by environmental and social forces along the way, even from the beginning.

This is one area that I haven't found explored much with Bryant, how a particular machine comes to be, how it cannot have its autonomy without such external influence. He grants that a machine is created in time, impermanent, always struggling to maintain its autonomy from dissolution, but its creation comes from its coupling with various environments. And perhaps more importantly, its translative abilities don't reside strictly in its once established endo-structure, since that structure itself is at all times coupled with other environmental systems and thus distributing that cognitive translation.

Recall Bryant had to qualify a distinction with Harman about a particular substance capacity to not enter into any exo-relations. He granted it might be theoretically possible but that in practice there are no examples. Other than perhaps neutrinos, and yet they do enter into relations with us since we can imagine or imply their existence by their affects.

And this one from "Beyond the flesh":

"Words are...the concrete objects that structure new spaces for basic forms of learning and reason.... Language is thus conceived as primarily a form of environmental structuring rather than as an information stream requiring translation into and out of various inner codes" (2-3).

Reading this again, I was reminded of Gendlin and my inclusion of his discussion of "body-constituting" in one of my essays.  So, I looked for posts about him on the forum, and lo and behold, found them right in the midst of the prior conversation you are quoting.  I guess we're treading old ground here, but I don't mind it, since I think this is something important -- addressing what appears to be a significant lack or deficiency in OOO's account.  Here's one of the old posts:


In my recent JITP paper, I appealed to an essay by Gendlin, Implicit Precision, in my discussion of generative (en)closures.  In particular, I appealed to his discussion of body-constitution -- his discussion of which is relevant, I think, to my recent post just above, as well as to your own present inquiry into mind, image schemas, endo-relations, etc.  I'm just sharing the link now and will comment more later.


(Initial thought is that something like this process view, which describes the generation of objects -- body-constitution -- can contribute to the articulation of forms of relationality in OOO, and can be held alongside and used in conjunction with OOO's 'unit operations'... contributing to Bryant's increasing efforts to include process accounts in his machine-oriented view).


One brief comment: the model he develops in the linked essay deals nicely with critiquing the inner/outer split, and is possibly a good one for autopoietic objects or living systems, from cellular organisms on up.  It doesn't work as well for something like Bryant's blue mug.  Or does it ... ?   I'm thinking that through.

Here’s a golden oldie from the real/false reason thread, discussing Johnson and Rorher’s work on the different bodies, including biological, ecological, phenomenological, social and cultural. I also brought in Edwards’ 3-part essay on the depths of the exteriors. I brought in much more Edwards in the TOE and TFA thread, particularly the ‘word’ as mediating holon.

This diagram from the depths of the exteriors part 2 says a lot by itself. I just substitute suobject (Bryant's object or machine) for holon.

The entire diagram could itself be seen as an assemblage suobject, e.g., a meme. Or on a much larger scale, the universe hyperobject I've discussed earlier in the thread, with differance as its virtual proper being.

And of course let's remember Levin's body types beyond the merely personal.

Bryant has 2 new posts on the Borromean knot. The first is focused on Lacan's use and as is typical of my response to Lacan I'm again like say what? The second is again Lacanian on jouissance, of which there are several kinds, one being the objet a. At least in Lacan it is nothing like how I've been using it above. To the contrary it seems to be a form of psychological dysfunction when we confuse the word with the thing in itself. Phallic jouissance is another kind, and Bryant doesn't think much of it. Which is my typical response to Lacan generally and these two posts specifically. It seems jouissance in all its forms is about self-punishment of some kind and I have no desire to flagellate myself any further with this particular whip.

From Zizek's "How to read Lacan":

"The melancholic is not primarily the subject fixated on the lost object, unable to perform the work of mourning on it; he is, rather, the subject who possesses the object, but has lost his desire for it, because the cause which made him desire this object has withdrawn, lost its efficiency. Far from accentuating to the extreme the situation of the frustrated desire, of the desire deprived of its object, melancholy stands for the presence of the object itself deprived of our desire for it - melancholy occurs when we finally get the desired object, but are disappointed at it. In this precise sense, melancholy (disappointment at all positive, empirical objects, none of which can satisfy our desire) effectively is the beginning of philosophy....

"The status of this object-cause of desire is that of an anamorphosis: a part of the picture which, when we look at the picture in a direct frontal way, appears as a meaningless stain, acquires the contours of a known object when we change our position and look at the picture from aside. Lacan's point is here even more radical: the object-cause of desire is something that, when viewed frontally, is nothing at all, just a void - it acquires the contours of something only when viewed sideways....

"This is objet a: an entity that has no substantial consistency, which is in itself 'nothing but confusion,' and which acquires a definite shape only when looked upon from a standpoint distorted by the subject's desires and fears - as such, as a mere 'shadow of what it is not,' objet a is the strange object which is nothing but the inscription of the subject itself into the field of objects, in the guise of a stain which acquires form only when part of this field is anamorphically distorted by the subject's desire."

For some strange(r) (non)reason I've been led back to reading Morton's latest, Realist Magic. Lo and behold, the Introduction is related to the posts on ojbet a in a way I had heretofore not seen. I had to come to them 'sideways,' as it were, to get a glimpse. Therein he talks of the melancholy we get when trying to plumb an object's depth, dolls within dolls without end. The mourning comes from never arriving at the object in question, like an unrequited love, always longing for what we can never really have. This is because at heart an object is withdrawn so we can never fully know or experience it, including ourselves. And yet this withdrawal as the object of desire nonetheless spurs us on, providing impetus to strive for it anyway, and in so doing we do learn, we do progress, we do become more in tune with that which withdraws, while accepting we can never reach it.

Continuing the introduction, he talks of the Rift between I and me, between the reflexive and nonreflexive pronoun. My associative Muse thought immediately of how Edwards uses the I and me as the inner and out zones of a first-person holon from Part 7 of "Through AQAL Eyes." I must read more of Morton to flesh out this for now incipient relation.

Ah, the I is an suobject's withdrawn core, the me is a suobject's relations and qualities. Again with the inner/outer distinction I criticized above. But the Rift is the irreducible gap between them, the chorismos (akin to chora or khora?). It is here he gets into Priest's paraconsistent logic as supplement to the law of noncontradiction, much like I discussed above with differance. A first person holon is both, yet neither, but if we accept that the withdrawn is the inner I then it is not the Rift or differance per se.

If we translate the above diagram into the Borromean knot though  we see the Rift in the center, only there are 3 aspects to a holon instead of 4. In the above diagram then the intersection of the 4, the X, must represent the Rift. I talked about this X as the Cross before so will need to find those links.

Still, something is not right with the notion of the withdrawn residing in the I only instead of the X. The X can also be see as two Is crossing, i.e., the I-I, another intuition that needs some contemplation.

Interesting ... I like this, theurj.  I'd like to relate it to some points in my forthcoming paper, but I will withdraw from that temptation for now; I want to wait till it has gone through review and is published, or about-to-be-published, before talking about it much here.

But the above also reminds me of a brief commencement speech I gave about a year ago.  I thought I had shared it here before, but a brief search for it did not turn it up, so I'll post it again.  The following is my notes, from which I spoke somewhat extemporaneously, rather than something complete that I read word for word.  The first part is not immediately relevant, but the latter part is (I believe)...

"[Opening remarks, thanks and congratulations...]

I like the theme of this ceremony, “Care of the Soul,” because it presented a challenge to me, and a gift, which I hope to return to you.  Before this event, soul has not been a regular part of my vocabulary.  When I’ve referred to it, it has usually been in the context of describing someone else’s understanding, since I don’t normally think in these terms.  But in preparing for this event, reflecting on the meaning of this word and on the notion of ‘care of the soul,’ the word has grown more beautiful to me as I’ve polished it, turning it over again and again in contemplation. 

Walking down the street the other day, I pronounced the word ‘soul’ to myself, trying to find a ‘fit’ for it in my experience, and out of nowhere I felt a deep stirring – an intimation of depth of feeling that, lightning-like, lit up the whole body, edged with joy and longing at once.  It’s like listening to sublime music, the meaning of which issues from we-know-not-where, and touches us we-know-not-how, and yet there we are: transfixed by the grace of this, the inexplicable gift of the moment.

In one of its early meanings, according to the etymological dictionary, soul meant, “of or coming from the sea.”  The idea apparently was that the soul stopped at the sea prior to an individual’s birth, and also on its way “out” after an individual’s death.   What has the soul to do with the sea?  I do not know the mythology around this, but taking poetic license, I’ll mention two associations that have arose for me as I contemplated this.  In the first, I see the sea as our evolutionary bed of origin.  As if the soul, in coming to birth, recapitulates that great journey from mineral bed, to sea creature, to mammal, to human being; and as if, on passing out again, it stops at the sea again to honor that fertile womb.

Thinking of this recapitulatory journey, I am reminded of the Sufi understanding of our soul life.  In Sufism, we have not one soul, but seven.  Some teachers say we have seven different souls; some say the soul has seven dimensions. 

I died from the mineral kingdom and became a plant;
I died to vegetable nature and became an animal;
I died to animality and became a human being.
Next time I will die to human nature and lift up my head among the angels.
Once again I will leave angelic nature and become that which you cannot imagine.

— Mevlana Jelaleddin Rumi

Review of the seven souls:


Mineral – spine – skeletal – overly rigid – inner support

Vegetable – liver – digestive tract – overactivity/laziness – healing/nourishment

Animal – heart – circulatory system – anger/greed/addiction – motivation

Personal – brain – nervous system – egotism, weak ego – intelligence, healthy ego

Human – spiritual heart ____________________ sentimentality – compassion/creativity

Secret – inner spiritual heart - __________ word rejection / non-attachment/wisdom

Secret of secret – innermost spiritual heart _______________________ union w/ God

Caring for the soul is to care for, to ongoingly nurture and seek to balance, these qualities, in ourselves and others.  This is a deep ‘yes’ to the deep-time gifts of our evolution, our embodied soul.

Another association that arises when I think about the soul’s journey to the sea is the notion of the soul as a dweller in the depths.  Nietzsche, Heiddeger, David Michael Levin, Raimon Panikkar, and many others have referred to ‘soul’ as the depth of the body – not as some disembodied ghost temporarily inhabiting the body, but as the mysterious depth of the body itself.  The Sufi notion of seven souls speaks in one way to this depth in the body.

But there is another approach to considering the body’s depths that I am interested in mentioning today, an approach which also suggests other dimensions to the notion of ‘care of the soul.’

[Briefly introduce OOO.]  

GM Hopkins: 

And for all this, nature is never spent;

    There lives the dearest freshness deep down


Although seeing relationally is an advance over seeing the world as just so many objective parts, the  threat of nihilism lurks at the heart of our relational view, if we think the 'being' of our client is exhausted by that relationality -- if their 'whatness' is fully commensurate with and 'nothing more than' those relationships.  As if "who" can be summed up, fully grasped or apprehended, and (though we might not consciously put it this way) explained away by "context."  This, for me, is where an appeal to "soul" comes in -- the acknowledgement, as Morton might say, via Hopkins, of a 'freshness' and/or 'strangeness' -- an inaccessible, unmasterable, withdrawingly mysterious, integrity -- deep down things.

As Henri Bortoft says, the whole is an active absence.  We cannot find the 'whole' arrayed alongside other things; it forever escapes that sort of gaze.  And yet the particular is where the whole 'bodies forth.'  Here, whole is not 'entirety' but, in some sense, inexhaustibility.  And what allows us to apprehend that wholeness, that deep integrity, but care -- that light by which the gaze opens itself to receiving the inexhaustible gift of the other.  Can we live in light of the inaccessibility of the other?

This inaccessibility is of a piece with integrity: the soul is autopoietic, as Almaas suggests, a site of both opening and closure.  That closure, when we encounter it, draws us forward, in invitation: but the gift is in its unmasterability: it invites us to openness, to receiving, to a fresh attentiveness, which is a way of seeing that flowers in care.

Care is an attitude of openness.  In caring, we open to ...

Humans are beings for whom "to be" is an open question.  We care for our humanity by keeping open to this questioning.

Here is a poem I wrote for my wife which speaks (I think) to this:

all of you

as suddenly as you appeared
in cottonwood drift, gold-limned
at the edge of day
I have never caught up
with your newness
or touched the bottom
of the gift of your eyes
that still invite
and surprise me with
the unbidden water
of acceptance

as much as I have traced
the drift of your skin, gold-brown,
at the fall of night,
I still delight at the way
you exceed me;
like a deer in a garden
chase, you lead me
and surprise me with
the undoing shudder
of your embrace

In closing, I want to bring to you a question:  In reflecting on care of the soul, what is that for which soul cares?  When you touch in to yourself, to your depths which even exceed your ego’s searching light, but which in the night of knowing may flash forth like lightning:  what is THAT for which your soul most cares?  What electrifies you?  As you step forward tonight into your post-JFKU lives, I invite you to honor and live from THAT..."

He talks of the causal Rift in terms of being figuratively "in front of" objects, hence not the objects themselves. And yet it is the objects themselves that emanate this Rift, since it is not a separate space-time in which they exist. This sounds more like what I'm trying to articulate. More reading and contemplation required.

Reply to Discussion


What paths lie ahead for religion and spirituality in the 21st Century? How might the insights of modernity and post-modernity impact and inform humanity's ancient wisdom traditions? How are we to enact, together, new spiritual visions – independently, or within our respective traditions – that can respond adequately to the challenges of our times?

This group is for anyone interested in exploring these questions and tracing out the horizons of an integral post-metaphysical spirituality.

Notice to Visitors

At the moment, this site is at full membership capacity and we are not admitting new members.  We are still getting new membership applications, however, so I am considering upgrading to the next level, which will allow for more members to join.  In the meantime, all discussions are open for viewing and we hope you will read and enjoy the content here.

© 2024   Created by Balder.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service