Friday 13 October 2017

Understanding and learning-from the experience of primary thinking

Primary Thinking is the term I have devised for what Owen Barfield called Final Participation and Rudolf Steiner the Imaginative Soul - as a state it would also include some examples of Jung's active imagination, Gurdjieff's self-remembering, Maslow's peak experience, and alert types of shamanic, poetic and creative trances.

I regard the attainment of primary thinking to be the main task of modern Man - but clearly, since the state has been so widely noticed, and is experienced by so many people - merely experiencing primary thinking is ineffectual.

This is because primary thinking is firstly nearly-always brief and very intermittent, and secondly the experience of primary thinking nearly-always misunderstood by normal every day consciousness when that state resumes.

Primary thinking ought to be understood as an experience of the divine way of thinking, intrinsically Good and valid - and superior to other and lower types of normal existence. In primary thinking we know - and we know directly - truth, beauty and virtue; and in this state we are intrinsically creative; because primary thinking is that which is divine in us, active within the realm of universal knowledge.

However, most people who experience primary thinking most of the time will misinterpret the experience; or will try to use it for their own worldly expediency. Jung and Maslow, for example, regard it as therapeutic - in effect a branch of medicine, aiming at making people feel and function better. While mainstream New Agers tend to regard primary thinking as a source of pleasure and gratification - part of a satisfying lifestyle.

And of course most of us are substantially evil; so despite that the primary thinking state is intrinsically Good; once they 'snap out of it', people will try to use the knowledge attained during primary thinking for selfish and short-termist reasons, or else for actively-evil purposes - using their knowledge of Good to try and destroy Good.

(This is presumably what devils and demons do: i.e. a kind of inverted black magic.)

Mainstream secular leftist people usually regard primary thinking as a pleasant but foolish delusion - and make fun of, or scorn, those who take it seriously.

So the challenge of primary thinking is not so much to do it, but - when we are not doing it - to 1. understand it correctly, 2. learn from it, and 3. put those lessons into practice as best we can. 


Lucinda said...

Lucinda says:

Regarding Maslow, his hierarchy of needs inverts common sense. Ultimately you have to be willing to give up lower needs to achieve higher needs. If you want to feel safe, you are going to have to forgo some opportunities for biological satisfaction. If you want to have good relationships, you have to be willing to forgo feeling safe all the time, as well as some opportunities for biological satisfaction. If you want to have a sense of self-esteem and respect from others, you are going to have to show that you will not put up with being treated poorly by people in your group and forgo that sense of belonging and safety. And finally, if you are going to be self-actualized, your going to have to subjugate your desire for self-esteem and respect from others to a sense of higher purpose and meaning. Ultimately you have to give up your own life in order to really have it in the fullest sense.

I bring this up because Maslow's theory is very damaging to Christianity. The idea that you cannot experience God until you are well-fed, feel safe and a sense of belonging, feel good about yourself and respected by others is very subversive of the reality that suffering and difficulties have meaning and that the purpose of life is to learn the meaning, overcome enslavement to the lower needs. I regard the fact that so many Christians adopt the false pragmatism of Maslow's theory (whether explicitly or merely absorbed from modern society) to be the main handicap preventing Christians from achieving what you call primary thinking.

Bruce Charlton said...

@L - Yes, good insight.

Maslow initially believed and hoped that the gratification of lower needs by modern society (abolition of famine, massive reduction in disease) universal prosperity etc) - would then, almost automatically, lead to the mass of people seeking higher and higher gratifications - for example a serious interest in the arts, or philosphy.

This was a common view on the secular Left - I came across in in Bernard Shaw, e.g. - they felt that the 'masses' were brutalised by poverty and struggle and would be freed by socialism.

Maslow was, however, an honest and decent man, and he realised that this was Not happening; and his later writings struggled with this fact - and with the observable decline in high-mindedness from the middle sixties.

In retrospect, many people now believe almost the opposite of the old socialist assumptions, that struggle and poverty actually increase high-mindedness and religiousness (whic is why the evil global Establishment now use luxury to try and corrupt humanity, instead of suffering).

Certainly this was the experience in the Eastern Bloc - under the oppressions and censorship of communism there was a craving for culture (I knew someone who would travel to Czechoslovakia and give illegal but avidly attended seminars on philosophy); however, this evaporated extremely rapidly after 1989, to leave a shallow, distracted hedomism - just like everywhere else.

Chiu ChunLing said...

Poverty and deprivation of themselves do not produce courage and autonomy.

It is struggle that is the key. And not primarily struggle against externalities (though this can be an initial motivation), but the struggle against our own weakness and limitation.

Solzhenitsyn wrote, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" Not because he had any reason to suspect that there were not evil people insidiously committing evil deeds, or even that it was necessary to destroy such people. The key word is "only". To identify external causes of evil and destroy them is necessary (though it should be rare for those causes to be people), but insufficient.

And insufficient for others as well as ourselves. When we seek to do good in the world (and we should), it is not wrong to provide food and shelter, friendship and respect. But we must also allow meaningful choices, opportunities for people's actions to alter their outcomes. In the past, charities focused on the "deserving poor", those whose lives produced goodness for others, but had somehow been deprived of the just compensation. Rather than encouraging dependence and entitlement, this fostered gratitude and encouraged people to live better lives. The biblical instructions to Church leaders on how to distribute that which had been entrusted to them for the care of the poor reflects this.

We should not fear to be active in helping alleviate the hardships of life for ourselves and others. So long as we do not abolish the essential consequences of their choices. We see around us many who work hard to do what is right and are little rewarded for it because of the vagaries of fortune or the evil of men. And we see many who have little because their actions justly deserve even less. To impose the same consequences on both makes their different choices meaningless.

Whether the consequence is deprivation or abundance.

Bruce Charlton said...

I agree life is meant to be a 'struggle' - especially modern Western life when (I believe) we are (divinely) supposed to attain a higher consciousness which is autonomous, agent, aware and explicit. This is something which cannot happen-to-us but which we can only choose and work-towards. It was a big mistake when we began to equate reality with that -which overwhelms our passive selves.