Monday 29 October 2018

Original versus Final Participation - and the Consciousness Soul (which we currently inhabit)

Owen Barfield's terminology of Original and Final Participation represents an important distinction, whether by that name or some other.

Original Participation happens in early childhood (and early in human pre-history); reality is unconsciously and spontaneously apprehended; reality is obvious - it is 'out-there'. We see or hear, and we just-know what everything is and what it means.

In OP we are immersed-in reality, and just accept it as obvious, without thinking about it. We are in creation, directly in-contact; and we are swept-along by creation.

It was our unconsciousness and our lack of agency that made this immersion-in-reality possible.  

In the stage of Consciousness Soul - now; we still suppose that reality is out-there, but we must consciously construct its meaning using logic, science... by abstraction and system-building. This, obviously, involves thinking - but that thinking is not a part of the abstraction and system building (unnoticed, ignored, denied).

So we are conscious of reality as a problem, and because conscious we are 'free', 'agents'; yet our consciousness of our-selves knows-itself to be cut-off from reality - because reality is out-there, and we are in-here.

In-here is experienced as real, yet out-there is supposedly the only reality...

We, in-here, can only make theories, have hypotheses, build 'models', about what is out-there - hence the ubiquity of alienation: we know we don't have direct access to reality.

In the end, nothing seems real - neither the self in-here, nor 'reality' out-there

Final Participation 'notices' that thinking is always and necessarily used in understanding reality; therefore reality is both in-here and out-there - reality is, in actuality, located in the process of thinking.

But not, obviously, in all kinds and instances of thinking... For example, the thinking of Consciousness Soul is not about reality (just theories, models, hypotheses); but the thinking of the Original Participation was about reality... however it was unconscious and passive and didn't know explicitly...

So... Final Participation is the same spontaneously apprehended reality as Original Participation - but conscious of itself.

And, being conscious of itself, it is an active participation; it participates in the creation of reality.

In other words, Final Participation is divine thinking.


Chiu ChunLing said...

Thinking about this from the other side, but in Original participation we naively assume the entire world (and all in it) exists for our sakes alone, not for all of us together, but each of us assuming it is for that one alone.

The Conscious soul, to be properly conscious of itself, recognizes that the rest of the world is not. This is a gradual process and continues throughout life, as the innocent child grows to become aware of evil (that is, contradiction of his own desire) in the world, then in his own family, eventually in his own body, and even in his own mind. This alienation from the world around him can reach the extreme of existential despair.

Final participation is to return to understanding that the world is for our sake, but our sakes all together, not anyone's sake alone. The key is to realize that we are also part of the world of all the others, we exist for the sake of others as much as they exist for our sake, in fact there is a strong correlation to the degree to which we exist for the sake of others and the degree to which they will exist for ours.

Sorry if that seems to trivial a way of putting it, especially the last crudity. Existing for the sake of others means not primarily caring whether they exist for our sake in return, because that would just be having them exist for our sake through manipulation. Or rather, it would be that they did not really exist for our sake, but we for our own sake used our powers to use them conveniently. To exist ourselves for the sake of others is to care more about what we do for them than what they do for us, but it certainly does not require that we ignore what they do for us. On the contrary, we are both pleased (for their sake) and grateful that others have also reached Final participation. If we cannot be grateful (and pleased) by what others do for our sake, then we are not in Final participation (this is my own difficulty, I can't say I'm especially pleased with God's project, more exactly I only feel God's pleasure in it, and not my own).

Of course, the most important and defining other here is God.

In Original participation, as in primitive religion, God exists for the purposes of serving the felt needs (i.e. desires) of a particular people (or even an individual, to the child).

The Conscious soul is aware that its own desires are at odds with God. God wants for it to do and suffer what it does not like of its own accord.

Final participation is to realize that God exists for the sake of all, including but not limited to the particular individual, and that individual, along with all, has the possibility of existing for the sake of God, thus reconciling its desires with God's.

Or so I am interpreting these terms for now.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Some helpful insights.

"in Original participation we naively assume the entire world (and all in it) exists for our sakes alone, not for all of us together, but each of us assuming it is for that one alone."

I'm pretty sure that there is a stage before the above - in which there is an unconscious assumption that our subjective world is the whole world; this is simply assumed but not articulated nor is there awareness of the distinction between private and public. The very young child operates on the basis that what he knows, everyone knows - the 'Sally Anne' developmental test is supposed to be testing something of this sort.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I meant to include that phase, though.

Or rather, whether the world beyond our own immediate conception of it is assumed to exist has no definite relation to whether the world exists for our sake. People can remain solipsist after having become disillusioned with the world existing solely to please them, just as they can still remain in childhood's assumption that it all exists for them alone after realizing that the world still exists even when they aren't looking. They are associated by both being related to cognitive development (for both individual children and for cultures), but not intrinsically contingent otherwise.

But this is away from the real question, is the initial assumption that the world exists for our sake part of the experience of Original Participation, in which, "we just-know what everything is and what it means"? Further, does our realization that the world does not exist for our sole sake have anything to do with the Conscious Soul, and the acceptance that it exists for the sake of all of us together have anything to do with Final Participation?

And even if the answer to all three is in the affirmative, is this something significant about the progression or merely a morally good but accidental element?

After all, the discussion of OP>CS>FP has been rather opaque to me for some time. I do think that the moral development I have described above is important, but I don't know if it is what you are talking about when you speak of the development from Original to Final Participation.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - I don't think we ever do believe (even unconsciously) that the world exists for our own sake - or, at least, that isn't the destined stage (it may be a thing- due to sin). It is more a matter of not-differentiating the self from the world. This is, indeed, the primary and natural state of affairs - the whole of reality as a kind of 'field' - and individuals merely zones of greater concentration (to use a physics analogy).

But we don't really need analogy - if memory of the actual experience is available to us. As a young child we and the world are undivided; or, at least, the boundary is porous and temporary.

Chiu ChunLing said...

In other words, Original Participation does not have the attribute of distinguishing world from self and consciously asserting that the world serves the self.

To the Original Participant, the world is like a mother to an infant, taken for granted as essential birthright.

So the lack of distinction between self and world is a continuum, at the low end children do not realize that the world can retain information they do not know (and vice versa, as in the TOM experiments you reference), as they gain complexity of awareness of the ways in which their awareness is only a part of the world, they approach some threshold of realizing that they are a self essentially distinct from the world.

Looking at it this way, I can see why I have trouble understanding the theory. I have simply never reached the critical point of being a Conscious Soul. I still fundamentally perceive my "self" as part of the universe. I can consider the assumption of a self existing apart from the universe, but it immediately results in overt logical contradiction.

Descartes' famous maxim, "cogito ergo sum" is for me better translated as "I think, therefore thought occurs." Or rather, it is at least not a clearly different proposition. I think that you are right that it is supposed to be, but I've never been able to make that transition. Or rather, I have in my conversations with God encountered similarly incomprehensible injunctions about becoming a "self".

Which is apparently not simply a matter of thinking. How troublesome.