Thursday, July 27, 2006

Creativity Unleashed

This paper seeks to encourage others to engage with the process of creating the parameters for the next paradigm. The ideas put forward as possible parameters are less important than the need to recognize that the next paradigm will best be built from a wide social and cultural base. The "other" can then become our salvation rather than being seen as a threat.

Creativity Unleashed, or Who’s Gonna Let the Dogs Out?

How is it that society will come to understand more constructive ways to relate to the conditions of our existence? This paper seeks to illustrate the manner by which fixed belief systems inhibit our creativity and ability to change the expressions of our consciousness. In particular, a notion will be advanced that Satan and Lucifer are G-d’s necessary helpers and are pitted against each other, rather than against G-d.

The current occupant of the White House has said; "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists." This is a call for eternal war, and cannot be considered positive for the development of culture or society. Also, in a little noticed statement, the US Sec. of Defense, Donald Rumsfield, said that; " the "unknown unknown" is the thing that keeps me awake at night". The only work that I am aware of, that deals with the subject of the "unknown unknown" is found in a book called "Scientific Literacy and the Myth of the Scientific Method". Here Henry Bauer makes a strong case that use of the scientific method alone does not provide the necessary ingredients for the formation of valid science. Of greater necessity is having a community of searchers that have a common language and boundary conditions. He uses the puzzle analogy of Michael Polanyi to show how the scientific community working together produces the solution to the puzzle.

Normal science deals with elements found within the boundaries of the dominant paradigm. That is the known and the known unknown. Elements outside those boundary conditions are often denied existence. Henry Bauer calls them the unknown unknown. To better understand the meaning of the known, the known-unknown, and the unknown-unknown, consider a square. The lines represent the boundaries of a puzzle. These boundaries represent our corollaries and assumptions. Inside the lines are puzzle pieces. The pieces that fit together are considered to be the known. The pieces inside the lines that don't yet fit together are considered to be the known-unknown. Everything outside the lines is considered as being the unknown-unknown and also, unfortunately, irrelevant.

Henry Bauer's use of the puzzle analogy is helpful although it is less than consistent. On one occasion it is treated as a fixed entity as when he says; 'Actually and ultimately, there is only one way to fit all the pieces together.' This implies that the puzzle is all of reality. On another occasion he talks about the puzzle growing. He seems to feel no need to explicitly state what is implicitly recognized through nearly everybody's experience. That is to say, the first thing that a puzzler does is to put together the boundary pieces. Yet the edge pieces define the puzzle and not the edges of reality. In a picture puzzle the edge pieces are the easy ones while in real life the boundary conditions are the most difficult to define. Indeed without boundary conditions we hardly have a puzzle to solve. The following statement of his provides another indication that Henry Bauer confuses the puzzle with reality.

"Every now and again, though, something happens....and then we have "revolutionary" science, or a Gestalt shift in some part of the puzzle.....The players thereby can never claim absolute finality for any part of the picture, and yet as larger and larger areas are completed, it does become less and less likely that major Gestalt shifts or minor rearrangements will need to be made-the less likely, the more there are links to surrounding areas of the puzzle."

Any credible scientist would concede that boundary conditions limit the extendibility of any given model, rather than considering them as the limits of reality itself. Currently existing paradigms deal with the known and the known unknown. Frontier science is liable to contain greater obvious error, but it represents the only way to deal with the unknown unknown. Its error or truth cannot be judged reliably by existing paradigms, as its conclusions lie outside the boundaries of current paradigms.

It seems to me that the strongest single determinant regarding the succession of paradigms lies in the aesthetic. The Copernican system was aesthetically more pleasing than the old Ptolemic system, yet at the time could not be said to predict events any better than the old system. Contrast this with this statement of Henry Bauer.

"The filter and puzzle model describes how the practices and institutions that have evolved in science sift out bias, error, and fraud under the scrutiny of the scientific community and the control of the prevailing paradigm."

It seems that most unbiased observers would see that while the current paradigm may sift out some bias and error, it will at the same time institutionalize other forms of bias and error. Those in "control of the prevailing paradigm" certainly felt justified in inhibiting the work of Galileo. In Galileos time the forces restricting science's pursuit of truth were religious, today those forces are economic and political. A Gestalt shift however, involves the replacement of one puzzle with a new puzzle; not simply the rearrangement of existing pieces. Previous rationality may now become irrationality, and vice-versa. Before Coperinicus it was considered irrational to believe the sun to be the center of the solar system, after conversion the opposite became true. How prudent is it then, given historical precedence, to be totally invested in current conceptual structures?

Consensual representations (OwenBarfield) form the relative truth structures at any given time within society. . While Truth may be Absolute, our understanding of Truth is never absolute. Any claim to understanding is mediated by words that form the interpretation of intimations of the comprehensive, (Karl Jaspers) or the ineffable (Abraham Heschel). Communication is also limited by the mutual understanding of the language used. As such, expressions of the Absolute will always maintain some distance from us.

Experience shows that when relative truth is promoted as being Absolute Truth, pathological response patterns are often the result. It is a false security thereby derived, as working with rigid or frozen categories surely inhibits a person’s connection to the ineffable (Abraham Heschel) or the comprehensive (Karl Jaspers).

Creativity is found in reformulating the information content within and between categories or, our ‘forms of structure’ (Aristotle) or ‘forms of understanding’ (Kant). Our current forms of understanding are rooted in a hard dualism via the Greeks and Descartes. This has been a legitimate stage to go through in that it has greatly assisted us in improving our analytical abilities. Still, it is time we used our innate creativity to better transcend the limits of dualism. Creativity can be used to reframe the boundary conditions of our puzzle. The "unknown unknown" can then become part of the known and the known unknown. That is, some of the "unknown unknown" can be brought within the boundary conditions of the puzzle (the known and the known unknown).

When boundary conditions change, (a rare event) the expert classes must redefine their relationships to society. Therefore, Mr. Rumsfield’s true fear is more likely, not the "unknown unknown", it is rather that the "unknown unknown" might become part of the known and known unknown. It may however also be the case that Henry Bauer and Mr. Rumsfield deal with the "unknown unknown" issue so as to signal and inspire other thinkers. Indeed in times past, members of the expert class would sometimes present exaggerated versions of orthodox positions so as to inspire students to examine new approaches to a given problem. (Beral Lang, Philosophical Style)

It is safe to say that most people are not happy with where society is at, or their place in society. Many search for the root causes of this dilemma, yet circumstances suggest we are far from identifying these causes. Our personal crusades may mask root causes rather than identifying them. Look at any panel of "experts" convened to address our larger problems. One person will cite breakdown of the family, another will cite lack of love, and the others will claim still different elements as the root causes. The primary cause expressed will always reflect the profession of the speaker. Each person will have valuable things to say; yet all will be far from the root causes. I fear that many "experts" exist to fill some "basic fault" or gap between perception and reality. (Morris Berman, 'Coming to our Senses') If this is the case then most experts will probably feel threatened if deeper causes let alone the "root causes" are brought up. Still there is a place for everyone in existence. Job descriptions and the means of value creation can change. Initiative is required to define our places in society, and our problems may be the best spur to initiative there is. I propose a toast to our problems: May we always have problems, never insurmountable, yet always a challenge.

At this point in our history many problems seem insurmountable. Whether the problem is resource depletion, environmental degradation, epidemics, fear of the other, or any other problem, the dilemma is inherent in our outlook rather than the potentials of reality itself. To be caught on the "horns" of hope and despair is a melodramatically paralyzing response better replaced with a personal absorption of the dilemma, which if lived with long enough can yield a personally meaningful response. While the solutions presented here (always partial and incomplete) may seem surreal and outlandish, be assured ancient "truths" are appealed to for the foundation. It is simply the case that "truths" are layered by rhetoric and myth making over time. One initial task is to cut through the rhetoric and reclaim more of the substance of the myths.

It makes sense that, over time, our guiding institutions will shape the forms of structure (understanding), so as to promote interests of the institutions. For example, while the early Hebrews considered Satan to be a roadblock or impediment to righteousness, a later Christian interpolation cast Satan as the representative of some external enemy. Casting Satan as an external threat then provides obvious benefits to the guiding institution, so as to rally the community under a perceived threat from the "other". Misdirected focus surly contributes to the loss of original information content (substance) within the category that we call Satan.

Our current dualistic system for understanding inhibits critical self-examination and promotes an unjustified sense of righteousness. The good vs evil agenda provides an all to simple target and shield for everyone involved. Culture and society can flourish only to the degree that our systems of understanding treat the "other" as a necessary element rather than as a threat. Towards this end, I would like to present a re-interpretation of a few categories that have been stripped of their substance over time. The following (abridged) system for understanding reality seeks to overcome some current limits of thought and speculation. Abraham Heschel, in his book "God in Search of Man", said that all experience contains elements of both law and spontaneity (order and liberty). Higher-grade experience happens when order and liberty are balanced and support each other. A low-grade experience will result when one dominates the other. Order without liberty produces a shallow and sometimes negative expression of order, and vice-versa. The following diagram serves to illustrate the effects of balance or lack thereof between order and liberty.

Imagine this figure in 3-d with an inverted tornado overlaid on it representing ones experience and history.

This figure implies that we all have both positive and negative elements to our being, and a focus on the positive will produce better relations.

Mr. Heschel claimed that there are three types of people. The first type seeks self-salvation. For the second type the Self is the problem, so that he will seek self-abdignation. The third type simply seeks fellowship. The salvationist will tend to do what he is told under the mistaken assumption that that is the way to claim his prize. People, for whom, the Self is the problem; expend their energy trying to transcend the limits of existence. Both are Self-centered and seek to relate oneself toward ones conception of reality, rather than to reality itself.

This version of Mr. Heschel's analysis changes his terminology so as to brighten the contrast of these images and to show substance within forms that many people consider to be empty of substance. First of all, there is no battle of Good versus Evil. In fact, if we allow that G-d is unnamable or beyond categories, then the battle is not between G-d and Satan at all. It is rather between different tendencies of expression, which educate through contrast. To illustrate, let us call order without liberty the static principle, or Ahriman (Satan). Under this principle you will do as you are told, and consider that the relevant authority structure is telling the "Truth". Next, let's call liberty without order the principle of indiscriminate change, and further, label this as Lucifer. This principle (idea) dispenses with received authority, replacing it with a, self-contradictory and absolutist demand for relativism. According to these measures, dogmatic orthodoxy is the tool of Satan, while rebellion from conventions is to be influenced by Lucifer. This can be brought into a modern secular context by considering "Type 1" and "Type 2" personalities. Type 1 personalities generally submit to the conditioning pressures of their parents and society, while Type 2 personalities tend to rebel from conditioning. While many people are not at the ends of the continuum, the rhetorical advantages are clearest at the ends. There is also a Type 3 personality, neither beholden to, nor disdainful of current conventions. Our job is to encourage first in us, then in our children, Type 3 personality expressions.

My contention is that a more balanced relation between order and liberty will deepen the possibilities within our categories and thereby better illustrate the substance contained within our forms. The quality of our experience is a direct reflection of the balance, or lack thereof, between order and liberty. This results in the strange corollary that Ahriman and Lucifer are G-ds necessary helpers. They serve to provide opportunity for discernment and a functional background on which we may find the value and effects of applying free will.

While consciousness is less developed, as with young children, it is reasonable for order to dominate liberty. As consciousness grows elements of liberty become more relevant, and if repressed will produce negative expressions of both order and liberty. The repressor will demand total obedience, while the liberator demands total repudiation.

In time consciousness will recognize the imperative to balance order and liberty. Then, rather than doing what we are told (Ahriman) or doing what we feel like (Lucifer), we will do the right thing and the Christ will rise from within us, sweeping the garbage of Satan and Lucifer out of our heads and allowing us to become effective co-creators with G-d. We can celebrate difference as an element that makes for a rich culture. Conversely, we can allow nasty operators to continue to create monsters that "must" be subsequently destroyed. An Old Spanish proverb says; take what you want... Then pay for it. All the fortunes in the world could never pay for the deceits of the ages. (Talk about family secrets, Diane Rheim. Dec 6,PRI) Still, the Grace of G-g rains down upon the just and the unjust alike, and the Glory of G-d will find expression. That is, the Grace (voice of the ineffable) will produce the Glory (harmony of greater understanding.)

In G-ds Love, Sounder