Not Individuals, Not Groups

One open question around the brain/mind formulation is what it does to our conception of individuals and groups. It seems easy to criticize a practice of attention that opens us to mind and sees the conditioning of the brainthought in Bohm‘s characterization – as an impediment; either as swallowing up the individual into an amorphous mass or disregarding groupsmovements – in a turning inward. My sense is that it is neither of these. That these reactions “smell” of the kinds of Ego-defense that abound whenever we begin to talk about the fallacy of control.

To begin, both the terms individual and group are confused and rife with buried assumptions. When we talk about universal mind, we again bring in terms open to misunderstanding. Then Krishnamurti adds that we are Being when “the self is not,” we’ve added another layer of potential confusion. Let’s try to clear this trail and see where it leads.

The tingle of insight I’m beginning with is a sense that neither individual nor group answers as the best descriptor of what we might intend by their use if we look into the matter more deeply. My sense is that they both come out of the polarization our reactive thought brings to the way we look at people. As with any and all polarizations they show us a fragmentation of a greater whole and a way of perceiving a dynamic that drives us away from an understanding of the broader context by reducing a nuanced whole into a yes/no, either/or duality.

What if individual and group are both just artifacts of a fragmented view of the human condition? This fits into their being elements of an ideological world-view. Ideals held up by thought as more worthy of our attention than what is actually there, these terms work just as so many other ideals within our brains when we lack proprioception of the self-inflicted consequences of placing emphasis on our projections of thought instead of remaining receptive to perception. From out of an ideological world-view that sees humanity divided into atomized individuals or aggregated groups grows the whole mess of conflict and destruction. These terms can be seen as entry-points into the entire construct that values separation and the illusion of control over any potential for efficacy possible within the realm of Being. In the name of “empowering” both terms objectify us and set us in opposition to every other fragmented remnant of existence that has not yet fallen to the corrosive effects of this destructive dynamic.

Note: I make a distinction between types of action we generally put under the same terms: violence and destruction. We tend to say that a lioness is violent when she makes a kill, or that an earthquake is destructive. I would say that there is a qualitative difference between these kinds of actions and human violence and destruction. Actions carried out within “Nature” are part of the whole, they occur within systems that work as they are – within existence – and they have an inevitability, and a need, that is an outgrowth of the way existence is. They are moments of sharp transition, they cause pain, and may either support or erode levels of complexity within the overall systems they effect; but I would not call them violent or destructive in the way classes of human action are.

Humans are capable of acts that fall into this first group. We are, at least have been for most of our existence, part of the world. Human violence and destruction, as I would characterize them, are actions taken out of a clouded view that pits an “us” against a “them” and seeks to maintain an illusion of control AT ALL COSTS. This is behavior that we might call psychotic, behavior that is certainly toxic, behavior that seeks to humiliate and utterly destroy whole entities with their own subjectivities, not because these actions are effective as transfers of nutrients or energies required by the systems we inhabit, but because they suit our view of our selves as outside and above those systems. These actions, especially now that they are augmented by our immense numbers and by the reach of our techne have become forces that threaten the existence of great swathes of life on this planet with levels of force usually reserved for the greatest geological or astronomical upheavals.

Again, to be clear, those “Natural” forces do not act “violently” or commit “destruction” in the same way as we do. They do not act out of hatred or revenge. They are not seeking, striving, reaching towards becoming some abstracted Good. They simply are.

There is a need to pick our way slowly through the wreckage, looking for remnants of a sense that is buried under the assumptions of a “common-sense” that has been twisted out of shape by the growth of layers of conditioning that clutter our view. There is also a degree of danger in condensing an enormous topic into a short essay, though I do sense that there is a continuing value in this particular kind of rough “cross-country” work where we keep up a quick pace and cover ground instead of plodding along attempting to catch every side-case or defensible criticism. This isn’t an “academic” exercise. There is more to be gained by exercising our grasp of a dynamic in action than can be gained out of dissecting it… at least that is my driving imperative.

If we accept that these terms are faulty, and that they lead towards a destructive fragmenting word-view, what is an alternative?

If we dissolve this dichotomy, this might lead us somewhere. If we recognize that individual, freedom, liberty, even justice; are toxic reductions that seek to put laudable values back in to a view that has rent the whole which had once provided them. And that group, solidarity, movement, unity; are on the other side of this forced fragmentation; then we can begin to look for ways of action, for attitudes of attention, that embody the traits we value from both sides of this polarity without fatally compromising them by placing them within a toxic structure of conflict that insures the failure of everything we say we aspire to.

If we refuse to fragment our perceptions into these categories, we can begin to see that there are elements of both poles that are of value; but that they are distorted and rendered futile if we maintain the fiction upon which this divisive view is based. Examples like ants and bees, wolf-packs, any of the many cases in which creatures immersed in Being navigate their conditions – not to reach any purported Ends, but simply to continue Being – are all reflections of how this may have once worked with us before we were overcome by the sheer “horsepower” of our brains to construct projections that rivaled and eventually usurped our perceptions of existence as it is.

Even this potential “model” is still just another way in which thought strives to hijack our attention away from Being. If we maintain a loose “working” relationship to these constructs, it may be possible to use them as defenses against the power of projection, as talismans of what is possible. In the end, what they all lead to, what all of this points so strongly at as the way to go forward is to dive into existence and to suspend our reactions to thought’s projections as we can – or at least suspend our suppression as we find ourselves compelled to suppress our reactions.

If we don’t follow these leads towards Being, if we insist on “arguing” with our projections on their own terms; we will continue to be overwhelmed by their power over us, and the immense destructive power they wield upon the world in our name.

“I” – an unfortunate short-cut term for this particular pile of “wet-ware” – am neither merely an individual nor willingly part of any group. To accept either is to objectify my “self” in order to continue to privilege the satisfaction of a separation that is not defensible in view of what we understand of existence. “I” am only swept up into an aggregation called a group in someone’s attempt to commodify me as a means towards an end. If there is no separate I. If there is no validity to striving for ends. If there are, in fact, no ends; only what we call means which are simply moments within a flow of existence; then this realization is in no way a loss of anything worth “saving.”

Ego, the defender of thought’s dominion, will rage at these suggestions. It will want to glide over any “evidence” that doesn’t suit its purpose. It will overwhelm us with violent emotional reactions, and if all else fails, push us into violent desperate acts of destruction. Here is where we benefit from Bohm’s description of the stroke victim’s night attacker and the liberating quality of recognizing the proprioception thought strives to deny us. In this ultimate act of Toto’s pulling aside the curtain on the “All Powerful OZ!” we have all we need to see through these machinations. We are not individuals. We are not to be reduced to elements within any group. These are failed attempts to strive for making up for what we have done to ourselves by failing to see projections for what they are and for striving to redress what can only be available to us if we open ourselves to mind instead of willfully maintaining our thrall to reactive thought.

The power, as I see it, of Krishnamurti and Bohm’s collaborations lie in the robustness of their constructions. They have done the heavy work of clarification and of pointing out the many pitfalls and short-cuts that have led other conceptions astray. Krishnamurti knows the pitfalls of a strictly spiritual approach. Bohm elucidates a path through the traps of a reductivist scientific approach. The results are not “mysterious” or “occult” in any way. They do not proscribe any “ends.” There are no “interested parties” agendas to be taken in by.

Our excuses for striving are based on a belief that unless we strive for ends the order of things will break down. What this actually leads to is precisely what we fear. By showing us that brain/mind is as much a fact of existence as gravity, these constructs allow us to trust that existence will take care of itself if we only stop interfering. Our striving is as ridiculous as having a police force to enforce the “laws of gravity.” We are caught up in a spiraling series of unintended consequences resulting from meddling into that which has its own power to maintain order. A power, and an order, that are unknowable and which we are incapable of overthrowing whatever we might attempt to do.

An insistence to trivialize these insights, to take parts of them out-of-context as excuses for any faction’s rationales – to bolster or defend any ideological constructs – is not a valid disputation of these conclusions, only a perpetuation of an unwillingness to see beyond the traps of thought. Attention, the way through this impasse, happens in a combination of introspective and relational actions. We expand our awareness of mind through loosening thought’s hold on us and by exploring our relationships with all aspects of existence from the most “internal” to the most “external.” Entering into relationship – not maintaining positions of power that objectify our selves and others – gives us a place within existence. Seen in this way, the questions of individual versus groups falls into place as a diversion from this attention and awareness of relationship and immersion in Being.


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