There are many papers being read and written just now as the COVID -19 pandemic affects all of the world. Many recognize that this is where whole is greater than parts, and the complexity is “wicked“. They also say that in order to change the hegemony we all live within, without negative “othering“, the change is as much internal to each self, and to each collective groupiness, as it is to external actions and changes demanded in social patterns and policies. Our thought processes matter, just as much as the content of what we think.
To me it is important to say that there are “others”, this is existence. Rather than saying things like tribalism is inherent in human nature as though curiosity and co-operative crossing of boundaries was not also human, I prefer to acknowledge the many many differences between each of us and all of us – but that is cause for interest, always, and often also for celebration. Lets love difference and wonder about the gaps between us, enjoy them. Be glad. Who wants to be a clone? This way gratitude and grace emerge.
The problems of othering come from the attachment to difference of social norms of power, authority, that demean or diminish the ‘other’ group, and consequent emotions: fear, anger, hate, shame, resentment and ressentiment emotions that affect and take shape on both sides of the falsely othered boundary. In other words, negative othering is an issue of bad faith, the denial of responsibility for one’s own thought and action, whether that be assumed entitlement to privilege, or unexamined bias that causes actual harm, both seen and unseen, personal, cultural or institutional.
Thought process within us matters. It is too rarely studied, more frequently the actual process is not part of the conversation, it is hidden behind perception of its effects, which are studied. Although they also matter, the rest of this post is about thought processes.
In my own thinking I have become aware that I have several processes, which can create differing attitudes and hence consequences, within the blink of an eye. My will, or mindfulness gives me some degree of choice which one will be followed in one circumstance or another, others are simply triggered by particular circumstance and if I am not listening to myself, being more than just mindful, also observing and interrogating, why this, why now, then I am there in a well trodden mental space within the blink of an eye. For example, my son, middle aged, happens to say that he needs to go to the dentist, in kicks my anxiety thought process way back to when I was mother of a crying baby, and if I don’t take care the dance is triggered where I offer advice that is totally unneeded, and unheeded, etc. There are many similar family dances, like the one I had with my mother when she was still alive. The dances could be called transferences, the catching oneself within them a use of counter-transference, or as series of patterns. Many examples are well described in transactional analysis or the long ago book “Games People Play” written by Eric Berne. Another of my own is getting intellectual, using concepts and cognition, a very valuable thing to do, but not at all valuable if its purpose is to avoid the feelings that belong and misdirect myself into somewhere more comfortable but less truthful. That could easily happen during writing posts like this. It is very hard to bring in the emotions, and hold on to them, and still write clear succinct sentences. Maybe they do not have to be clear, succinct, from the wholes kind of thinking process creativity and fruitfulness emerge. Not-knowing parts are visible, unclear, a bundle of perceptions, intuitions, imaginations. Notes follow.
Thought Processes – Wholes … emergent parts… Concepts, theories, imaginative fantasies Fruitful….. and also emergent needs leading to opinions beliefs fixed biased institutionalized Circular, Dead end.
Work of Wilfred Bion, psychoanalyst, Alfred North Whitehead, philosopher, David Bohm, physicist, and many others, there are people who have studied thought process.
Bion refers to thought without a thinker, the notion of negative capability, becoming, and the creation of intersection with truth, an ineffable.
Bohm [working from physics and wave-particle duality of matter] says “whole” is everywhere, everything, structured as an “implicate order” from which a continual “holomovement” allows “explicate order” of many kinds to emerge, unfolded from the implicate, then refolded.
Whitehead’s process philosophy says actuality consists not of individual objects with attributes, but rather of interwoven processes.
Each also identifies thought mistakes [my word]. I once wrote a paper that actually got published called Making, Mistaking, Reality. Another discipline, history of science, recognizes paradigms and rather than calling out-dated theories mistakes, can show that their truths hold partially, within certain limits, although commitment to such theories, as if they were true more widely, is a mistake. What do Bion, Bohm and Whitehead say?
Bion: the “lie” is a thought based on the need of the thinker;
Bohm: what is actually the ‘one single process of thought’ is tacitly treated as if it were split in two parts … fragmentation of the process of thought must lead to distortion in all of perception;
Whitehead: Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness – reification – we easily slip into believing that an individual word/term must refer to an individual object.
Whitehead was clearest regarding the earth, and nature: ‘It is a false dichotomy to think of Nature and Man. Mankind is a factor in Nature which exhibits in its most intense form the plasticity of Nature.’
Bohm is clear there is no final “theory of everything” to be found, as the implicate ordered whole is not fixed, it is in a dynamic state with continual interacting flows of enfolding, unfolding, of explicates, holomovement. This name links with the concept of the hologram, a physically produced artifact that exists. Every point within a hologram contains the information of the whole of the object from which it was encoded. In other words, each point is both the whole and the part, an undivided duality, that in practice exists although it loses some of the definition of the original object.
To bring this down to practice, experience and thinking, each of us has this hologram quality. I have an awareness of myself, and also at the same time I contain unthought experience of the universe that I am in. As I am in it, it is in me.
Bohm and Bion both regard thought as real, not a product of a thinker’s mind, but an existent thing that a thinker might access. There are associated ideas to be considered within this statement, for example, perception, witness, revelation, proprioception, emotion, creativity, to name a few.
Circumstances and past circumstance – cultures – matter – to the ways in which thought processes operate and so how thought manifests. Circumstances, those we are in and those we create with our thinking influence the individual emergence of continually developing real people and other beings. To find what structure lies in the variegated rainbow of possible thinking process, this diagram is a brainstorm, that should be three dimensional, ranging from creative holistic thinking that is fruitful, a process of “thinking truly”, through that which is partly institutionalised, partly biassed, partly to enable or affirm my self, to that which is damaging, causes harm, is wrong.
Now – practically speaking, the evidence that I am in one kind of thinking is seen from results, which is not much help, it is after the fact, but at least I can ask, be mindful of consequences. I also want to know how to be in creative fruitful un-biassed thinking at the time this thought is being thought, in its present. [Or if I am not able enough, at least how not to harm.]
What I have discovered is blindingly obvious. I can’t know, or not know definitely what kind of thinking I am in, but what I can do is increase the probability that my thinking is in touch with whole. I do this by knowing I am in whole and it is in me, so being open to the feelings in myself, dreams and passing thoughts, and asking why, is a vector that changes not just me but everything. If I practice this, an everyday use of counter-transference, more purposeful than meditation, intentionally seeking, then more information unfolds. The holomovement creates the revelation, and I have a thought that is more likely to be fruitful. Can I accept it? That is the real question: will I be in active listening? able to observe, witness? I am suggesting that it is not answers to the ‘using self’ questions which create access to ‘thinking truly’, but the factual existent event of asking. The answers then take their place in a different dynamic process in the whole, that is still mostly unknown.
As Bion said, “Nobody need think the true thought: it awaits the advent of the thinker… his significance depends on whether or not he will entertain the thought, but the thought remains unaltered.” [Bion, 1970, Attention and Interpretation, p.103.] I gave examples of this in a long-ago unpublished typewritten [!] paper “How Scientists Think” written after my doctorate work on Michael Faraday. It fails to recount the most important very simple but profound line in Faraday’s experimental Dairy where he wrote all of his thoughts, facts, records of his practical and theoretical laboratory work. He said: What if space is not empty? In the 21st century we are accustomed to knowing that space is full of electromagnetic waves, light, gravity, particles, black holes, whatever, even if we do not understand what these fillings are, we have TV radio and internet flying everywhere to inform us that space is indeed full. In 1840, this was a new thought that would upset previous thinking and lead to new and different concepts of matter and energy, even time, as well as a different understanding of space.
Will my diagram help with reading the many papers now being written? Will it help in assessing whether complex analyses and imaginative proposals are real or utopian? It is often hard to tell. To use my emotional response is essential, as well as my mind, and now I think I have another criterion: can I see the fruitfulness, or the possibility that something emerges here?
I would like to share an example of Regenerative Agriculture. This embodies the fruitful whole, in a real place, Mulloon Creek, Australia, not theory.