Really. It's OK. Take a break. You'll feel better.
I´m loving this.
I, too, abstained from anything spiritual after feeling deeply betrayed by catholic faith in my youth. I slowly made my way back in by way of buddhism and eventually being a happy-go-lucky (protestant) church goer (/still somehow buddhist/still somehow marxist) again in my 40ies.
Also gave up on trying to reconcile my scientific worldview with the insights (and fun!) to be had with (the occasional) astrology and tarot. I can´t rationally explain it, so what, I really don´t care. But you are right, it´s to be used in moderation, lest you become addicted to the delusion of knowing more than you actually do.
But still, life is so much happier and warmer and lighter if you let the magic in.
I do wonder if the arational "midbrain" serves as a hedge against the rational brain, which can be talked into anything. The midbrain, which stores trauma and other deep-seated beliefs, protects us against our frontal cortex, which is lured this way and that into all kinds of rationalizations that may not be so good for us after all. The midbrain doesn't believe anything it hears, only what it sees, looking for the "inbetween" clues that can tell us what is really going on when persuasion is in front of us.
What a great piece. I love the bit about the map, and the quote "Here be dragons." It makes me think of Borges's On Exactitude In Science...
My essay for this evening is really closely related to the sentiment here, so I'll be sure to add a link to this post: I think it makes a great bias-jiggler. Great stuff!
Great write up!
I agree that exploring the "arational" is beneficial to balancing out our overly rigid, rational tendencies. I imagine some individuals struggle with this more (thinking/sensate types). On top of that, the culture in the west (which often devalues the religious function and the intuitive space) creates further barriers of entry. Lots of opportunity to explore and expand into new psychic space when we see the benefit of the rational and arational.
If you want to dive into some meditation instruction that shares your conceptual framework on views check out Rob Burbea's work. He advocates exploration of the imaginal or arational as you put it. As for mitigating the dangers, his exploration is grounded in the view that all concepts are inherently biased through our own perception, that all things are empty, in line with traditional dharma. He ties the threads around Buddhist dharma, Jewish Kabbalah, Islamic mysticism, and Jungian/post-Jungian psychology against our dominate view of scientific materialism. The meditation practices, his term is Soulmaking, is then an applied practice to explore the arational while staying grounded in emptiness.
This article is bold in an odd way. To me, experiencing a new experience is not in any way irrational, and in fact I’d say that being closed to experiences based on an external or preconceived notion is the irrational thing. I’ll take this framing though, too :)
Also, I highly recommend folks do their own exploration or divination or whatnot. While there are plenty of great services, getting caught in one that’s disingenuous can muffle an explorative mindset or introduce other risks.
This is a wonderful piece.
I find it fun, thought-provoking, and insightful. Not only that but I have been working on my own piece about rationality, and so reading your piece was a breath of fresh air.
Thank you :)
My current stance is we are all pretty rational, as in close to 100%. There are causes and effects, our abilities to identify these however are frequently total rubbish, thus we run around with the wrong presuppositions. When wrongly formed presuppositions forms the basis of your reality it becomes a garbage in, garbage out calculation with seemingly irrational results.
Then, there is the point, that at almost any conclusion you have reached. There will, be one possible added point of information that would completely or severely adjust your conclusion if made aware of it.
No critique intended, I enjoyed your piece very much.
Amazing work as always. I've been reading McGilchrist's Master and His Emissary and there's an interesting distinction I came across in it that I think would be helpful here between rationality vs. reason. I was waiting for a second read before I dug down on it but as far as I can tell the distinction is relevant to what you're doing in this piece — the excesses of rationality vs the more holistic reason. If you haven't read it then that section alone might be of interest to you. I'll quote the opening section on it at length to save you going off searching for it:
"THE ENLIGHTENMENT IS, OF COURSE, THE AGE OF REASON. THIS TERM, SO REDOLENT of clarity, simplicity and harmony, generates confusion, complexity and contradiction at the outset. ‘Rational and rationality, reason and Reason, remain hotly contested notions, whose users disagree even about the nature of their disagreement,’ wrote the philosopher Max Black.1 One principal distinction underlies most of the others; it is a distinction that has been understood and expressed in language since ancient times, and therefore is likely to have a substrate in the lived world. This is the distinction between, on the one hand, Greek nous (or noos), Latin intellectus, German Vernunft, English reason (allied to common sense – sensus communis, in Vico’s sense rather than Kant’s) and, on the other, Greek logos/dianoia, Latin ratio, German Verstand, English rationality. The first of these – flexible, resisting fixed formulation, shaped by experience, and involving the whole living being – is congenial to the operations of the right hemisphere; the second – more rigid, rarified, mechanical, governed by explicit laws – to those of the left.
The first, what I have called right-hemisphere sense, was traditionally considered to be the higher faculty. There are a number of reasons why this was so. For a start, the edifice of rationality (logos), the left-hemisphere type of reason, was weakened by the recognition that (in contravention of the consistency principle) a thing and its opposite may well both be true. But there is one problem that attacks the very root of logos. Although constitutive for science and much of philosophy, because of its being based on argumentation and the provision of proof, it cannot constitute – cannot ground – itself according to its own principles of proof and argumentation. The value of rationality, as well as whatever premises it may start from, has to be intuited: neither can be derived from rationality itself. All rationality can do is to provide internal consistency once the system is up and running. Deriving deeper premises only further postpones the ultimate question, and leads into an infinite regress; in the end one is back to an act of intuitive faith governed by reason (nous). Logos represents, as indeed the left hemisphere does, a closed system which cannot reach outside itself to whatever it is that exists apart from itself. According to Plato, nous (reason as opposed to rationality) is characterised by intuition, and according to Aristotle it is nous that grasps the first principles through induction. So the primacy of reason (right hemisphere) is due to the fact that rationality (left hemisphere) is founded on it. Once again the right hemisphere is prior to the left."
Fantastic piece; Thank you Mr Owl!
You are definitely "Superb"(And yes, subscribed simply because of the Feyerabend mention ;) )
I am reminded about this SEP entry from back in the day:
And these ones as well:
In general, taking the Arational route is to eschew the tenets espoused in one or more of the above via responding in the negative.
For instance, in the very last entry (i.e. "Practical Reason and the Structure of Actions") the Arationalist would simply say that "practical action" (i.e. 'getting things done') need not have as a necessary condition one or more 'reasons'.
One way this can be done is to reject the following:
P - "Evaluation is Necessary to pursue Action"
Thereby espousing the following:
P* - "Evaluation need not be Necessary to pursue Action"
Of course, one can move from the Arational to the Suprarational and respond as follows:
P** - "Evaluation is superfluous; Action is pursued due to more 'Simple' reasons"
In the Islamic tradition for instance; there is no such thing as "Cause-Effect chains" in the concrete sense. They exist merely as humanity's quasi-real projections onto the external world to make 'better sense of it' (i.e. for strictly pragmatic and instrumental reasons).
Choices are made by agents (be they Human or Djinn), but the Consequence of those Choices unfold as follows: The Creation belongs to Allah Most High alone, and this then conjoins with aforementioned Choice to generate the Action.... so it is simultaneously true that We are morally responsible (i.e. courtesy of being initiators of the Choice) but never do we have Will/Power over anything in anyway (i.e. courtesy of not being able to Create).
Action then (when generated in this way) all goes back to the One, Most High. It is the "Simplest" thus since we are not dealing with innumerable horizontal cause-effect chains; but rather the One who "Vertically emanates" to every entity their requisite Causal powers (which they alone will never possess lest granted them in said way).