The Human Spirit’s Pursuit Of Self-Liberation

“Meaning becomes the moving force of self-transcendence, which reaches beyond
the limited horizon and longs for the whole.” (Erich Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe)

If universal structure is co-contemporary with the world and its history then we
should be able to find this structure waiting to be discovered. I believe this
structure has always existed, unconsciously no doubt, in the historical context
of people and culture. Levi-Strauss’s structuralism, especially as it is
described in The Savage Mind, is just one attempt at disclosing this structure.
The holism/ elementarism debate,–the tension that exists between group demands
and individual desires–is another attempt at disclosing this structure. This
tension exists in all cultures, but varies in degree. For instance, it appears
as though Pre-modern man, in the early stages of his development, was able to
maintain cultural stability while at the same time maintaining a holistic
perception of his environment. This ability, in the words of the anthropologist
Levy-Bruhl, “sets Pre-modern man apart from his modern predecessors.” The
qualities that we take for granted, or our ability to differentiate the space
that surrounds us ad infinitum, did not exist for Pre-moderns. Rather, his/her
experience of the participation process was more restrictive and inclusive
within what Levy-Bruhl called the “synthetic whole”. In other words, Pre-modern
society was considerably different from modern society. Still, all societies
must have some mechanism to preserve and perpetuate the social roles that are
vital to the on going existence of the group. For Pre-moderns, as for the rest
of us, this mechanism lies in our work. In this respect the investigations of
Ernst Cassirer become extremely helpful.

Myth, or the mythical-religious consciousness of man, for Cassirer, is
understood to be the proto-reality out of which symbolic forms evolve, e.g.,
language, art, religion, science etc. These symbolic forms, in turn, are
thought to result from the human spirit’s progressive movement towards more
liberated forms of self-expression. From within the matrix of mythical thought,
according to Cassirer, evolves the differentiation of the “I” of our personality
and, over time, the more potent symbolic forms that define the present state of
modern knowledge and belief.

The origin of the self-liberation process (and knowledge in general), is first
discovered in mythical thought as the capacity to order and differentiate, and, through the self liberation process, in its capacity to transcend its own reality, higher levels of symbolic expression are achieved. These higher levels of symbolic expression move self-liberation in the direction toward more constancy, endurance and certainty. Cassirer informs us:

“For a glance at the development of the various symbolic forms shows us that
their essential achievement is not that they copy the outward world in the
inward world or that they simply project a finished inner world outward, but
rather that the two factors of “inside” and “outside,” of “I” and “reality” are
determined and delimited from one another only in these symbolic forms and
through their mediation. …The crucial achievement of every symbolic form lies
precisely in the fact that it does not have the limit between I and reality as
preexistent and established for all time but must itself create this limit–and
that each fundamental form creates it in a different way.” (Ernst Cassirer,
Mythical Thought, 1955, p. 155-156)

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About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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One Response to The Human Spirit’s Pursuit Of Self-Liberation

  1. bwinwnbwi says:

    The self-liberation process (and knowledge in general), was first discovered in mythical thought as the capacity to order and differentiate, and then in its capacity to transcend its own reality, metamorphosed into higher levels of symbolic expression. These higher levels of symbolic expression moved the self-liberation process in the direction toward more constancy, endurance and certainty; thus, the religion-centered universe of pre-moderns transformed itself into the matter-centered, self-centered, scientifically explainable universe of today.

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