Dissolving on Acid (2/4)

in life •  11 months ago

22 May 2018: resuming dissection of notes from a December 2017 psychedelic experience. 12:35am GMT.

"Say you got all injuries while saving a baby," suggested either my unconsciousness or an imaginative friend via text message: I'd awoken too recently to know the difference when the advice arrived. That suggestion intended to answer the question (if anyone might ask) why it has taken me three months to continue the series of posts I'd parenthetically entitled "1/4"--unfortunately for said querents, however, the time passed represents the precise reason I think it's better to carry on with a minimum of further delay.

Discussing the first of the three random Alan Watts lectures to which I listened to on auto-play via YouTube (while tripping on LSD, which I didn't even realize then as ironic), I'll turn now to "The Veil of Thought." If you've read any of my previous posts about anarchism, I don't imagine it will come as any surprise that my main interests lie in his monetary theories--unconventional, to say the least, from the perspective of classical economists, but enchanting from a more revolutionary viewpoint.

The Veil of Thought.png

However, I do imagine it will help you to recall a quote of his from my previous post on this subject: "A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thought. So, he loses touch with reality, and lives in a world of illusion." Besides that, however, you'll have to agree that wealth and money (having a subjective value based on micro-/macroeconomic conditions or personal circumstances) remain just constituents of the thoughts that obscure the amazing reality we may enjoy the pleasure of experiencing.

I will begin first with a quote from later on the lecture, which may help explain Watts' distinction between "the material world" and the symbolic, with the latter itself standing as a symbol of its own--however, as Watts contends,

If I take up something, that is generally agreed, to be something in the material world, and I argue that this is 'material,' of course it isn't, because nobody has ever been able to put their finger on anything material: that is to say, if by the world 'material,' you mean the basic stuff out of which the world is made." Similarly, he says later, "If you want me to differentiate between the physical and the spiritual, I will not put the spiritual in the same class as the abstract, but most people do. They think that '1+2=3' than say, for example, a tomato, but I think a tomato is a lot more spiritual than '1+2=3.'

That said, I believe the previous quote should serve as useful context for the following, perhaps Watts might feel amused to think that perhaps some inherent knowledge from our inability to touch the 'material' promotes our confusion between the physical world we experience and the symbolic schema we invent--much though we must remember the artificial scarcity around which we organize our society.

The confusion of money in any form whatsoever with wealth is one of the major problems from which civilization is suffering. Because, way back in our development, when we first began to use symbols to represent the events of the physical world, we found this such an ingenious device that we became completely fascinated with it, and ever so many different dimensions of life, we are living in a state of total confusion between symbol and reality; and, the real reason why, in our world today where is no technical reason whatsoever why there should be any poverty at all, the reason it still exists is that people keep asking, "Where's the money going to come from?" Not realizing that money doesn't come from anywhere, an never did.

To provide some further background on Watts' view of money--one which, as with all units of measurements, suffers from the drawback of an inherently arbitrary origin--I'll move on now to Watts' own words on the subject, in which he expounds upon our civilization's current dilemmas.

Money is something of the same order of reality as inches, grams, meters, pounds, or lines of latitude and longitude. It is an abstraction. It is a method of bookkeeping to obviate the cumbersome procedures of barter. But our culture, our civilization, is entirely hung up on the idea that money has an independent reality of its own. And this is a very striking, concrete example of what I'm going to talk about: of the way we are bamboozled by our thoughts, which are symbols, and what we can do to become un-bamnoolzed.

The obvious solution, for me, is to live not for money, but for experience itself (life un-bamboozled), intolerable as it may arise from time to time. Unfortunately, I would hazard to guess that's the kind of life most people live under capitalism and nation-states, which respond with violent reprisals when the population tries to reclaim its right to enjoy experience itself, with obligation to some meet some production quota.

As for his own solutions, Watts proposes a solution under a certain guise of comedy:

Don't take me too seriously: I'm pitching a case for the fact that the civilization has been a mistake, that it would be much better to leave everything alone, that the wild animals are wiser than we in that they (putting it in our crude and not very exact language) they just follow their instincts.

Moving on, I must admit that despite listening to the entire lecture (and finding the last 10 minutes or so very intriguing) I remained interested in seeing how Watts' ideas on the relationship between the consciousness and unconsciousness, and particularly how thoughts on symbols and reality might coincide. As he emphasizes later in his lecture:

Oneself is certainly not the stream of consciousness. Oneself is everything that goes on underneath that, and of which the stream of consciousness is mere--well, it has about the same relationship to oneself as the bookkeeping does to a business. And if you're selling grocery, there's very little resemblance between your books and what you move over your shelves and counters. There's just a record of it, and that's what our consciousness keeps.

"The stream of consciousness," it would seem, comprises only the symbols we employ in place of ourselves and our own experiences.

On the suspicion that aesthetics can perhaps change those symbols--or even put us into greater touch with ourselves and the universe we reflect--I'll conclude now with some implied comparisons between Watts' thoughts and my own until after having conducted a thorough comparison, my aesthetic inspiration, my analysis of that inspiration, and my experiences with what we will call the "panjective view" (twice exemplified) have led me to hypothesize that we can use aesthetics to promote a more equitable socioeconomic structure.

As a definition of "aesthetics" I offered the following: "the underlying principles of how the subject senses, perceives, thinks about, feels toward, and gains knowledge about the world in which the subject lives."

In that sense, I'd still like to write more next time (following the end of this essay series, that is) to compare the way our species senses, perceives, considers, feels, learn about society contribute to the confused civilization in which we now live. That said, I've reconsidered my options, and think it best if I wait until the end of this series to attempt such a synthesis.

Best (as always),


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