Challenges to Comprehension Implied by the Logo
of Laetus in Praesens
Laetus in Praesens Alternative view of segmented documents via Kairos

21st March 2007 | Draft

Psychoactive Text Warning

Enneagram of precautionary attitudes

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Proposed explanatory warning to be placed before any psychoactive text that may seriously enhance the reader's psychospiritual health in unforeseen ways.


Psychoactive Text Warning !
       Psychoactive Text Warning: Enneagram of precautionary attitudes

Selected comments (edited)

An afterthought before configuring the Caveat phrases around an enneagram

Might it be possible to:

All as a reminder of the (spell-like!) dangers of psychoactive texts

Flemming Funch:

> Possible "health warning" (a Caveat Lector) regarding descriptions of the challenges of wisdom texts, especially when they imply or evoke a self-reflexive reframing, potentially associated with a shift in identity to a greater sense of wholeness:

Ah, yes, there's sort of an ethics to communication in general. Which maybe becomes more important if we're purporting to convey wisdom. Are we helping people look, or pulling the wool over their eyes? Are we giving them more choices, or taking away their choices? Are we confusing them with choices, when they need none? Are they seeing our finger or the moon?

And what might be more troubling is that our communication sometimes is more effective when we're fooling people a bit. When we maybe don't show them all the options that are there, and we maybe don't leave it entirely in their hands. Ironically, we sometimes can better point them towards wisdom and success by initially hiding the fact that it is all up to themselves.

Processes might have multiple steps and phases to them, and sometimes the final result is of a somewhat different nature than what made up the steps. If the result is good and whole, more alive, more wise, then whatever one did was good. And if the result is that one is more stuck and more asleep, whatever one did wasn't very good. I'd go as far as claiming that the end justifies the means. Not that destructive means are justified, but that means are an integral part of the process they engage, and the result that is achieved. So, if a constructive result is what one gets, optimally beneficial and enlightening for all concerned, then obviously the means were the right ones, even if one broke some eggs to make the omelet.

"The meaning of a communication is the result it gets". That's from NLP. Meaning, there's no point in defending the rightness of what one said or did, if the result or response wasn't a good one. Sometimes a whack over the head is what enlightens somebody. Sometimes it is just being mean.

> A reading is a depiction only to the extent that its capacity to entrain is inhibited

> A reading is an entrainment only to the extent that any such movement obscures recognition that one is discovering from where one is then taken by it (seemingly for the first time)

From where one is taken, or to where? What if one needs to go through a tunnel, blindfolded, to have the truth revealed? If one remains blindfolded, there's maybe a problem.

> A reading is a linear sequential explication in time only to the > extent that one is pulled into a pattern of experiential wormholes > that inhibits recognition of the challenging atemporal pattern of that labyrinth

So, we selectively hide the complexity, to more clearly show the simplicity of arriving. We manipulate the reader, in order to succeed in making them see what we see.

> A reading is only a challenge to comprehension to the extent that it is felt to inhibit rather than enable further growth in understanding

:-) So, was your text here a challenge to comprehension? Hmmm, I had to read it five times to try to figure out what you're getting at. But ultimately it made me look at some things, expanding my understanding a bit.

> A reading is only an answer to a question enabling growth to the extent that one comes to it without recognizing how one is both the answer to that question in principle and why one is a question calling for a new understanding of what an answer means in practice

> A reading is only meaningless to the extent that one fails to recognize the source of meaning to which it points -- as with a dog focusing with enthusiastic puzzlement on the pointing finger of its master -- thereby inhibiting understanding that dog, finger and master are but pieces of the paradoxical mirror through which one may step

Or maybe communication is meaningless, or at least less useful, if it only serves to try to convey the writer's meaning to me. Where really what I want is to find my own meaning. The art is maybe to do both, where I both get the point, and I see something new.

I've sometimes gotten into arguments with authors who insisted that I read their book in order to get their point. Which is quite possibly the most anti-motivating factor I can think of to make me read a book, even if it is on a subject that interests me very much. Reading their book in order to get the sequence of arguments leading up to conclusions I either already have arrived at, or that I disagree with - what a waste of time. But then again, I love being taken on a journey of exploration and adventure. But only if I'm allowed to actually discover something new.

> A reading is only a collection of sentences and chapters to the extent that one fails to recognize one's role in seeing them whole -- as the pattern that connects,thereby embodying them as the songlines of the noosphere -- through which otherness is incorporated

> Any thoughts for tweaking the text? Any guidelines to other such exercises?

Ha, don't know if I ended up providing either with my interspersed reflections.

It is not easy to read. Seems like a progression of sorts, logical or as a songline, but I don't quite see the logic of the progression. But the idea of a warning against the dangers of reading, or listening, or seeing for that matter -- that is a good idea. Possibly most useful if very simple. What is this writer trying to do to me? Where does this take me? Do I want to be there? Does this make me smarter or dumber?

Copthorne Macdonald:

Regarding your expression of the Caveat, as your colleague said, "It is not easy to read." Regarding turning it into a poem, it already strikes me as poem-like in the sense of its extreme succinctness, and in places, a certain ambiguity and even mystery.  In that, it is a bit like the Tao Teh Ching itself - with its succinctness opening the door to many ways of interpreting and expressing its various parts.  Your preference for succinctness appears again in the decision to make your own interpretation of the Tao Teh Ching even more succinct than other interpretations/translations of it.  

There is value in taking the path of succinctness; poets use it to great advantage.  Short pithy statements can have great power if the reader has the "adequatio" or "adequateness of mind" (as E.F. Schumacher put it) to interpret them.  At one level this means having a sufficient vocabulary of words and concepts to understand the communication - and where terms can have different meanings or shades of meaning, to have a set of meanings that are pretty much the same as those intended by the communicator.  At a deeper level, "adequateness of mind" can mean having acquired certain insights about reality, and ways of looking at it, that are fundamentally important, but difficult to put into words.  The Tao Teh Ching is a case in point because it deals with both informational and noninformational (Tao itself) aspects of reality.  I have owned many translations of the work.  My current favorite is Stephen Mitchell's because from his translation of this work, and other translations of his, I sense that he has that deeper understanding, that adequateness of mind, to grok the Tao: the realm of not-two.

I am reminded of the view of the situation taken by the General Semanticists.  They talked about WIGO - What Is Going On - and about how, in our attempts to grasp and communicate WIGO, we create analogs of it: Visual analogs such as maps, photographs, retinal images, and mental images. Descriptive textual analogs. And analogs of analogs such as translations. As the General Semanticists were so fond of saying, the map is not the territory.  The territory is an immensely-complex, constantly changing informational pattern.  At best, any analog of it is a snapshot of a small part of it.  The analog captures and presents just a tiny bit of the territorial information.

Enneagram specialist (after configuring them as above):

I couldn't comment on your set of statements because they were so convoluted and obscure, though I believe I 'got the drift'. I much regret you slinging them around an enneagram.

Crafting and making the statements is very hard work. I refer to such things in general as 'molecules of meaning'. One had to put soul into them and maybe take years to find good verbal form for them.

There is then the question of whether the set of statements is 'proper' - i.e. without omissions or commissions. To decide this involves structuring procedures.

One of the decisive orders is that of sequence. First one essays a sequence and then puts it to the test.

Tests begin with symmetry. Here is one procedure. Divide the proposed sequence into two and arrange them side by side (thus as A, B, C etc downwards and N, P, O etc upwards) so that statements can be looked at in pairs.

If one finds both correlation of content and complementarity of viewpoint then this supports the sequential arrangement. By exploring matches and mismatches one can attempt to (a) adjust the sequence (b) delete or merge statements (c) look for new material.

What I have described is an application of Ring Composition, which can be far more complex of course. It enables one to process a set of MMs in an intelligible manner and make improvements.

Putting in an enneagram has no such value. What does it mean? What are you thinking of? The stupid personality types fantasy or what? If you are thinking of the more interesting structure of process version then this introduces a great number of postulates and assumptions which have to be themselves presented and argued. In contrast, Ring Composition is very much simpler and works by easy to grasp principles.

I am suggesting that while your statements are intrinsically of some interest (a) they are in a very raw state (b) you do not know whether they are a 'proper' set (c) you have no way of checking their sequence (d) in using the enneagram you are stuck into a much too complex and rigid form

No doubt you anticipated I might be bristling! It's just that I've had thirty years of people showing me stuff stuck round an enneagram as if it had some mystical insight built into it. The enneagram as such - though this is really another story - as it has come through since G's first presentation has become a veil; very few even begin to look into its construction or how to use it, but assume they know, even though G himself pointed out that this would be a big mistake. There is a vast general ignorance about symbolic forms.

Author's response

I am of an age when I can make a self-mocking joke out of obscurity, especially the obscurity of those with wisdom (the provocation for the text in question).

The text is a play on obscurity. You condemn it outright (irrespective of the enneagram issue). That is fine -- we all have our tastes. Most philosophical views with which one is out of sympathy can be so addressed. No philosopher cares for the fact that there is a a variety of philosophies. The text is a gentle reminder of one's own responsibility with regard to such understanding.

You argue that the completeness of the set is unproven. I have a philosopher friend who is playing with the possibility of turning it into a poem. You have decided that making the statements was not hard work and that there is no soul in them. Part of the tragedy of the world is that it is a real challenge to see the soul in a text one has not made oneself -- that is what the set is about.

You make an issue about the use of a particular set of appropriate procedures -- presumably the only valid ones. It is of course the case that many disciplines have procedures -- including the aesthetic ones. You assume that I have not used such procedures because you do not like the result. What you may in fact be saying is that I have not used your procedures to produce a result having a particular taste that you prefer. Your preference is fine. The problem of the world is your attitude to all the procedures that give rise to results that do not match your taste.

Putting them around the enneagram does have a value -- if only aesthetic . As with an untuned piano, it suggests the possibility that a conceptual array may be tuned -- depending on one's choice of tuning system. You deny that possibility from a purist perspective, namely that because the array is not perfectly tuned for your inspection, the whole is a mistake. I prefer to open possibilities to the eyes of those who can tune them rather than inhibit such possibilities. If my effort is crude -- so be it. Are all your results perfectly tuned? Do they serve any wider purpose?


[With respect to the metaphor of an untuned piano] It is also true that even when you choose a tuning system to tune the piano, if the tuning system is equal temperament the piano, even after being tuned so carefully, is still out of tune. A nice touch.

Your critic is angry because he considers the enneagram was a secret that is lost when made public. I don't think he realizes the implications of having a tight jacket to wear.

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