Radicalisation of Existence and Identity
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 23 Mar 2015
Recognizing the Global Emergence and Influence of Daimonic Dynamics
This follows from previous exploration of the condition of “radical” as being increasingly considered highly problematic for society — and the consequent demonisation of radical action (Radicalisation versus Demonisation? Enabling radical initiatives under conditions of strategic stalemate, 2015). That process follows from the black-or-white contrast distinguishing “radical” from “normal”, as previously discussed (Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: “rooting for” normalization vs. “rooting out” extremism? 2005; Eradication as the Strategic Final Solution of the 21st Century? 2014).
With respect to demonisation, the argument concluded with indication of the subtler insights highlighted by various authors and traditions concerning the daimonic as reframing overly simplistic understandings of that contrast. Hence the consideration there of the possibility of “daimonisation”, in contrast to “demonisation”, as indicative of a means of fruitfully reframing “radicalisation”.
That argument arose from concern that the sense of “radical”, and of “radical action” of any kind, tended to focus almost exclusively on description and explanation from a “normal” conventional framework. This included studies purporting to offer insights into the “mind of a radical” — and by extension to those framed as a “terrorist” from that perspective. By contrast the efforts by artists and poets — as with W. B. Yeats (A Vision, 1925) — offer a sense of the daimonic as being the part of an individual which exists beyond the confines of time and space. As such it might be understood as a form of “buried self”, paradoxically and elusively related to the conscious life of the individual.
Of relevance are the arguments regarding pattern language of Christopher Alexander, thereby framing a “place to be” as characterized by “a quality without a name”. The daimonic might then be understood as framing that place dynamically as “an experiential dynamic without a name” (Pattern of transformations as a dynamic quality without a name, 2012).
The current situation for many can be considered otherwise. In crisis situations characterized by social chaos and shortage of resources, any “buried self” may itself manifest otherwise. Beyond meaningful explanation, a particular form of existential focus becomes of primary significance. Women may be obliged to prostitute themselves, men to kill for food, and all ages may be obliged to steal or go hungry. In a very real sense there is then a process of radicalisation of existence in response to the increasing stresses and pressures of daily life.
The question here is whether comprehension can be taken further, most notably through metaphor, with respect to the radical-daimonic and the process of radicalisation-daimonisation. In so doing the assumption is made that patterns of thinking by certain disciplines, notably physics, offer a fruitful degree of discipline to exploration of any subtlety — especially to the extent that they legitimate unconventional ways of understanding elusive processes and the unusual nature of their order.
The potential advantage of this approach is that it may circumvent the difficulties experienced by philosophy and the psychological disciplines in providing frameworks with which people can engage imaginatively in identifying the radical-daimonic within themselves. Such difficulties can be variously highlighted (Nicholas Rescher, The Strife of Systems: an essay on the grounds and implications of philosophical diversity, 1985; James Hillman and Michael Ventura, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy: and the world’s getting worse, 1993).
With respect to the use of metaphor, the provocative argument of Kenneth Boulding, is relevant:
Our consciousness of the unity of the self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of a group, organization, department, discipline, or science. If personification is only a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors – we might be one ourselves. (Ecodynamics; a new theory of societal evolution, 1978)
The relevance of the aesthetic is emphasized by Gregory Bateson in addressing a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation:
One reason why poetry is important for finding out about the world is because in poetry a set of relationships get mapped onto a level of diversity in us that we don’t ordinarily have access to. We bring it out in poetry. We can give to each other in poetry the access to a set of relationships in the other person and in the world that we are not usually conscious of in ourselves. So we need poetry as knowledge about the world and about ourselves, because of this mapping from complexity to complexity. (Cited by Mary Catherine Bateson, Our Own Metaphor: a personal account of a conference on the effects of conscious purpose on human adaptation (1972, pp. 288-9)
As expressed by the poet John Keats: A man’s life is a continual allegory — and very few eyes can see the mystery of his life — a life like the scriptures, figurative.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Mar 2015.
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