REALITY SANDWICH IS PSYCHEDELIC CULTURE

Dynamic Paradoxicalism: The Anti-ism ism

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The following originally appeared on Zap Oracle.

 

"Words that are strictly true seem to
be paradoxical." –Lao-tse

"There is nothing absolute and final.
If everything were ironclad, all the rules absolute and everything structured
so no paradox or irony existed, you couldn't move. One could say that man sneaks
through the crack where paradox exists."  –Itzhak Bentov

"Objection, evasion, joyous distrust,
and love of irony are signs of health. Everything absolute belongs to
pathology." –Nietzsche, Beyond
Good and Evil

 

Dynamic paradoxicalism is my attempt to
create a meta-philosophy that is a counter to fundamentalist and absolutist
thought, which is nearly as common amongst New Agers and the Left as it is
amongst religious fundamentalists and the Right. The greatest of life skills is
the ability to live with ambiguity, ambivalence, and paradox, without trying to
regularize these uncertainties into finished, absolute truths. Dynamic
paradoxicalism recognizes that most important areas of truth exist as a
paradox, where seemingly contradictory elements have a dynamic level of
validity based on context specific circumstances. Although a greater conception
that synthesizes the disparate elements of a paradox into a grand unit is an
awesome addition to the conceptual toolbox, it is not always the most useful
tool in the box.  Dynamic paradoxicalism recommends an ability to slide
between the poles of a paradox, in some circumstances favoring the point of
view of one side of the paradox, in other cases the other pole, and in still
other cases favoring the unified view.

Dynamic paradoxicalism is based on the
the principle that the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound
truth. Niels Bohr, the great pioneer of quantum mechanics recognized this in
his Theory of Complementarity.  In The
Alphabet versus the Goddess,
Leonard Shlain concisely recognized the Theory
of Complementarity as a key
turning point in science:

"Bohr challenged another scientific
shibboleth in 1927 by proposing that opposites were not necessarily either/or, as all earlier Western
dualistic thinkers had assumed, but rather might be both/and. He said that the opposite of a shallow truth is a
falsehood, but that the opposite of a profound truth was another profound
truth. In his Theory of Complementarity, Bohr posited that opposites were two
different aspects of a higher unity existing just beyond our limited perceptual
apparatus. When the Danish king knighted him for his pioneering work, Bohr
chose the Chinese yin/yang icon of the Tao for his heraldic coat of arms. 
Aware that his discovery had implications beyond the specialized world of
quantum physics, Bohr chose to publish his Complementarity Theory in a
philosophy journal, and it did not contain a single equation."  (396)

Some may read these introductory
paragraphs and confuse dynamic paradoxicalism with relativism. The relativist
is the inverted version of an absolutist. The relativist does not believe in
absolute truths — has an absolute disbelief in absolutes — and finds that
everything is relative to a point of view, and that most points of view are
culturally determined and highly unreliable. But a relativist is also a
self-deceiving absolutist, as they have an absolute belief in relativism. The
most classic statement repeated by relativists — whether they know themselves to
be relativists or not — is, "Don't be judgmental."  But notice that this
statement is perfect in its self-contradiction, as it is in itself a judgment,
and ranks nonjudgmental people as more correct than judgmental people. In
philosophy this is called "an error of performance:" you contradict your
assertion even as you make it.

Dynamic paradoxicalism is all about
judgment, good judgment: the ability to use all your faculties, and especially
your global intuition, to make careful discernments about where you need to be
in relation to key paradoxes in particular situations.  So, "Don't be
judgmental" should be stated, "Don't be falsely judgmental."  Life
requires good judgment.  An absolutist would like to replace the
responsibility for judgment onto absolute truths, a divine document, and/or
people or entities that are supposed to have perfect judgment. Relativists tend
to castrate the ability to make judgments. They especially like to castrate
absolutists, and I can sympathize with that tendency because absolutists
propagate like fruit flies around forbidden fruit, and are the oft-sadistic
masters of being falsely judgmental. But relativists also tend to castrate
themselves, and everyone, because no one in their view is empowered to make
judgments, and their only certitude is the absolute truth of relativism and
their absolute judgment in favor of being nonjudgmental.

The  paragraphs above tell you
what dynamic paradoxicalism is, and what it isn't, and now we are left with
cases, illustrations, applications, and reinforcing principles. Dynamic
paradoxicalism is easy to define, but may have limited appeal given the
powerful human preference for certitudes and absolutes. The ego has a difficult
and often thankless job trying to mediate between the inner world and the outer
world, and it finds ambiguity, ambivalence, and paradox, stressful and
confusing. The ego prefers that the map be the territory because that would
make navigation easier. It likes to force premature closure on complex
uncertainties, and find all encompassing solutions to life's problems.  It
prefers one-size-fits-all over the complexity of the case specific point of
view.  Dynamic paradoxicalism insists that you be the navigator, and that
you cannot abdicate your responsibility to make judgments onto a cognitive map
of absolutes. Often people recognize and spurn the false cognitive maps of
other absolutists without recognizing that they also live by absolute cognitive
maps. For example, a New Age person will criticize religious fundamentalists
without realizing that they also live by absolute cognitive maps such as
relativism, you-create-your-own-reality, and the power of positive thinking.

The ego understandably hates paradox,
ambivalence, ambiguity, complexity, and uncertainty, and would like to clear
these up into a grand solution.  It wants to take the murkiness and
replace it with a shining fundamentalism, or an ism of some sort, a divine map
that illuminates all territories: past, present and future. The Ken Wilber
version of this tendency would be to take any of these paradoxes and unify them
into a grand diagram, a new paradigm that elevates the Wilberite to an Olympian
meme, transcendent of all dualities.

Dynamic paradoxicalism puts great value
on the ability to live with paradox, ambivalence, ambiguity, complexity, and
uncertainty, without trying to wrestle them into premature closure and
clarification. However, dynamic paradoxicalism doesn't mean that you forever
dwell in the swamps of ambiguity; it means that you wait for genuine
illumination and realizations, the kind that aren't forced, the aha moments
when global intuition shows a way through. While you wait for those penetrating
insights, you make the best judgments you can to get through the day.

Dynamic paradoxicalism agrees with the
modern Taoist sage Deng Ming-Dao, who writes: "Never under estimate the value
of a partial solution."

If dynamic paradoxicalism were to form
an alliance with any other ism, it would be Taoism, but with a key
difference.  Taoism, at least the way it is usually presented, is an extroverted
version of dynamic paradoxicalism.  The emphasis is on the fluid
adaptation to ever changing outer circumstances. Dynamic paradoxicalism also
emphasizes dynamic adaptation to the inner world, and it works from inside out.
The dynamic paradoxicalist centers himself on something like what Aleister
Crowley called "True Will."  True Will, as I use the term, is your inner
refraction of the Tao, the deeply felt sense of enthusiasm, meaningfulness,
purpose, and sacred quest toward a life aim. (See The
Path of the Numinous.
) True Will should be followed even when outer
circumstance puts up fierce resistance. True Will is the trembling needle of
the compass that points the way through the ambiguities, paradoxes, and
uncertainties. Dynamic paradoxicalism, but not Taoism, supports the following
quote from George Bernard Shaw:

"The reasonable man adapts himself to
the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to
himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

This quote brings us to the first of
many of the paradoxes to relate to dynamically:

Adapting
to Circumstance vs. Shifting the Matrix

Sometimes the emphasis is on adapting
to outer circumstance — it is raining and so we bring our umbrella. At other
times the emphasis is on shifting the matrix, summoning all our will and magic
to transform circumstance.  Sometimes it is best to "render unto Caesar
what is Caesar's" Other times it is best to risk our lives to rebel against
injustice. And in still other cases, we choose a middle spectrum
position.  A related paradox is:

You
Create Your Own Reality vs. Outer Reality Creates You

Recently I was traveling with someone,
a very interesting, complex, and worthwhile character, but who also proved to
be an absolutist, a New Age fundamentalist whose whole family was under the
spell, benign or malign, of various channeled entities. He believed — though pragmatic
and shrewd in most other ways — so absolutely in the you-create-your-own-reality
principle — deemed the absolute of absolutes by various channeled
entities — that his plan for financial independence was to, "Manifest money
into my checking account." This was meant absolutely literally, no deposit
would have to be made by him or anyone.

The solipsistic assertion,
you-create-your-own-reality, comes from channelers and the entities they claim
to channel. It originated with Jane Roberts — channeler of "Seth" — in the early
1960s, and has since been picked up by other channelers and associated
entities. For example, Seth says:

"And, if you believe, in very simple
terms, that people mean you well, and will  treat you kindly, they will.
And, if you believe that the world is against you, then so it will be in your
experience" (hear an audio clip of  Seth
saying this
).

As with most channeled material I have
encountered, what is presented, usually with aphoristic authority, are
dangerous half-truths. (See: The Siren Call
of Hungry Ghosts
) for more on why you should be wary about channeled
material.  In many social situations, what you expect of others will
greatly affect how they treat you. But there are other cases where this doesn't
apply very well at all.  Let's say I am a Polish Jew when the Nazi army is
invading Poland.  Should I seek refuge in another country?  No, that
would be a fear-based  surrender to negative thinking.  Instead I
should stay put and focus on how kindly I will be treated by the Nazis.

With fundamentalist consistency, other
post-Roberts channelers insist on the same absolutism. For example, John Cali,
the channeler of "Chief Joseph," writes:

". . .the idea intrigued me, so I kept
studying and reading everything I could get my hands on. Finally, it made
sense. I accepted we are totally responsible for whatever manifests in our
lives — all of it. It's either that or we're victims. I never liked being a
victim."

Notice that John's thinking is the
opposite of dynamic paradoxicalism: "It's either that or we're victims." In
other words, it is either one absolute or another, and this is the absolutism I
prefer, therefore it applies in all cases. From this point of view, rape
victims should be counseled that they invited or manifested the attack — however
unconsciously — and need to look for the cause within. But there are such things
as victims, an abused infant for example, but accepting that doesn't mean the
opposite absolutism, that we're all victims, since there are many people who
have discovered ways of being empowered in difficult circumstances. The
absolutist never acknowledges that there is a middle range of positions, as
well as some cases that fall on either pole of the paradox.

You-create-your-own-reality does not
work as an absolutism, but it is a major reality formation vector. In many
cases, you do create your own reality, as in the principle, "Psychology is
destiny."  This principle applies most potently to our inner reality, and
next most potently to our voluntary relationships and life circumstances — much
more so if we live in a relatively free society. This principle also applies
potently, but not absolutely, to the dreamtime. Since our dreams can involve
visits or invasions by other autonomous entities, they may not be entirely our
own creations. Also, it is an unproven assumption that even when we are alone
in the dreamtime that the dream is entirely our own creation. I have noticed
that the surreal complexity of dreams, with their double and triple entendres
and layers of symbolism, does not seem to be at all dependent on the
imaginative capacity of the dreamer. People whose waking personalities seem
dull and unimaginative have dreams that seem like they could have been directed
by David Lynch.

You-create-your-own-reality absolutists
may invoke quantum mechanics to justify their fundamentalism. Indeed, the
wave-particle duality — a photon being a particle or a wave depending on which
you expect it to be — does raise questions about reality as observer dependent.
Again, I feel that this principle is a potent reality-forming vector; I just
don't think it is the only vector.  There may be other humans collapsing
the wave function based on different intentions than ours, and there is also
the gigantic inertia and momentum of the collective human psyche affecting our
world. There is a New Age tendency to use quantum mechanics as a magic wand, or
an endless supply of fairy dust, that can be used to justify any proposition,
no matter how fantastic. The abuse of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, which
was created to have very specific application on the subatomic plane, is used
by some relativists and New Agers to mean, "Everything is uncertain," which for
them means, "Anything goes."

Quantum mechanics does have profound
implications, but we can't be cavalier about applying them to the human
reality. Quantum mechanics applies to the subatomic domain, and it is
comprehensible in the language of mathematics, not English, so we need to be
careful about applying our personal mythology of what quantum mechanics means
to the human domain.

Another way to justify you create your
own reality is to radically redefine the "you" in the principle. If the "you"
refers to the personal ego and its wants and desires (which is how most people
implicitly use it), then you have the weakest and most repugnant version of the
principle. If "you" is redefined as the Self, or expanded to an ultimate degree
so that it means a cosmic awareness underlying and connecting everything, then
you have the strongest and most valid case of the principle.

Jung defined the "Self" as the totality
of all the psychic structures. It is the Self, not the ego that would have
access to True Will — a will that derives from essence and that is in accord with
the will of the cosmos. If the "you" is the Self creating from True Will, then
the principle becomes far more robust.

In many instances,
you-create-your-own-reality is the most useful side of the paradox, especially
when applied to psychology, individual and collective, and the circumstances
created by same psychological factors. Someone who is caught in a neurotic
reality tunnel and has a history of abusive relationships as a result of their
own unconscious choices would be well advised to move past
victim-of-circumstance self-pity to see how they have largely created their own
reality. But the you-create-your-own-reality absolutists don't stop there, they
apply this principle to victims of tsunami and famine, they apply it
overconfidently to cases where huge macro physical events affect an entire
population. In some given case, this could still have a possible validity. For
example, statistical analysis shows that a significantly greater number of
people than average make last minute cancellations on plane flights that later
crash. Some given person might have watched the water moving away from the
shore and instead of accessing some primal intuition to run to higher ground,
as many animals did, allowed some inner intention toward oblivion to keep them
on the beach. Another way of stretching the principle to cover cases like this
is to resort to past lives, and to claim, based on no direct evidence, that
everyone hit by a tsunami or erupting volcano, etc, had past life karma that
made such circumstances right for them, or unconsciously intended by
them.  Although this can't be proven or disproven, it starts to get
morally repugnant, as an affluent New Ager can thereby feel that people
experiencing macro catastrophic events are still in charge of their own
destinies.  From their POV, an infant dying of AIDS is creating their own
reality, however unconsciously, as surely as some affluent person repeating a
neurotic tendency in romantic relationships.

Although you-create-your-own-reality
absolutists never admit this, their principle requires an act of faith as much
as any religious fundamentalism. They never acknowledge how much their
principle is divorced from empirical experience.  Why hasn't some
sufficiently positive thinking you-create-your-own-reality person, for example,
created a world without any environmental pollution?  If everyone is
creating their own reality, why does the rotation and orbit of the earth have
such predictable clockwork accuracy?  Wouldn't some true believing
schizophrenic who knew absolutely that the earth's orbit was based on his whims
have an influence?  Wouldn't people who wanted a particular day or night
to last a bit longer throw off the Newtonian clockwork?  Does the
you-create-your-own-reality principle apply only to benign, politically correct
intentions like world peace-which shows no signs of happening, despite all
sorts of individual and mass prayers and intentions?  Wouldn't the
principle apply with equal validity to malevolent individuals?  Suppose my
intention is to bring a black hole into the solar system or to abuse and
manipulate someone else's reality?  Since we are part of a human collective,
what happens when our application of the you-create-your-own-reality principle
is inconsistent with other members of the community? How does that get worked
out? Even on the individual scale, the principle seems to work in some cases,
but not others.  There are all sorts of medical miracles where someone
does seem to create their own reality in direct contradiction of medical
prognosis. But this effect seems to go only so far; we don't, for example, have
any documented case of a transsexual, who absolutely believed he was another
gender, waking up one day to find a new set of genitals that matched his
beliefs, intentions, etc Somewhere I remember reading about someone who
observed many faith healings, and saw many crutches thrown away, but never a
wooden leg. Philip K. Dick said, "Reality is that which, when you stop
believing in it, doesn't go away."

On the other side of this paradox,
outside reality creates you. An example of this point of view is environmental
determinism. Environmental determinists believe that that physical
environmental factors determine human behaviors, social structures and culture.
I dislike this position as an absolute as well, but the environmental
determinist has a much more impressive array of evidence to support their
position.  Environmental determinism is the position of a book like Guns, Germs and Steel, which makes a
case for climate and microbiological factors as keys to explain why
technological civilization would arise in some parts of the world, but not
others. Marxism is another case of environmental determinism, where the
economic structure of a society is said to determine everything else. A potent
example of cultural determinism is language.  All of us speak and think in
one or more languages that long predated us. Our minds were booted up in a
domain of English users, and this language, determined outside of us,
drastically affects our sense of time and our perception of all manner of inner
and outer realities. If I create my own reality than I must have created
English as well, since this is too gigantic a factor in my life to have
possibly been determined outside of me.

Environmental determinism may be valid
in some cases, but  is a deeply flawed proposition if accepted as an
absolutism. Environmental determinism is an extraverted,
fundamentalist/materialist point of view. It does not sufficiently take the
human psyche  into account. Nazism was not merely a response to economic
and climatic conditions, but an eruption of the collective unconscious.

According to dynamic paradoxicalism,
some things are best understood as realities created by  psyche, others by
outside causation, and still others by a confluence of the two factors.  A
unified way of including both sides of this duality is to say that, yes, you
create your own reality, but this you is not necessarily you as an individual,
but rather the universal mind, the source out of which your psyche manifests.

Inner Independence vs. Dependence

Inner independence is the answer to a
thousand forms of neurotic torment, and yet there are other times when
dependence may be more appropriate.

I've written a great deal on the virtue
of inner independence.  From the point of view of inner independence, your
one obligation in life is to get your relationship to yourself right. 
Accomplish that, often a moment-by-moment accomplishment, and your relations to
others, to sex, time, money, power, health, career, political situations,
gravity and movement, will be as good as they possibly can be. Omit, neglect,
or distort any part of the relationship to yourself, and your relations to all
those attributes will accordingly be diminished and distorted. The classic case
of inner independence is seeking wholeness within, the inner alchemical
marriage of yin and yang, feminine and masculine, rather than seeking to import
wholeness from without through another person.

(See: Casting
Precious into the Cracks of Doom-Androgyny, Alchemy, Evolution and the One Ring
)

But there are circumstances where
dependence may be appropriate. For example, if a mother has just given birth to
an infant, she should be allowed to hold the infant and encourage him to nurse
as soon as possible, to allow a bond of absolute dependence to form. Although
inner independence is the sensible approach to romantic relationships, the
principle answer to neurotic infatuations, codependence, and fragmentation, the
soul may not want to be sensible.  As Blaise Pascal put it four centuries
ago, "The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of." The soul, as
James Hillman so often points out, pathologizes. Even the I Ching, which extols
inner independence as a supreme virtue, acknowledges the subjectivity of the heart
and soul, and allows that some may happily choose dependence. For example,
consider the third changing line of hexagram 61 in the classic Wilhem/Baynes I
Ching:

He
finds a comrade.

Now
he beats the drum, now he stops.

Now
he sobs, now he sings.

Here
the source of a man's strength lies not in himself but in his relation to other
people. No matter how close to them he may be, if his center of gravity depends
on them, he is inevitably tossed to and fro between joy and sorrow. 
Rejoicing to high heaven, then sad unto death-this is the fate of those who
depend upon an inner accord with other persons whom they love. Here we have
only the statement of the law that this is so.  Whether this condition is
felt to be an affliction or the supreme happiness of love, is left to the
subjective verdict of the person concerned.

The sensible, fix-it approach to
romantic relationships which assumes everyone wants healthy, functional, stable
relationships,  is a one-sided absolutism. In an anthology of writings by
James Hillman entitled A Blue Fire,
there is a chapter entitled "Love's Torturous Enchantments."  Hillman
points out that, from all times and cultures, the lore about romantic
relationships tends toward the problematic and tragic, two people becoming
three, betrayal dramas, unrequited situations, Romeo and Juliet.  His
point is that the soul may want love's torturous enchantments, the soul
pathologizes. Inner independence versus dependence ". . . is left to the
subjective verdict of the person concerned."

An Extreme Cautionary Point

In acknowledging a place for darkness
and irrationality, the dynamic paradoxicalist must be very wary.  This
acknowledgment can all to easily slide into the indulgence of sophisticated
rationalization where one excuses foolishness by acknowledging that darkness
has its place alongside light. This is no small pitfall. This type of
rationalization excuses the sadistic and/or hedonistic antics of abusive gurus,
for example, by claiming that they are "crazy wisdom teachers." Dynamic paradoxicalism
is a philosophy best suited for those who are grounded in a strong, Warrior
stance.

(See: The Warrior Stance)

The dynamic paradoxicalist must take
full responsibility for discerning where they need to be in relationship to the
paradox.  If you find yourself leaning toward the dark, lunar, irrational
side of a paradox, be very wary about your motives, and see if this is what the
totality of you really needs to do. There should be a heavy burden of proof on
the decision to abdicate rationality and discipline.

Spiritual genius and abusive guru
Chogyam Trungpa is a classic example of sophisticated rationalization. He
defined crazy wisdom in the following way:

"But this craziness is not so neurotic;
it's just basic craziness, which is fearlessness and not giving up anything.
Not giving up anything is the basic point. At the same time, you are willing to
work with what is there on the basis of its primordial wakeful quality. So that
is the definition of crazy wisdom, which is sometimes known as wisdom gone
wild."

(See: http://www.shambhala.org/teachings/view.php?id=131)

Huh? Another explanation is that the
Buddhist emphasis on vertical transcendence may often mean a neglect of the
horizontal plane of development, such as integration of the shadow, which can
then rule the personality as an unintegrated autonomous complex. Trungpa's
crazy wisdom path involved sexual abuse of students and drinking himself to
death at the age of 48.

Trungpa's most famous dysfunctional
moment occurred when he drunkenly plowed a sports car into a joke shop in
Dumfries, Scotland, an accident that left him partially paralyzed. Trungpa
seemed almost proud of that occurrence, a great cosmic joke, but what he should
have gotten from this episode (besides the realization that he was a full blown
alcoholic)  is a respect for the trickster aspect of the unconscious. The
trickster aspect of the unconscious is what so many mystics and metaphysical
explorers always seem to miss! Doesn't the history of prophecy and mysticism
show us the trickster aspect of the unconscious at work constantly? If you
aren't wary of the trickster function than of course you are going to encounter
deities with ego and book-concept-enhancing prophetic messages. The saying I
coined to remind myself  of this is: Wherever
you cast  your obsessive attention, there shall you find weird patterning.

Conspiracy theorists especially need to be wary of that.  (See Carnival
2012-A Psychological Study of the 2012 Phenomenon and the 22 Classic Pitfalls
and Blind Spots of Esoteric Research
)

Once again, dynamic paradoxicalism is not an invitation to indulging
sophisticated rationalization and going with the trickster aspects of the
unconscious. It is a philosophy that is only useful to those with a strong
moral compass, and who are grounded in a Warrior stance,
ready to take full responsibility for their judgments and actions..

One reason why people and groups tend
toward absolutisms is the principle known as enantiadromia
(en-ANT-ee-a-DROH-mee-a). Jung
used the term frequently, but it originates with Heracleitus (b. 540 BC) who
seems to be one of the earliest dynamic paradoxicalists. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica,

A
significant manifestation of the logos, Heracleitus claimed, is the underlying
connection between opposites. For example, health and disease define each
other. Good and evil, hot and cold, and other opposites are similarly related.
In addition, he noted that a single substance may be perceived in varied
ways-seawater is both harmful (for men) and beneficial (for fishes). His
understanding of the relation of opposites to each other enabled him to
overcome the chaotic and divergent nature of the world, and he asserted that
the world exists as a coherent system in which a change in one direction is
ultimately balanced by a corresponding change in another. Between all things
there is a hidden connection, so that those that are apparently "tending apart"
are actually "being brought together."
("Heracleitus"  from Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Deluxe
Edition.)

The physical science of the ancients
was preoccupied with earth, air, wind, and fire as the fundamental constituents
of reality. Heracleitus was part of that point of view, and he fell for a
rather one-sided absolutism that fire was the ultimate constituent and water,
earth, and everything else, derived from it.

A savagely cruel and ironic sort of
enantiadromia played out in Heracleitus's own fate:

The death of Heracleitus is perhaps
philosophy's saddest case of the failure of theory to work in practice.
Heracleitus identified fire as the principle element of nature and creation.
The human soul, as part of the world soul Logos, was man's fiery part and had
to be protected from its opposite, moisture, which dampened the fires while
asleep and in excess caused madness. It can only be regarded as tragic irony
that he should suffer from dropsy, a condition in which water accumulates in
the body. He died in his desperate attempts to draw the moisture out through
heat by plastering himself with dung.

Enantiadromia is the tendency of living
systems to oscillate between extremes. Heraclietus coined the term and
ultimately personified it-a fire absolutist who died of excess water. A more
familiar example, someone begins a romantic relationship absurdly idealizing
someone, which leads to the collapse of idealization, and then the equal and
opposite view that the former beloved is the worst jerk to have ever lived
results. Someone puts himself on an overly restrictive diet and this leads to
the equal and opposite binge. Collectively, many religious systems set up harsh
taboos around sexuality, and this leads to the modern tendency to rebel toward
promiscuity. Catholic priests have been known to personify enantiadromia in
unfortunate ways. The pendulum of enantiadromia can often be an unconscious
way of relating to paradox, where an individual or collective fluctuates
between the extreme poles of the paradox-like celibacy/promiscuity. 
Someone rebels from feeling like a victim into believing absolutely in the
you-create-your-own-reality principle, where the universe revolves around the
individual.

Some versions of a key Ken Wilber
insight, the "pre/trans fallacy,"  seem to relate to enantiadromia.
Essentially, the pre/trans fallacy notices a common tendency to confuse
pre-rational states with trans-rational states, since both are
non-rational.  The "reductivist" version of this is the tendency of "scientism,"
which  reduces all transrational mystical states to prerational
infantilism, and dismisses authentic spiritual experience as "superstitious
nonsense."  Freud clearly fell for this half of the fallacy, especially in
The Future of an Illusion. The "elevationist" version of the fallacy,
ubiquitous in the New Age, is to elevate prerational states to the transcendent
and to demonize rationality.  From this side of the fallacy, babies are
thought to be Buddhas, and anything tribal or aboriginal is romanticized and
inflated as infinitely superior to anything modern or rational. Promiscuity is
seen as a daring rebellion from antiquated taboos, even though it is usually in
high conformity to what peers are doing. They recognize as conventional the
older sexual morays of the past, but fail to recognize that their rebellion is
part of a vast conventionalism of the present, and that this new
conventionalism is actually based on a still more primitive level of
development than the old conventionalism. Regressing to pre-rational hedonism,
indulging every impulse and irrational notion is seen as enlightened,
post-conventional and transcendent. This is the state of the typically goofy
New Age person who never heard an urban legend or bit of mystical-sounding
nonsense without adopting it wholesale. This type of person is fiercely
anti-intellectual and anti-rational, so it is impossible to talk them down from
their absurdities, even the attempt to do so casts you, in their minds, as this
clueless rationalist stuck in their ego. They believe they have transcended
rationality, while forgetting that to transcend something you first have to
achieve it!

Falling for the pre/trans fallacy
usually means that someone is caught on the pendulum of enantiadromia and has
fallen for absolutisms. Achieving rationality, analytic ability, and
discernment seems too dry and difficult so one swings back to infantile-magical
thinking and pretends that it is transcendent.  Building a strong,
conscious ego able to withstand the outrageous slings and arrows of fortune
seems too difficult, and so the pendulum swings back to infantile omnipotence,
and a confused person believes in you-create-your-own-reality as an absolutism.

The dynamic paradoxicalist is capable
of a more subtle and variable relationship to paradoxes than the person or
collective caught on the pendulum of enantiadromia, flipping back and forth
between zero and one, the absolutist poles of the paradox. The dynamic
paradoxicalist is able to respond to subtler cues that his relationship to a given
paradox is becoming strained and is in need of compensation, and he is also
able to choose middle spectrum positions when appropriate.

On the other hand, the dynamic
paradoxicalist doesn't fall into the fallacy of the "middle path." The dynamic
paradoxicalist doesn't have to choose the path of Goldilocks, who avoids the
porridge that is too hot or too cold and always goes for the tepid mush.
Sometimes we want hot or cold, we may need to experience extreme.  There
can be great value in climbing K2, or in the shattering dark night of the soul;
aiming always at the middle is a strategy of tepid mediocrity  A frequent
New Age affectation is the verbal emphasis on balance. Balance is typically
used to indicate the middle path position, the 50/50 state where the scales
would be balanced. A  perfectly symmetrical statue would have this type of
balance, but a much more alive type of balance is dynamic balance, the balance
of a ballet dancer or a martial artist. The dynamic paradoxicalist employs
dynamic balance, not the static equilibrium of the 50/50 middle state.

For this reason, the dynamic
paradoxicalist is not forever favoring paradox over a position committed to one
pole or the other. There are times when it is better to be engaged at the poles
and not in the middle, or in a detached state of appreciating the nondualistic
grand paradox view. The dynamic paradoxicalist is not a proselytizer-as so many
absolutists/fundamentalists are-because he recognizes that some people, in some
circumstances, may need to engage the poles and may even need to be absolutists
or fundamentalists.

From a developmental point of view — an
appropriately hierarchical view — many people are not ready for dynamic
paradoxicalism.  A newborn baby needs to be allowed to form a bond of
absolute dependence, and does not need instruction on inner independence. There
may be healthy structures living at the poles, which should not be attacked by
the paradox view. Some people may be at a developmental stage where they will
thrive only by being fundamentalists. Anti-fundamentalism — an ism I often find
very attractive — is also a fundamentalism. The Amish are fundamentalists, and
while I wouldn't want to be Amish, I can respect their way of life.  Some
people may also need to swing with the pendulum of enantiadromia, repeating
romantic relationships that begin with idealization and end in bitter
disenchantment, because that might be their developmental path.

Seligman, and other psychologists who
research the positive affective states — what makes people happy — have discovered
that religion makes people happier, but only if it is fundamentalist religion.
In considering this finding, a possibility is that fundamentalists may be so
used to lying to themselves and believing what they are supposed to believe,
that when they answer the questionnaire they believe that they should be happy
and confuse that with happiness, which they report on the questionnaire,
creating a false finding. If they admitted to being unhappy, that would cast
doubt on their fundamentalist way of life. But it is also possible that on some
level they really are happier, perhaps because they are comforted and even
inspired by having a map of absolutes with which to navigate the complexity and
ambiguity of life.

One of the states most closely associated
with unhappiness is "psychic entropy" — a classic, fragmented state where one is
oppressed by tape loops of negative, repetitive thoughts, anxieties, and
afflictive emotions. The term apparently originated with Jung in 1912, but was
also far more recently picked up by  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a way to
explain why people would lose the desirable state he called "Flow." Psychic
entropy preponderates in states like boredom and anxiety, where one
unpleasantly loses focus and intention. People tend to be happier in social
situations than in solitude because the social distracts and diverts them from
psychic entropy. The research also shows that almost everyone is happier in
company than in solitude, even people who say they prefer solitude. An
attraction, I believe, of charismatic people is that they act like a powerful
magnet, lining up the scattered iron filings of psychic entropy into neat
patterns. The revival meeting preacher, the hyped-up motivational speaker, the
rabble-rousing demagogue, the genuinely inspirational visionary, all of these
charismatic types are decreasing the psychic entropy of those they are able to
magnetize. A fundamentalism has the magnetic charge of polar extremes and it
can take a fragmented person, drifting in psychic entropy, and boost him to a
state of much higher-level of functioning, making him happier in the process.

A dynamic paradoxicalist does not have
to view happiness as an absolute goal. Development is often spurred on by pain,
by the dark night of the soul, and therefore suffering and happiness are part
of a paradox to be related to dynamically. Higher functioning is not an
absolute goal, despite the Western fervor for always being optimal. Illness and
aging, immersion in the imaginal process, the need to engage deeply with
emotion, grief, ecstasy, and a variety of other states, may make it
appropriate, even crucial, that we surrender on occasion the virtue of being
high-functioning and optimal.

A characteristic of most isms is that
they usually claim to be efficient factories for turning sow's ears into silk
purses. This could be a Christian fundamentalist inviting everyone to be born
again, or Anthony Robbins inviting you to awaken the giant within — see his book,
Awaken the Giant Within — through the
magic of neuro-linguistic programming. There is this false democratic ideal
that everyone has equal potential, but the merest glance at the phenomenal
world, the slightest consideration of the hierarchies of nature, should dispel
this sentimental delusion. Sure, nature may create some conch shells that are
organized around the Fibonacci sequence, the mathematical golden mean, but
nature also pumps out midgets and giants, there are the runts of the liter and
the champion blood hounds, the omegas and the alphas, the high and the low in
every quality — strength, speed, beauty, intelligence, character, creativity,
will, you name it. Therefore, the capacity to benefit from dynamic
paradoxicalism is also extremely variable. From the point of view of the spiral dynamics theory of human evolution,
there is a hierarchy of human types organized according to memes, and very
large portions of the human species are better suited for fundamentalisms than
for a philosophy like dynamic paradoxicalism at this phase of evolution.

The quality and size of a person coming
out of a given system usually has a lot more to do with the quality and size of
a person entering the system than with the system itself. Sure, for 6' 7"
Anthony Robbins, neuro-linguistic programming awakened a giant within because
he had a giant within, like many highly charismatic people he had a high innate
level of personal power. The problem is that some people may have a midget
within, and that midget might actually wake up better within a religious
fundamentalism than something like neuro-linguistic programming, which seems to
unconsciously assume that everyone has access to more will, inner resources,
and self-initiative than is actually the case. Similarly, if Michael Jordan
wrote a book entitled, "Awaken the NBA Star Within," it might be genuinely
inspirational and helpful to a nineteen-year-old, 6' 9" college basketball
star, but may not work so well for many other human types. Even Michael Jordan
can no longer awaken the NBA star within.

However, during the Anthony Robbins
weekend, all sorts of fragmented people are magnetized by the intense charisma
of Anthony Robbins, and get this revival meeting hyped-up high while this
towering figure of neuro-linguistic programming zeal is on stage for a couple
of days. But left to their own resources — plus some NLP tapes — they revert to
psychic entropy and default to the midget within. Though, to be fair, some
people at the seminar may really have just the right sort of giant within, and
may find NLP and the inspirational example of Anthony Robbins to be
miraculously helpful.

I'm not criticizing midgets here. There
is a need for compassionate acceptance of the whole hierarchy, and this
includes recognizing the fallacy of giants bearing isms, who think they will
bring out the giant in everyone. Dynamic paradoxicalism will not turn a sow's
ear into a silk purse, and it will not awaken a giant within unless you have a
fairly awake giant within you already.

The wise application of dynamic
paradoxicalism has more to do with innate ability and essence than a series of
formulae. What makes someone a metaphorical giant is their operating from the
Self, the totality of psychic structures, and not merely the ego and/or the
mind. From the perspective of the Self, one is aware that perception of what is
going on is not merely a diagnosis of an objective outside reality, but is also
a choice. In many cases, there is not a single answer to what is happening, but
a choice of timelines one may enter based on interpretation of ambiguous
circumstances.  For example, let's say I lose my wallet.  I can
interpret that as a random occurrence-everyone loses things and this is just
one more example of that entropic principle. Alternatively, I could choose to
interpret the loss of the wallet symbolically.  Wallets contain ID, and in
dreams loss of a wallet often represents loss of an old identity. I decide to
incorporate the loss of the wallet into my life mythos, and use this minor shock
to help in the release of an old, false identity. Is one of these perceptions
right, and the other wrong? A strong case could be made for either of them, and
there is no single correct diagnosis of the event. By choosing the random
occurrence view I enter one timeline, and by choosing the symbolic,
mythological view I enter another.

When psychologists categorize people as
optimists or pessimists they sort them based on their "explanatory style." A
study I read about optimists and pessimists years ago in Omni magazine reported that pessimists turned out to be better at
reality testing, their predictions of future outcomes were more accurate than
those of optimists.  But in every other area of life they
evaluated — wealth, health, relationships, etc., the optimists were found to be
significantly better off. More recent studies have confirmed such findings. For
example, a nine year, well-controlled study in the Netherlands found that
optimists had a 29% lower mortality rate and were 77% less likely to die of cardiovascular
disease than pessimists. (Source: Archives of General Psychiatry
— November 2004; 2004;61:1126-35.).

A dynamic relationship to paradox means
that one has more latitude of explanatory style and can choose from more
alternative interpretations. Global intuition can guide one to the
interpretation that most empowers the meanings and goals of a particular life
path. It would, however, be a one-sided connection to paradox to assume such
interpretive latitude exists in every case, and it takes discernment to realize
where to use it and where to surrender it. For example, if I wish to send
someone an email, I don't assume much interpretative latitude when it comes to
spelling out their email address, though I may have a lot of latitude when it
comes to the body of the text.

The dynamic paradoxicalist doesn't
merely tolerate or learn to live with ambiguity, but actually values it. There
is a close connection between ambiguity and free will. If everything in our
world were sharply defined, we would be living in a mechanical world. To use
video games as analogy, if we lived in an early video game like Space Invaders,
everything would be sharply defined and mechanical with no ambiguity at all — you
know exactly what the computer is going to do, exactly what the rules and the
goals are. However, when you play a networked computer game like World of Warcraft, things are much more
ambiguous because you have avatars operated by autonomous human beings, and the
system is far more open and unpredictable. You can't even assume that every
avatar will operate to enhance the odds of their survival in the game world,
since one of them might be spaced-out or bored, or perhaps entertained by
self-destruction. When free will enters a system, complexity and ambiguity
increase with it.  When things become absolute and unambiguous, free will
recedes. This is why relationships are notoriously — or wonderfully — ambiguous.
You can never be absolutely sure what another person is going to do, unless
they are a very mechanical person and/or in very mechanical
circumstances.  Ambiguity provides greater room for creative interpretive
style and for new forms to come into being. The more ambiguous an inner or outer
situation is, the more the dynamic paradoxicalist can be dynamic.

 

Image by dalehugo, courtesy of Creative Commons license. 

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