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Blaze of Reality

April 27, 2012

In the book Primitive Man as Philosopher, author Paul Radin coined a term, “blaze of reality”, that refers to the perceptual experience of primal humans.

“It can, therefore, be said that primitive man feels that reality is given to him in a threefold fashion. He is born into it; it is proved by external effects; and it is proved by internal effects. He is thus literally living in a blaze of reality. This is more particularly true of the man of action. An aura envelops every object in the external world due to the projection of this inward thrill upon it. It is difficult for one brought up in the scientific externalism of the natural sciences of the nineteenth century to visualize or appreciate this heightened atmosphere in which primitive man works.”(Radin, Paul Primitive Man As Philosopher, Dover Publications Inc.1957 p. 246)(italics added)

Primitive man in no sense merges himself with the object. He distinguishes subject and object quite definitely. In fact the man of action spends a good part of his time in attempting to coerce the object. What he says is simply this: not all the reality of an object resides in our external perception of it. There is an internal side and there are also effects, constraints, from sub-happens must happen and in happening proves itself to subject to object and from object to subject. Whatever be a reality; not the only reality necessarily, but the only one with which the man of action has any immediate concern. (Radin 1957:246)

From the man of action’s viewpoint, a fact has no symbolic or static value. He predicates no unity beyond that of the certainty of continuous change and transformation. For him a double distortion is involved in investing the transitory and ceaselessly changing object with a symbolic, idealistic or static significance; first, because we then remove it farther from reality; and second, because in thus separating the perceiving self from the object, we really render both of them meaningless. (Radin 1957:247)

Life is ever-changing, never static, ideas and concepts and mental maps are static duplicates of reality, not reality itself.

Once we acquire knowledge of something, our knowledge remains fixed and independent of the thing it represents until we choose to amend it. In other words, it exists as a duplicate. The energy of the world is in process, moving forever onwards; the duplicate is a static scheme. (Shepherd, Philip New Self New World North Atlantic Books 2010 p. 23)

MIND = Latin mente (mens) from Proto-Indo-European mentis “thought” Root 1 *men-“to think” Root 2 *men- “to stay, stand still”

“Now it goes without saying that in order to think systematically facts must have some degree of symbolic meaning; they must be static and there must be a clear-cut distinction between the ego and the external object. Every thinker must, in other words, study the subject and the object as though they were isolated units.” (Radin 1957:247)

“The class division between the universal and particular, between the institutionalized intellectuals and the economic men reflects a condition that develops with ancient civilization as opposed to primitive [culture]… Radin has brilliantly shown in his analysis of the thinker and man of action. The point is that among primitives such distinctions complement each other, the concrete and abstract interpenetrate, “thinker” and “man of action” are tied together; sometimes, as Radin points out, they meet in the same individual, and in any case, such differences are not politicized.” (Rothberg, Jerome & Diane Symposium of the Whole: A Range of Discourse Toward an Ethnopoetics University of California Press 1983 p. 83)

Radin is coming from a obsolete definition of thinking. He is coming from the common Western mis-perception that thinking only happens inside the head. As the work of Merleau-Ponty has shown; action is thinking, whole body thinking, as apposed to head thinking.

The head thinker … “is not interested merely in the fact that the world exists and that it has a definite effect upon him; he is impelled…. to try to discover the reason why there is an effect, what is the nature of the relation between the ego and the world, and what part the perceiving self plays therein. (Radin 1957:248)

Radin is saying that the (head)thinker views herself as an isolated perceiving self that asks why?

As we have seen in previous posts; there is no isolated perceiving self, the “self” is an effect or product of bodily interactions with the world. The connection between the environment and the body creates the “self”. (See Buddhism, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, etc…)

There is no why. “Reasons why” limit the limitless reality. If there was a “reason” or “meaning” for life, no one would be free, we would be bound to fulfilling that reason or purpose.

“We construct and return to our duplicates because they are meaningful to us – and in their static abstraction they preserve that meaning, the way a photograph freezes a moment. In other words, knowledge not only stands apart from any phenomena it represents, it designates the meaning of it; so our knowledge of a phenomenon substitutes for a meaningful experience of it, and saves us the trouble of experiencing it repeatedly. But we should be aware that to designate the significance of the world’s phenomena is to flatten them into signs – and although the origins of those three words is uncertain, the great linguist and etymologist Ernest Klein suggests that they, and their ally assign, are all related to the Latin word secare, “to cut.” And indeed, when we assign meaning, we create a kind of sign for ourselves that is independent, cut away from the flux of the present.” (Shepherd 2010:24)

Radin writes that, for the thinker… “the world must first be static and objects must first take on a permanent, or ast least, a stable form before one can deal with them systematically. Both these tasks he therefore sets out to achieve. The attempts of these primitive thinkers are embodied in numerous creation myths.”(Radin 1957:248)

This is a Westernized view of indigenous creation myths. Granted all indigenous cultures cannot be lumped into a single cosmological box, but generally the most primal cultures such as the Australian Aborigines have creation cosmologies that are always occurring. For them, creation was not some event in the past but a continuous becoming, and people play a part of this becoming by their actions.

“Dreamtime is not a creation story in the sense of the Western mind. Dreamtime did not only happen in the past… “rather, it is an ongoing process- the perpetual emerging of the world from an incipient, indeterminate state into full, waking reality, from invisibility to visibility, from the secret depths of silence into articulate song and speech. That Native Australians chose the English term ‘Dreaming’ to translate this cosmological notion indicated their sense that the ordinary act of dreaming participates directly in the time of the clan Ancestors, and hence that that time is not entirely elsewhere, not entirely sealed off from the perceivable present. Rather, the Dreaming lies in the same relation to the open presence of the earth around us as our own dream life lies in relation to our conscious or waking experience. It is a kind of depth, ambiguous and metamorphic.” (Abram, David The Spell of the Sensuous 1996 Vintage Books p. 169)


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