Beyond Individualism

The Psychology of Transformation

by Dane Rudhyar


2. The Four Orders of Functions

a. Functions of the First Order

The first order of functions can be called biological because they operate, in one form or another, in all living organisms within the Earth's biosphere. Among these functions we shall simply mention (a) breathing; (b) the circulation of vitalizing and reparative fluids (whether they be sap, blood, lymph or cerebrospinal fluid); (c) the electro-chemical operation of nerve-transmission; (d) the production of hormones and antibodies by glands or nodules of various kinds; (e) the complex process of digestion, metabolism, and waste-elimination; (f) the capacity of muscle tissues to contract and relax; and (g) the many-sided operations related to growth and maturity. I should also mention the process of sleep and dreaming, for except in extraordinary cases, this process is necessary for survival.

Sexual activity is a biological function; yet, especially in human beings, it occupies a specific position in the fundamental hierarchy. We will presently deal with sex as a function of transition—or seed, function—which, though in its primary mode of activity and biological purpose belongs to the first order, also becomes the foundation for processes referring to the second order of functions. These, once developed, produce the multifarious activities of the socio-cultural level of human existence.

Functions of the first order are 'generic', in the sense that they are common to or shared by all human beings; they differ somewhat, but not fundamentally, from race to race, and even less from person to person. If to some extent repressed or impaired (permanently or for a relatively long time) these functions produce definite psychosomatic disturbances. Most of these functional and periodic activities are necessary for survival. They have a definite rhythm. They are direct differentiations of the basic life-force, called by as many names as there are cultures and subcultural schools of thought.

These functions are essentially compulsive, instinctual, automatic and repetitive. They are unconscious, taken for granted and normally not directly subject to what we call the will, though some, and perhaps at a certain stage of human development, all of them may be controlled by an individual's mind and will operating as a function of the third order. Biological functions have psychic 'overtones', even at the primary level of human evolution; but these overtones are rooted in and entirely dependent upon the operation of the biological functions. They reflect the wholesome or impaired nature of the instrumentalities (cells and organic structures) through which the related functions operate.

A time comes, however, when what was at first a more or less evanescent overtone—an uncertain and easily dissipated 'resonance' affecting the inner life of a human being—can reach such a state of critical intensity that it seems to act as a 'fundamental tone' carrying the main life-accent. As the consciousness and will of a particular human being in a particular life-situation focus themselves upon a new type of function—a function of the second (and eventually third) order—a transfer of energy occurs which depotentializes the function of the first order constituting its infrastructure. This depotentialization may be temporary or, on the other hand relatively permanent. It may represent a progressive condition of human growth, or lead to a regressive state and the kind of ill-health to which the whole person is not able to give a constructive meaning and purpose. Yet, there are illnesses or operational defects at the biological level to which a highly constructive and metamorphic meaning can be given by an individual able to interpret them from a life-transcendent (metabiological) point of view.

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Copyright © 1979 by Dane Rudhyar.
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