Beyond Individualism

The Psychology of Transformation

by Dane Rudhyar


3. Seed Functions and Rites of Passage

b. The Discursive Intellect and the Process of Individualization

The process of 'liberation' from the concrete, instinctual mind, operating as a servant of 'life', requires the development of an analytical and discursive type of thought process to which we refer today when speaking of the intellect. This intellect becomes a powerful tool through which man's consciousness is able objectively and unemotionally to look at all existential changes in himself as well as in the world. But more than that, it is glorified as the great liberator through rigidly controlled analytical techniques, such as the Socratic method of 'discourse', pro-and-con arguments and dialectics.

When seen in its analytical and discursive aspect, the intellect can be considered the function of transition between the second and third orders of function, because it represents the most advanced development along the line of socio-cultural relatedness and of what Korzybsky called the "time binding faculty" in man. By separating its objectivized perceptions from the concrete and ephemeral reality of the biopsychic world—which is the foundation of all other cultural processes—the human intellect is able to deal with relations and concepts unaffected by changes produced by the flow of time and, thus with universal 'constants' and deterministic (because rationalistic) 'laws of nature'. At least in principle, this intellect is not affected by emotions arising from biological, psychic, and socio-political pressures and impacts. Moreover, the knowledge derived from intellectual processes is easily communicable and translatable in diverse languages. It spans generations as well as continents.

However, the development of the intellectual function is a Pandora's box which, when opened, releases a vast series of consequences. Intellectual knowledge presupposes a knower, objective to what is being known; it requires knowers whose mental activity is not affected by biopsychic pressures and directives—thus who have become free from the compulsions of their biospheric nature, at least in some areas of their consciousness. These knowers, if they are to obtain a truly 'universal' kind of knowledge, have to be free, not only from the energies of 'life', but also from the limiting and particular assumptions characterizing any culture and the social and political pressures of society.

Because it is the foundation on which functions of the third order develop, the intellect has to be at least relatively separate from, and unmoved by, the activities of the first (biological) and second (socio-cultural) orders. It has to become 'individualized' and autonomous if it is to function in terms of pure reason. The discursive mind analyzes what the senses perceive, what the organism-as-a-whole (and its organic parts) feels, what the collective tradition presents as revealed truth, and the challenge of knowledge per se. To analyze is to break away from the feeling of wholeness and empathy. It is to atomize what the collective will and consciousness (society) forcefully presented as 'reality' and common sense in the realm where personal and group security are far more important than objective facts. Only individuals able to stand apart from and, to some extent at first, against the collective mentality of their culture and tradition may effectively perform such a catabolic task


The separative and atomizing activity of the intellectual aspect of the mind is a necessary phase in the process of human evolution; just as, in logic, the antithesis is an integral part of a syllogism leading from the thesis to the synthesis. But this atomistic and discursive intellect should be considered as only a transitory stage between the compulsive biopsychic activity of the archaic, relatively unconscious, and essentially collective mind, and the individually conscious, yet also holistic and unanimistic activity of the 'supermind' within which all human consciousnesses potentially interpenetrate.

Similarly, the individualizing 'I-feeling' should be regarded as only a transitory experience on which an antithetic kind of mentality and world-view—pluralistic, atomistic or 'monadistic', and in socio-political terms, 'democratic'—can be legitimately based, and for a time, should be based.

To say this, however, is to consider only one aspect of the situation created by the emergence and stabilization of the consciousness of being a distinct individual person no longer totally dominated by biological and cultural compulsions. What this consciousness means and implies is not always clearly understood, whether at the metaphysical level or in terms of practical and concrete psychological realizations. I have discussed this complex and often all-too-emotionally-approached subject in several books, particularly in The Planetarization of Consciousness, and I shall only mention here, and in the last chapter, some points particularly relevant to the psychological approach I am now taking.

Individualization is based on the ability inherent in human beings to refer their sensations, perceptions, and organismic or psychic feelings to a center. It seems quite evident that the centralizing of human experience is a relatively late factor in the evolution of human consciousness. For a long time during the archaic ages, human beings experienced existential changes in an unfocalized manner. These changes were felt to take place in a field of happenings having no well-defined rhythm, boundaries, or center. When the feeling of 'center' arose, it was referred to the community as a whole. It had a collective character. It was projected outwardly as the god of the tribe. This god ruled the whole tribe and the world in which it collectively operated. He was the creator and the all-powerful center of the tribal world whose physical center was the village plaza.

As the field of tribal activity extended and became a vast empire or kingdom, reliance on the tribal god as a center of power and guidance became superseded by the worship of a universal God who centralized and ruled over a multiplicity of lesser gods and spirits—just as the deified Persian emperor, Darius, ruled over many smaller nations and tribes through an administrative bureaucracy and provincial sub-rulers.

When Jesus taught the revolutionary doctrine that the Kingdom of Heaven is within every human being, he was saying that what was once considered the structuring power of the universe should actually be experienced at the core of any person's being as the 'Inner Ruler'. He also spoke of "our Father who art in Heaven," thus seemingly suggesting what had been taught in a different manner in India since Sri Krishna and the Upanishads —that is, the identity of the universal Center and the centers in all individuals.

In India the revelatory realization that the universal brahman and the individual atman are essentially one remained a central factor in all Hindu philosophies, each of which was thought to provide a particular way of experiencing this mystical identity— each way being valid for the particular type of human beings whose stage in spiritual evolution required this special approach. But in the Western world, the social manifestation of this ideal of identity was overwhelmed by a traditional subservience to a central authority—a tradition, which, as we shall see later on, began in its present form after Cyrus founded the Persian empire in the sixth century B. C. Our Euro-American society inherited this tradition from Imperial Rome which, consciously and unconsciously, had absorbed the Persian and the late Egyptian models.

As a result, a dualistic situation was established in the collective mind of our Western world, such a dualism being symbolized by the two most powerful symbolic images of our culture, Caesar and Christ. It led to a division between the socio-political and the spiritual-individual spheres. In the latter sphere, God was worshipped as the universal Center, transcendent to the contents of the cosmic field of existence; but at the same time, every human being was understood to have within himself, as an ideal, the archetypal image of this divine centrality. By actualizing this potential form of existence, he or she would partake of the nature of the Deity—even though there could be no question of actual 'identification', the Creator and His creatures remaining forever and essentially distinct. Man could become 'unified', but never 'identified', with a God that was conceived to be essentially external to the cosmos, just as an artist is external to his creations, even if involved in them and in what will become of them when they leave his studio.

If humanity is created in the image and likeness of such a God, logically, he too has to be essentially external to his small world, of which he is, if not strictly speaking the creator, at least the interpreter and namer. For the rather mysterious purpose of learning some lesson, man is thought to exist on an Earth to which, as a God-created soul, he does not really belong. The Earth is not his true 'home', only a 'school'. But when involved in the activities of the terrestrial environment, he almost inevitably becomes fascinated by and addicted to the energies and passions of 'this world'. He becomes its prisoner, and his main task is to detach his consciousness from its allurements. Seen at the emotional level, this detachment is called 'severance'; at the level of mind, it is 'ab-straction'. At every level, man has to overcome the pull of the whorls of life-energies.

In the process of abstraction, the human mind must detach and separate itself from what it observes, analyzes, and eventually transforms. The mind detaches certain basic features (or some apparently essential relationships) from the direct and total experience of reality, and as a result, a geometrical or conceptual pattern takes form within the consciousness. In a direct life-experience, the entire organism reacts to a whole situation; however, at the biological level of consciousness, the reaction is instinctual and while some type of consciousness is involved, it is a generic type which—in terms of what we generally think of today as consciousness—is actually subconscious. At the socio-cultural level, the members of the tribal or post-tribal society essentially react to situations according to patterns of feeling, thinking, and behavior which have been forcibly impressed upon their minds by the language, the behavior, and the teachings of the community, and these reactions leave out whatever, in the whole situation, is unacceptable to the tradition. Consciousness has essentially a collective character.

At about the time when the collective mentality of a culture-whole reaches a point at which the capacity for abstraction takes a significant importance—at least in the thinking processes of a 'creative minority'—the process of individualization at the feeling-level has progressed to the stage at which the experience of 'being I' becomes not only fully conscious, but mentalized. It centers the field of consciousness not merely in a semi-instinctive organic sense ("I want this," "This is mine," "I am different"), but as a foundation for an overall metaphysical principle inherent in the concept of 'being'. 'I' becomes an abstraction, separated and detached from body experiences and emotional feelings. Individualism develops as a social principle of action expressing what is now regarded as the essential reality of the universe, that is, the existence of a multiplicity of abstract-transcendental units of being. These units may be called God-created immortal Souls, monads, or jivas (in Jain philosophy). They are ab-stracted from the indivisible wholeness of the universal Whole.

The concept of an absolute individuality, featured in some Western and even Eastern metaphysics (for instance in the philosophy of Personalism'), is an abstraction; and it should be clearly differentiated from the biological feeling of organic wholeness based on the fact that the organism actually is a structured field of interrelated and interdependent functional activities. This concept differs also from the ego which develops as a response of the organism-as-a-whole to the pressures of family and society.

One might say that the concept of absolute individuality is like that of a center without a circumference. One cannot logically speak of a center without conceiving a circle and circumference, just as one should not speak of a father or mother without a child, or at least a child-in-the-making. Any 'point' theoretically can become a center, but it is only potentially so until its surrounding space has been filled and organized as a field of radiation around it.

In a similar sense, making of a moment of time an absolute concept and glorifying it as the 'Now' implies that a particular moment—theoretically any particular moment—is being abstracted from the human experience of the ever-flowing process of universal change and given an absolute meaning. This is done, and a particular person is conceptually taken out (abstracted) from his planetary environment (and ultimately from the cosmos as a whole), when it becomes important to transfer the focus of human consciousness, feelings, and attention from the biological and cultural levels of functions of the first and second order to that of functions of the fourth order. When human consciousness has to be gradually detached from biology and a local and exclusivistic culture—because the time for such a change of focus and level has come in the planetary process of human evolution—then the crisis of individualization and severance from the biocultural past expresses itself as a glorification of the individual-in-itself and the moment-in-itself. 'Now' detachment becomes imperative. The crucial choice, the Day of Judgement, has come. One must go through the transition process leading to a yet-unknown state of spiritual being, or fall by the wayside and return to the condition of undifferentiated matter.

This transition process makes use of the mental faculties and the innate feeling of order that biology and culture have built, but these faculties are used in a manner that actually destroys their biocultural foundations. Similarly, when the seed forms within the fruit, the plant begins to die. The seed 'kills' the plant; but in time the seed also will germinate and die into the new plant. Biological and cultural values lose their potency and focalized meaning, transferring these to the glorified individual who, as independent and self-determined world citizen, detached from family, national, and cultural localisms, is theoretically free, ready and able to join with other individuals of different or similar backgrounds in the building of a new transcultural and thus universal society.

The entire development of culture-wholes leads toward just such a period of prolonged crisis during which the functions of the third order acquire an often exaggerated importance and the process of abstraction and conceptualization may tend to run wild in intellectual minds losing touch with holistic life-experiences and planetary realities. Individuals, in their emotional eagerness to become 'liberated' from the domination of all that a culture imposes upon them—or in rarer cases, from the compulsive power of the nutritive and sexual functions, and in general from any desire related to the physical body—easily forget that every individual person is but one of billions of variations on the theme, Anthropos. Each individualized person draws out of this theme and seeks to significantly express and realize one, but only one, of its latent potentialities, just as every culture-whole constitutes but one kind of matrix to enwomb the eventual development of independent, totally conscious, inwardly free, and emotionally unattached individuals.

In a very broad sense, the development of any culture-whole resembles the gestation of an embryo within a mother-womb. Alas, if we follow this analogy, the vast majority of pregnancies are miscarriages, or more accurately, there are only an extremely few seeds covering the forest's soil in the fall which become trees, or a very few fish eggs in the ocean that will experience a full adult development. Yet nothing is wasted and the chemicals contained in the trillions of non-germinating seeds give to the humus substances that will significantly contribute to the few germinating seeds. This is the great lesson, so hard for human beings to learn: the lesson of sacrifice and service.

Every living organism serves a planetary, and ultimately a cosmic, purpose. Only a few are able, through a process of self-consecration, to emerge as positive and creative factors at the level of the functions of the fourth order. The number of such men and women today is fast increasing, because the evolutionary crisis of mankind appears relatively imminent, and the pressure for conscious, deliberate, and courageous, if not heroic, decisions is steady and irrepressible.

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