The Evolutionary Salon
Carl H. Flygt
Subjectivism is probably the most universal feature of New Age social experience. It arises to satisfy the requirements of personal self-defense while simultaneously purporting to offer social inclusion and openness. It is calibrated to avoid the truly terrible outcomes of autocratic domination and cultism among groups of people seeking solidarity among themselves and within a set of high-minded ideals and principles – universal love and peace among men and women, harmony with nature and the procreative functions, sustainable wonder and awe in the face of mere existence. But all it ever really accomplishes is a certain leveling of spirit, and an enforced mediocrity among individuals whose ideals otherwise call them to something greater.
Subjectivism is expressed in me-talk. In a culture of me-talk, all judgment is to be expressed in terms of how the subject experiences or feels about a particular situation or propositional attitude. In this way, everyone, it is presumed, remains always free to choose his (her) orientation toward self or other in the next social moment. No one is ever coerced by some binding injunction, some dominating morality, some fearsome invocation of heaven and hell, of right and wrong, of honor and dishonor. In a culture of me-talk, the world begins and ends with how I feel about it. People are then expected to share their solipsism for the sake, one supposes, of stirring the feelings of others in a similar manner. Under such conditions, social experience remains at best second hand and dull, and at worst strangely impersonal and alienated.
In addition to the outcomes self-protection and freedom of choice, and their unintended consequences, New Age subjectivism has another, more commendable side. This is the potential to liberate a Divine creativity in human actions and human institutions. Indeed, the definition of New Age attitudes and dispositions might be the presumed right and capacity of the individual to make up religion out of one’s own imagination. But here it is important to distinguish a commitment to Divine Creation and Angelic Comportment through individuals, which is a wholly desirable outcome, from subjectivism, me-talk and a universal banality of speech and thinking, which is not. The key to this distinction, and the remedy for the said banality, is to understand the imagination itself, including the laws that underlie it and the forms it can take under lawful conditions. To understand and exploit the imagination correctly is in fact the key to the Divine Being expressing itself through the intentions and choices of free individuals.
It was recently my good fortune to attend the Third and perhaps pivotal Evolutionary Salon, a gathering of mostly West-Coast Americans and Canadians attempting to imagine a future world in which Collective Intelligence increasingly sets the standard for socio-cultural forms and political agendas. Although the people attending were well-intentioned, intelligent and hard-working, no great solidarity of vision or purpose was accomplished by their work together, largely I think because of the problem of subjectivism and the lack of prior consensus about the laws of the imagination. These are the problems that in all likelihood will need to be solved to a significant degree for the Fourth such Salon to begin to display its potential for mystical wonderment and the radical unity of free and self-sovereign individuals. Fortunately, a theoretical framework for solving these problems now exists, and it appears to be just a matter of working a little with my recent book on language and conversation to put ES-IV on track to be a profoundly important moment in post-modern social history.
The laws of the imagination are contained in language and language use. The imagination is a force in nature that seeks to unify consciousness and experience. Consciousness and experience, moreover, are in reality extended beyond the body and brain and into material nature. The true function and purport of the imagination therefore is not just to unify the mind by means of concepts, but to unify the whole of nature by means of speech and intentional action generally. The unification of material nature through human spiritual activity, of the macroscopic objects of consciousness and intuition is, needless to say, a great and grand scenario, a spiritual impulse that in reality has underwritten all of Western history since Greek rationalism and the advent of Judeo-Christian morality, and that coheres substantially with the psychedelic culture that has given rise to the Evolutionary Salon. Self-conscious rationalism, and the moral language use that stems from it, is the key to the imagination and its laws.
The idea that evolutionary New Agers are going to need to get their heads around is the idea of social judgment. Only the well-formed practice of social judgment can supplant and yet satisfy the self-defeating norms of subjectivism. Just as an artist exercises his (her) autonomy in a public manner, exhibiting his ideas in the medium of his choice, so the New Age conversationist enters a theater, a simulacrum in which social judgments unify social experience. Here the individual remains autonomous but non-separate from the intelligence of the whole. Social judgments, which are essentially moments of logical and semantic truth, constitute such experience. Social judgments are judgments that everyone makes explicitly in particular moments of conversation and social intercourse.
Judgment of course is as natural and intrinsic to social self-consciousness as breathing and the orientating reflexes are, and no great expenditure of intellect or attention should be necessary to settle this point now and for all time. To judge is to use the existence predicate (the existence meta-predicate), to say to oneself or to others that
(1) A is B.
A moment’s reflection will convince that the overwhelming majority of our self-conscious speech acts and propositional attitudes are underwritten by judgments, and that a social situation in which no judgments are made is, for all practical purposes, impossible. The objective of evolutionary conversation and language use then is not to subscribe unthinkingly to a logical absurdity, but to frame judgment in a way that makes it into an object of universal acceptance, to remove its potential to harm the feelings arbitrarily, to wound self-esteem, to attack areas in the emotional life that not only are vulnerable as a matter of fact, but ought to remain vulnerable for the healthy and whole condition of the human self-consciousness. Judgment, in short, should become social art, and Truth, the essential value in judgment, the currency of exchange in all New Age social interaction and all focused efforts to achieve Collective Intelligence in social groups.