Category Archives: Thoreau

From Out of the Matrix of Airy Nothing: Night Thoughts on the Theoretical Constructions of Universes

September 26, 2015


Late last night as I was doing the dishes before bed I happened to glance off to my left and saw two or three light beings in the passageway from our kitchen to the living room. I was immediately captivated and asked them to identify themselves and, before they could even answer, I already knew that they were angels. At my suggestion, they then grounded each of us in the Golden Light of Grace and invoked the Greatest Good for All Beings.

They then asked me to gaze into their light and take in both what they had to say and the energy that they emitted while saying it. Their light was relatively subtle in terms of brightness but very warm and comforting in terms of tone. I had the sense of floating and soaking in a warm, comforting bath filled with luscious, radiant light as I stood there transfixed at the sink.

Once I settled into the flow of things, they told me that despite the fact that I would not be able to give my presentation on fairies at the Serpent Mound gathering today, this day would nevertheless be an important one for me in terms of spiritual cognitive development. At first I thought I was projecting this thought onto the moment, but they stopped me and assured me that the message was indeed coming from them and not from some insecure inner part of my self.

They didn’t go into detail but suggested that today I would find a new path out of the intellectual impasse I have found myself in during the past few weeks and in many ways for nearly a decade. I had no idea what this might mean, but still basking in the warm glow of the energetic transmission, I felt secure in the message and what it would ultimately mean.

The immediate context for this message involves the reading I have been doing of my own past notes and books involving some of the High Theory I have explored during the past few decades, in particular that of Karl Marx and Carl Jung. Earlier this week in preparation for teaching my Theory class on Marx’s notion of the dialectical progression of the forms of capital (in Capital Volume I, Chapter One) I reread a portion of my chapter on Marx in my book The Abyss of Representation. I was immediately drawn back into the ecstasy of that theoretical mindset and for two days or so felt a bit giddy at having come up with such a concise and compelling account of Marx’s theory. I started wondering what it was that made me give up on dialectical thought in the first place and whether there was reason to rekindle this passion at this point in my development. Even in the midst of this intellectual giddiness, nevertheless, I had a deep understanding that this would not in fact be the direction of my new understandings. “But why was I drawn back into this dialectical giddiness if not to rekindle the fervor?” I wondered.

Then yesterday, having just finished reading Jung’s Answer to Job the night before, I reread my notes concerning Jung’s book Aion and my earlier attempts to find a space in which I could draw Jung’s work together with Gloria Anzaldúa’s later work, which operates within a deep Jungian framework. Again as I reread Aion I was wondering how to rekindle this engagement with Jung and find a way to apply this particular schematic framework to Anzaldúa’s theorizing. But just as with the Marx material, before I could even get settled into thinking in detail about this project my daimon suggested that such a move on my part would be a mistake. I would be doing an injustice to Anzaldúa’s work, which resonates from within a deeper space of social commitment than does Jung’s, and would miss out on the opportunity this moment offers to put Jung’s system to the test.

Not knowing what this might mean, I went to bed feeling a bit disappointed and frustrated because I had been so excited about this chance to get back to my academic writing. In the early morning hours, though, I was woken up by Anna, who could not sleep. We got into a wonderfully engaged and energetic discussion of these topics as well as others, and during our conversation I found myself being fed certain ideas by the angels who has visited me last night. I said these things aloud as they came to me, elaborating on them in the excitement of the early morning hours.

The gist of what I realized was that my work should not revert to the intellectual paths I had earlier pursued but rather, no matter how much I might yet again be excited by them, to bring myself into a deep recognition of an element of these intellectual systems that started to dawn on me almost a decade ago but which I had not pursued in the midst of my life-changing pursuits in shamanism and visionary development. I should begin to develop a way of talking about and characterizing the totalizing effectivity of systems of thought. I will now attempt to begin that way of talking by trying to explain what I mean by totalizing effectivity.

Back around 2006 or 2007 I had come to an important realization concerning such systems of thought in my work as a teacher and scholar of critical theory in an academic setting. What I had come to realize over the decades of my involvement with Theory was that, ultimately, each and every theoretical system is in effect an allegory. What I mean by this is that whether we are talking about Marxism, psychoanalysis, feminism, or deconstruction, each of these theoretical systems creates an allegorical frame of understanding that operates by means of key terms and concepts that translate whatever subject matter we seek to analyze into the terms of that particular theoretical system. This insight became all the more important to me when I also realized that the particular theoretical framework with which we might choose to analyze any given content reflects either consciously or unconsciously our own predispositions—or, at least, should.

The question arose for me whether the particular theoretical systems that I found most alluring actually pertained to the world either as it is or as I would hope it might become. In other words, why would I choose a cynical and endlessly critical thought system that might not in fact reflect the world I would like to see? Do I really believe, for instance, there really is no deeper reality than the apparent surface phenomena that I perceive? Do I really believe that all imaginative constructs can be reduced to the various concatenations of our “desiring machines”? Is there really nothing more to see in, say, the works of Martin Heidegger than various willful mystifications seeking release from the bounds of western rationality? Is that cigar really nothing more than a symbol of a penis? Does the statement (accompanying the image of a pipe) saying “This is not a pipe” really in its ironic stance undoing a few thousand years of representational fallacies?

If, then, each and every particular theoretical system is nothing more than an allegory, we are confronted with two realizations: one, I have no objective reason to profess one theoretical system rather than another other than my own predilections; and two, once you are operating within the terms of a theoretical system, there is no objective way out, no objective way either to accept or defy the terms of that system. Reality is what it is in terms of psychoanalysis because of the terms of psychoanalysis—not because psychoanalysis offers us the True path into understanding the phenomena that confront us. The question remains, however: Does psychoanalysis provide me with the terms and frames of understanding that do justice either to the world I see around me or the world I would hope to see? If not, why operate within the terms of psychoanalysis? Or Marxism? Or alchemy?

And so over the subsequent years I more or less distanced myself from adhering to particular theoretical constructs as I began pursuing a more phenomenological engagement with (but not necessarily a Phenomenological explanation of) the experiences, textual and otherwise, that I encountered.

But in the early hours of this morning I realized another aspect of theoretical systems that had eluded me in the past. I had earlier recognized that each theoretical system constructs its own universe of meaning for deciphering the aspects of experience under study. But I continued to imagine this expression—constructs its own universe of meaning—in fairly conventional terms. I took this statement concerning allegory in allegorical terms. In other words, the “universe” I was talking about simply referred to a conceptual system of thought, a collection of ideas that one might use to make sense of other ideas. These universes were simply abstractions taking place in certain people’s heads. What I realized this morning, however, was that theoretical systems construct their own universes in fact. In other words, allegories are not simply stories we might or might not tell but actual constructions of actual states of being. In other other words, words create worlds—real worlds.

I came to a phenomenological understanding of this fact as I underwent a profound visionary experience in which I saw whole universes growing into existence simply through the elaboration of different thought systems. I could actually see and feel these different worlds come into being, taking form from out of the matrix of airy nothing, as I passed from one mode of theoretical allegorization to another. I saw a world pertaining to Marxist concepts and logical processes come into being as a definite world operating according to Marxist laws of nature, a world that would have definite concrete effects on its inhabitants. I saw a Freudian universe come into being, and a Jungian one, an Anzaldúan one, a Kristevan one, an Einsteinian one, a Blavatskyan one, and so on. And this is what I meant earlier by the phrase totalizing effectivity: Any given theoretical allegorical system effects reality in its totality. Note that I say effects rather than affects. In other words, theoretical systems bring into being total universes that comply with the terms of those systems. This is a level of effective multidimensionality, the ideational effecting or bringing into being of multiple co-existing universes each consistent within the terms of each allegory.

In other words, theoretical constructs have real-world consequences. Multiple theoretical systems have multiple real-world consequences.

One thing that this means is that we are responsible for and to the universes we create through our conceptual elaborations. As we bring into being these various universes from out of the matrix of airy nothing, we have a duty to the inhabitants of such universes, including ourselves. As Henry David Thoreau wrote: “The universe constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions; whether we travel fast or slow, the track is laid for us. Let us spend our lives in conceiving then.”

So the earlier question still obtains: Why would I choose to live in a universe as described by Nietzsche or Lacan or Moses or Marx when I could inhabit the temples of Heidegger’s Greece, the nirvanas of Buddhism, or the Other-World passageways of Irish understanding?


Shanti Shanti Shanti