TAO AND THE APERSPECTIVAL WORLD











For Cultural Studies Conference
1990
At University of Oklahoma










Eiichi Shimomisse
California State University
Dominguez Hills
Carson CA 90747
Tel.213-516-3328




1. The Mutative Stage of the Western World
The world, the Western World in particular, has been in an elusive transition today. Not Heraclitean "panta rhee" (all in flux), but the stability of the world order has long been totally lost and the well established hierarchy of traditional values has been radically challenged and now generally denied. Instead, therefore, relativism in the form of egoistic individualism is rampant.
Erupted, too, is, so it seems, the philosophical horizon in which we understand the meaning of being or, if you prefer, you may call it the paradigm of the cosmic structure.
The world appears chaotic and totally meaningless to the person of keen awareness who lives in it. In such a state the student of history may well attest that the world is in basic transformation . It is not easy, however, to discern if the world is in another mere transitional period as before or if it is indeed in the unique, unreversible process toward the finale of Western civilization.
Conspicuously visible are many signs of utter directionlessness, self destructive surges, hopelessly helpless decaying of the traditional structures and forms of life. From the Renaissance till the middle of the 19th century, all human endeavors in Western civilization such as natural sciences, visual arts, architecture, music, literature, religion and philosophy in their own genres of creativity appeared to have made linear upward moving, uninterrupted successful progress. However, today without exception, all of them have been experiencing an upheaval, a bottomless confusion and a radical metamorphosis.
At the same time the attentive student of cultural studies cannot help but witness everywhere many clear indications of the rising tide of the new world and its "order"(This "order" appears as a chaos from the perspectival point of view, which shall be discussed later). We attest it in the new open, nonnrigid, integrating philosophical visions, in the radically different principles from those of19th century which underlie the current "Kunstwollen" in visual arts and architecture, in the no longer avant garde or experimental systems of music making, in the new thrusts into reality in poetry and literature, in innumerable revolutionary transmutations in the sciences and technologies.
Together with Hegel, Spengler, Croce and Toymbee, Jean Gebser is definitely one of the greatest scholars of historical studies of culture in Western civilization (although the four other than Hegel claimed that it be possible to have without bias a total vision of the world history and to write it with a consistent principle ).
Gebser exerted himself with disclosing this latter newly sprouting world as "the aperspectival world" while characterizing the former self-aborting world as "the perspectival world."
Gebser ambitiously attempted to envision a world history as the process of development through the three mutative stages, the stage of the non-perspectival world, that of the perspectival world and that of the aperspectival world, and the non-perspectival world was further supposed to go through three phases, the archaic, the magical and the mythical phases. These stages prior to the aperspectival world have their own principles and structures with the attributes unique to these stages, which shaped their own realities with cultures.
Gebser held that by explicating these principles and their structures we should be in a position to reveal through their mutations not only the arrival of the new world, but also its fundamental features as the integration of those principles, which would promise to overcome the crises of and bring forth a new rebirth of the current Western civilization.
This courageous venture by Gebser is rather Eurocentric, although with the superhuman wealth of his knowledge about the rest of the world civilizations Gebser exerted himself to overcome this limitation in his visionary scholarship.
Jean Gebser's endeavor to comprehend and incorporate the wisdom of Far Eastern civilization is noble and well intended indeed, and yet his understanding is needless to say necessarily limited (by construing Chuang Tzu's thought as a mere expression of the archaic structure, for example).
Thus Gebser seems to have been short of noticing many incredulous implications of Taoistic philosophy in the revelation of what Gebser wants to disclose as the aperspectival world. Or even if he did so in fact, he apparently failed to show it.
Therefore it is our aim to demonstrate that the world of Lao Tzu and Chaung Tzu according to our new interpretation will better help us to envision Gebser's "aperspective world". It does so better in the sense that it will disclose the need and the way of a "phenomenological epochee", i.e., the shift of our attitude, which enables us to open up to that aperspectival world. It will further reveal the being and the ground of the aperspectival world, too, will become apparent. By so doing, at the same time, we shall hopefully exercise a radical criticism on Gebser's method, his formation of the problems, and his approach.

II. European Ego In The Perspectival World
The quite unique and inspiring explication by Gebser may be found more in his analysis and disposition of the perspectival world. Not only in itself it is of great significance, but also Gebser reveals a novel understanding of the perspective and the spacial reality in order to have us gain a better insight into what the aperspectival world is all about. And yet, just as this is one of the premisses for the aperspectival world, the preceding three (archaic, magic, mythical) structures are almost equally relevant to the aperspectival world since their underlying principles, too, its constituent moments.
According to Jean Gebser, in the process of mutation in the consciousness structure from 1) the archaic, 2) the magic, 3) the mythical, 4) the mental (perspectival) to the 5) integral (aperspectival), their space-time relations which are most easily illustrative may be observed as follows:
1) zero-dimensional: non-perspectival prespacialpretemporal
2) one-dimensional: pre-perspectival spaceless-timeless
3) two dimensional: unperspectival spaceless-
natural temporality
4) three dimensional: perspectival spacial-
abstract temprorarity
5) four dimensional: aperspectival space free-time free
Though through these five structures apparently obvious, they appears to constitute a "progress" or "evolution" in the sense of the mutational process from the lower to the higher, from the simple to the more complex, which, however, Gebser explicitly rejects. According to Gebser, this should be a transformation of the structures of consciousness.
And yet somewhat Hegelian characters of the "later' stage contain ("aufheben") the "earlier" stages as their essential elements as either being deficient or efficient. This shall be discussed later.
We shall now direct our attention to Gebser's conception of "the perspectival world."
Gebser shares with many of his predecessors as well as his contemporaries (even such philosophers as Husserl and Dilthey) the common and prevailing assumption that European Reason ( ÷ beginning to be awakened in Ancient Greek, is essential to the development of European culture, particular that of the Renaissance and post-Renaissance conscious structure and its world in its fully awakened state.
The period prior to the awakening to the mental (perspective in European culture) structure of consciousness, the human ego or self generally was not yet explicitly aware of oneself as a self-conscious individual. The human consciousness structure finds its ontic meaning rather in solidarity with the community and thus solely being a member of the integrated group (e.g. as a citizen of a city state ), where no individual had the meaning of one's own being in and by oneself .
When the Greek philosophers wondered about the "¹" of reality and were awakened to themselves in their self estrangement from the mundane concern by "Reason" and obtained their selfconsciousness as a philosopher, their representatives were no other than those so-called migrant wondering philosophers from Asia Minor, Pythagoras, Heracleitus and Xenophanes. By taking Reason alone as their own very principle of questioning search (Plato's compass analogy in Paedo) they established themselves as "individuals" clearly distinct from the rest of people. In distinguishing the "episteemee" from "doxa" they did so as philosophers (lovers of wisdom) by freeing themselves through rational critical confrontation. The most paradigmatic case may be found in Socrates. Thus, they initiated the permanent transformation of consciousness. Pythagorean account of reality (nature) by means of numbers is anticipating conceptualization and abstraction of space in the perspectival world and its thinking, too. Plato and Aristotle already furthered, needless to say, the dichotomy of the opposites and directional linear discursive thinking.
Gebser maintains that it was in the Renaissance that the self awakening of oneself as an autonomous self reflective individual through our free independent critical Reason becomes a universal consciousness. And this self consciousness itself was no other than the human Reason. In opposition to and precisely against such autonomous self the world was now represented. In order to represent the world in this matter, the photographic perspective was most appropriate to such a self conscious individual autonomous ego (=Reason). By virtue of Leonardo da Vinci's preoccupation with the perspective, the "triangle of the outer space" and "that of the inner space" are commensurably related. The mathematical calculation was effective so that the deformity of the illusory space created on a painting can be "corrected".
Through the discovery of America and other explorations the earth was expanded, while through colonialization (the drive to conquer and possess space) the lands on earth are fragmented.
The progress of astronomy, by infinitely expanding the knowable universe, shattered the old vision of the space-cosmos. The new view of the universe, in consequence, located a human-being (as an individual) at an entirely alien, precarious place in isolation.
The perspective may be characterized as the ontological device to re-establish the order and structure in space in which one finds oneself.
The world as the universe was no longer theocentric, and thus nor geocentric either, because earth no longer provided the unmovable, stable foundation. The world now was represented individually by every autonomous individual self (le monad) and in the world which is so represented by each individual ego that this individual self is "the measure of all things." Thus the theocentric view of the world was then taken over by the egocentric view of the universe. The photographic perspective was not only the method of space construction for a painting without distortion, but it was the very phenomenon itself as the new vision and its universe. Leonardo da Vinci was the champion for this groundwork.
As the space of a Renaissance painting by the photographic perspective reveals, that perspectival space was not open, but necessarily closed (le monad est sans fenetre). Further that space always fixed the viewer and the viewed and this detachment (distance) of space, being objectified, presupposes self-consciousness.
When the self-awareness of European ego projected itself as the meaning of the world mediated by negation (rational forms and their unity into blind chaos), the obsession with its objective knowledge was satisfied and this was accomplished by explicating this awakened self through European reason as the universal measurement of all things in more geometrico.
The space of the perspectival world became quantitatively measurable in such a way that it was reduced to mere extension in the Cartesian sense so that space itself is abstracted, conceptualized and reified while at the same time time is so spacialized as to be measurable also.
Gebser quotes Hobbes' words of proposal,"Thinking is calculation by words",while it was Kant who actualized it. Thus dualism, rationalism, materialism, egoistic individualism, finalism as well as even utilitarianism have resulted from the disintegration of European Ego by its own "dianoia".
The last attempt of European Ego to overcome these reductionism by "synthesizing" the splitting reality into oneness was Hegel's philosophy. Unity instead of division, integrity in stead of isolation, and quality instead of quantity is achieved by temporalizing the sectorized world of specialization. By means of Reason's power of negation (as mediation) the reality and consciousness were articulated systematically and organized as a dynamic process of the World History.
At this very moment when Parmedian identity of "noein and eon" was concretely actualized, Hegel's Reason had to become the Absolute Ego as Spirit. Nevertheless this assiduous speculative endeavor of integration of the opposites in dialectic (not discursive and yet linear teleological) thinking was radically challenged by the decomposition of culture and sciences and technologies. As its result, Hegelian Spirit fell apart again into the isolation of individual selves by the progressive deficiency of the "mental structure" of consciousness.
European nihilism may be viewed as reactions to this spiritual reality. It is the self consciousness of the collapse and meaninglessness of our spiritual reality which has lost the efficacy to provide us with the live meaning of our being. Gebser's uniqueness consists however in his profound insight into the today's situation of our spiritual reality. Namely, as mentioned above (at the beginning), he saw a transition of the structure of consciousness and its confusion resulted from the struggle between the power of conservatism and the surge of the new consciousness and its phenomena ready to make a leap.
This Gebser calls the integral structure of consciousness which is revealed in the aperspective world whose characteristics are becoming evident in visual arts, music and sciences and philosophies.
One of the characteristics is disclosed in the concretion of time, whose early emergence may be evidenced in projective geometry with its symbolic form of sphere, Mozart's music (don Giovanni et al), further cubism, surrealism and tachism in painting, the emergence of the modern physics, several philosophical attempts of concretizing time from its abstraction as a whole (Bergson, Nietzsche, Jaspers and Heidegger). Another feature is the overcoming of Reason and rationality by transcending duality, rejection of reductionism, liberation from atomization (including egoistic individualism),
being free from space and scientific objectivism.
More positively said it is the pursuit of integration of all separation, isolation, fragmentation and opposition by concretization of time as a whole. By so doing, reality becomes transparent. This Gibser calls diaphaneity.
In the face of the desperate threat to our humanity from the above mentioned deficient forms of the mental, perspectival structure of consciousness, Gebser's ultimate goal is to properly understand this new emergent reality consciousness by exploring concrete phenomena of the structures of consciousness as its principles. Thus in order to actualize that this new spiritual reality, when more intensified, becomes more real and effective, we must have an explicit awareness of this spiritual reality.
In his approach Gebser is rigorously phenomenological in the widest sense (although he does not officially admit it). Gebser attempts to explore and reveal the intentional correlation between the various structures of consciousness and the cultures as the correlates of these projections of consciousness. His concept of doiphany is precisely the procedure and attitude in which what is concealed is to reveal itself. The self-evidentness of our mundaneity has to be put to the "epoche", and the concealment of our everyday doxa must be demolished, thus we are drawn out of our mundane attitude and shifted to the attitude of diaphany or transparency such that the genuine reality is to disclose itself to us as it actually is.
How is this "phenomneological reduction" in a very wide sense possible at all? Gebser does not bother himself with such a question. To him the method autonomously May arise from his questioning search itself. This question is precisely the one which will lead us to turn ourselves to the philosophy of Far East. For just as the question of "scientific method" it is of European Reason to accept that scientia est potentia (knowledge is power) in order to have this new spiritual reality actualized by obtaining its awareness.

III. Both Ways in Taoistic Philosophy
The legendary great Taoistic Philosopher, Lao Tzu, starts his Tao Te Ching by saying that Tao or the Way, so he tentative calls it, can not be normally named by the word "tao". What is to be named here is in truth not describable by a name or can not be refered to by the word.
From the beging, Lao Tzu explicitly reminds us that the word, "ho logos", in our normal use, i.e., in our everyday practical usage, is to distinguish and discriminate (so is hee nous according to Anaxagoras). He declares, "To give a name is the mother of Ten Thousand Things." Naming, i.e., to use the language, is the principle of distinction. It is to discriminate and distinguish the so-called "Ten Thousand Things".
However, we are not conscious of this, because we are too immersed in our everyday well-accustomedness of our practical life to notice it. Why then do we discrimate? Because we have desire. Ever desiring, therefore, we experience these ten thousand things as distinguished. In our mundane attitude, thus, we only experience these then Ten Thousand things and No other than these distinctions appear to us as the sole reality.
However, once we bracket our desire and exercise the "epochee" on our mundane attitude, this nameless "Tao" reveals itself to us only in this newly "reduced" attitude as reality. Lao Tzu tells us interestingly that both this "Tao" that is disclosed in the "epochee" and the Ten Thousand Things in our everyday attitude are primordially one and the same, although they are "called" differently.
In Chapter II Tao Tzu elucidates that the dualistic distinctions of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, being and nothing, and life and death are relative. They are relative because these disctiminations are due to our desire and attachment, as well as they are relative to each other and have no reality in itself. Because they are relative, thus artificial (depending on our desire), they rise (are generated) and fall (are corrupted) incessantly.
Therefore, according to Lao Tzu, the person in tune with "Tao" by bracketing his/her desire and attachment accomplishes without doing artificially. Doing artificially means to set up a specific goal (in correspondence with desire), search and employ artificial means to attain it.
It is of atmost significance to fully understand that Lao Tzu does not deny all those distinctions and contends that Ten Thousand Things are mere illusion, once we have bracketed our mundane attitude for practical Zuhandenheit. On the contrary, as long as we are human, we will never extinguish our desire, nor erase our attachment, nor abolish our greed. The Ten Thousand Things are entities (i.e., beings) and their distinctions are their characteristics. If we have performed the "epochee" to our everyday attitude of common sense and practical life and put them "bracketed", "Tao" reveals itself as Nothing which is the principle of being for those entities to be. It only makes us aware that these Ten Thousand Things are not the sole reality and that these distinctions are our discriminations which are merely relative and further rooted in our desire and attachment.
Lao Tzu never urges us to absolutely transcend from those distinctions by breathing wind and eating mist in order to live a life of The "Sage" deep in the mountain. Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, the other great Taoist philosopher, warn us that we are normally immersed in that mundane attitude of desire and attachment so that we only see these distinctions, namely we see the visible, hear the audible, touch the tangible through our sense and believe these distinguished things to be solely real and are totally "blind" us to the "Tao" of the primordial unity.
"Bragging your gift causes quarrel, accumulating wealth invite thieves,
knowing desirable things drives you craze."
Lao Tzu continues,"The five colors blind the year, the five tones deafen the ear, the five flavors dull the taste, racing and hunting madden the mind, precious treasures lead one astray..."
Therefore, once we are "awaken", it becomes apparent that these Ten Thousand Things are not the sole reality, while "Tao" as Oneness is the ontological ground for those ten thousand beings, and these distinctions are relative to our own desire and attachment. We are no longer so blindly craze for them as they are rising and falling in the topos of Nothingness of "Tao".
In stead, Lao Tzu advises us that, being awaken from the blindness of the dogmatic slumber, we see the invisible, to hear the inaudible, and to grasp the intangible, so that we are embracing these Ten Thousand Things into One at the same time. Chuang Tzu calls this "Great Understanding" sometimes "Clarity" (Meng).
Isn't this Clarity of Chuang Tzu no other than what Gebser calls "diaphanein"?
Indeed, it is through this Clarity that Gebser's aperspectival world in its integrity becomes "transparent" and discloses itself authentically as "All are One".
How then can we enlighten ourselves to this Clarity and are liberated from the mundaneity of blind immersion in desire and attachment?
How can we perform "Taoistic epochee" to our desire for and attachment to these Ten Thousand Things and their distinctions so that we can truly "see" the authentic reality as it actually is?
How can we "make all things equal" in Chuang Tzu's words?
To see the invisible, to hear the inaudible and to grasp the intangible, according to Lao Tzu, we "give up holy and eradicate knowledge".
Renounce knowledge, then your worry will disappear," said Lao Tzu,"How far apart are yes and no? There a difference between good and evil?" Why? It is because in pursuit of knowledge, everyday one acquires, while in that with "Tao". everyday one decreases! In contrast to "Tao", the pursuit of knowledge as "dianoia" is the accummuration of knowledge about those beings and their distinctions. Therefore, without waiting for Lao Tzu's words, the more knowledge we acquire, the more desire and attachment we create. That is why the way to be in tune with "Tao" is precisely getting rid of that knowledge.
On the other hand, Chuang Tzu is talking about "forgetting" and in particular urging us to "Emptying Mind". Since our ego is the greatest of all the attachments, Chuang Tzu describes the same process as "Fasting Mind".
This Fasting Mind is the concrete way to pursue our "Taoistic epochee". This emptying mind of course presupposes an "awakened awareness" of our everyday blind immersion in our dealing with Ten Thousand Things. However, it is now clear that due to our long habitual mundane immersion, This Fasting Mind requires a rather laborious, almost unnatural (when viewed from the everyday attitude) endeavor. We see here a parallel between Husserl's notion of phenomneological reduction and this Taoistic epochee.
From the mentioned above it is unquestionably obvious that even in the case of Gebser's pursuit of the integral consciousness a laborious, rather painstaking effort may be necessary to be fully awaken to the aperspectival consciousness. Until the that new insurgent spiritual reality has become the major structure of consciousness, further numerous efforts in various genres of culture may be necessary.
Before ending this presentation, we shall not forget critical appraisals on Gebser's approach.
1) If the arrival of the aperspectival consciousness and its world is inevitable, why do we have to make such a conscious effort to be more explicitly aware of these new rising tides?
2) Is our description of Taoistic epochee and its laborious process unnecessary, if the arrival of the new awareness and culture are inevitable?
3) Is it really so historical as Gebser elucidated, if Lao Tzu and Chaung Tzu were fully aware of the problem and made the way to the Both Ways available?
4) Just like Heidegger's Dasainsanalyse is based on European humankind Gebser's elucidations are Eurocentric. How can this be overcome if possible at all?
5) Furthermore, his exposition seems to presuppose the dominance and superiority of patriarchal structure of human existence as being taken for granted. How do we deal with this problem?
6) Finally, if these five structures of consciousness are not only "working hypotheses", but also are demonstrated as phenomenological data, does the historical mutations stop at the aperspectival consciousness and world? If so, little difference between Marx's dialectic materialism and Gebser's phenomenology of consciousness, both of which presupposes the eschatogy.
It must be emphasized that by so doing we do not deny the value of Jean Gebser's achievements. On the contrary, if we learn from this private scholar, it requires to raise a few questions and answer them by ourselves.

October 22, 1990
Eiichi Shimomisse
California State University
Dominguez Hills