Inherent “physicality”

And what about ‘matter,’ the idol of the Fundamentalist Materialists? This is a metaphor, too, a petrified poem, and is related to meter and measure (and, oddly enough, to mother also). Somewhere, somehow, out of the organismic (holistic) activity of metering and measuring, somebody invented the metaphor, the substantive noun, of that-which-is-measured.
Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition


If we’re really serious about questioning our own beliefs (in the manner RAW advocated), we should probably look not just at the notions we already consider to be our beliefs. We should look also at implicit ideas about “reality” that we’ve somehow accepted as being unquestionably so (beyond ‘mere’ believing, as it were).

For example, the notion of the inherent physicality of “things” in a world that exists “outside” us. This idea of physicality as somehow objectively existent, independent of our experience of it, seems almost universal – but it certainly counts as belief. It’s never something we experience directly – rather, we ‘superimpose’ a kind of story about physical ‘matter’ on our visual, tactile, kinesthetic (etc) experience. The impression of changing experience then seems accompanied by a related set of implicit conceptualisations (ie beliefs) about “space” and “time” (or “space-time”). Thus, we believe we inhabit a world of physical things made of “matter” that move through space-time.

“Most Materialists, similarly, either believe, or are very easily misunderstood as believing, that ‘matter’ exists somewhere. But nobody has ever experienced this poem or abstraction ‘matter’…”
Robert Anton Wilson, The New Inquisition


For everyday practical purposes, this seems fine. If you see a truck hurtling towards you, you should certainly model it as an inherently physical thing made of solid matter! And if we’re thinking about, say, issues of engineering, nutrition, environmentalism, various fields of empirical science (but maybe not quantum physics), etc, the materialist belief in inherent physicality usually works.

In other contexts, we may have the luxury of greater agnosticism – even over such basic beliefs as the objective physicality of things. This might have some advantages. For example, consider:-

We’re so accustomed to thinking in spatial, physicalist terms, that it imbues our whole experience with notions of separation and also difference. That is, we tend to experience “difference” in terms of spatial division/separation (via what cognitive linguists call “conceptual metaphor”).

Common examples of this would be the feeling of being “cut off” in various ways from other people and the “world outside”. Differences between two “sides” of various dichotomies (eg “good”/”bad”, “real”/”illusory”, “success”/”failure”) might seem objectively inherent, as if there’s a metaphorical border or gap to bridge. Things we desire – ie happiness – will seem “out of reach”, or in the future (with duration itself conceived spatially, materialistically).

Many existential dualisms – mind/body, you/me, outer/inner, etc – appear based on our tendency to divide experience along these supposedly objective, spatial lines – in the same way that material things are believed to physically occupy space.

And, of course, we feel hopelessly vulnerable, anxious, alienated and burdened to the extent that we identify with some material “thing” we believe to be separate and perishable (ie a physical body).

But what alternative do we have?  Does experience itself ever seem perishable or separate, outside of belief? (as opposed to the concepts, ‘perishable’ and ‘separate’, arising as semantic beliefs “in” experience). Do we ever know anything other than experience itself?

“If perception is not absolute, no deduction from perception can be absolute.”
Robert Anton Wilson

“Simply accept that the universe is so structured that it can see itself, and that this self-reflexive arc is built into our frontal lobes, so that consciousness contains an infinite regress, and all we can do is make models of ourselves making models… Well, at that point, the only thing to do is relax and enjoy the show.”
Robert Anton Wilson, Prometheus Rising

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: