Martin Marsh: Letter

I read with interest the exchange with George Hay in IC32. Perhaps I may offer a third position?

(i) As I understand the relationship between specific ideation and ideological category, general public disinterest in the overall theory need not have much to do with whether or not a specific idea or term propagates through society – ‘lateral thinking’ and ‘ecology’ for examples. The acceptance or otherwise of a particular term does not of itself serve as an indicator of ideology; few people, for instance, would know or care about the meaning of ‘hypnum cupressiforme.’

(ii) Therefore it seems to me that the ‘metadynamic’ ideology would be more perceptively regarded as a perspective or stance rather than as a specific set of ideas or terms or cognitive schema.

(iii) We thus arrive at an interesting perception/perspective: fragile, but worthy of suspension by virtue of the set of considerations as possibilities which are offered as potential. Let us say that a systematic ideologist finds this perspective. Thereupon the question looms: What exactly is the nature of the metadynamic position? Could the metadynamic perspective arrive with a different mental schema? Would systematic ideologists from different planets recognise each other? Assuming that one arrives at the metadynamic position by a series of perceptual stages, each one developing out of the last, does the process continue? If not, why not? And what is the role or function of the metadynamic and of the person who realises it? If yes, what is the nature of subsequent development?

On a slightly different but convergent track, and with reference to George’s proposal for teaching / propagating s.i., let us consider the social / intellectual role of someone who becomes to an extent knowledgeable of the terms of reference of Walsby’s theory. Such a person (or group of people?) could be recognised as evincing the metadynamic ideology. Because such an ideological condition has not simply been ‘programmed in’ (as, formerly, the Indian caste system), and because the ideology is sustained by living being(s) involved in an uncompromising world, we must consider that the person or persons whom we have described as metadynamic do not have frozen mental processes, they cannot possibly realise all the implications of systematic ideology, nor have they stopped discovering things in life. Let us, therefore, take the small risk of designating such (a) person(s) (ideological trajectories within a process model) as ‘precocious seeker’: precocious – because they have arrived within the ‘frame’ / perspective / understanding of the metadynamic in a sense too early, for, if they had pursued all the requisite and relevant experiences and empirical tests along the way, they would hardly have reached such refinement of ideological development; seeker – because they retain that so human intent or predilection which moves them to stimulate their awareness and make discoveries. The perceptive cynic at this point perhaps recognises that any human being may be designated as ‘precocious seeker.’

Resolving, for all ideological values, the problem which confronts the precocious seeker, and which determines future progression or development, is one of finding meaningful application or involvement. If the precocious seeker becomes too involved, he becomes unable to see the wood for the trees; if too remote and abstract, then he might as well not be concerned with ideology at all. The problem is, perhaps, one of consciousness; we arrive at a similar set of questions to those already raised. Considering, also, a generalised use of that designation ‘precocious seeker’, one might concede that, as the mind moves through its larger cycles of coordinative / abstract and distinctive / involved states of awareness, then each one of us does on occasion, precociously perhaps, touch upon the metadynamic. Thus the proposition which I tentatively advance is that the metadynamic arises not only as a consequence of ideological development, but also exists at each moment as potential which we rarely, precociously realise. One cannot be 100% certain that a group of conservatives will not, however fleetingly, touch precociously from time to time upon the metadynamic before their awareness returns to involvement in the concern for principles of worldly order.

Lastly, I would like to just touch upon the related subject of the ethics of teaching s.i. In promulgating such a complex yet structurally simplified overview one would have a certain responsibility for the worldly consequences of the necessarily cruder understanding of the precocious seekers who enrol as students. One would also have a responsibility for their not being actively involved in areas of life where perhaps they should. To resolve these questions would require both a keen awareness of the perceptual barriers to the metadynamic and an active sense of concern for worldly meaning. It would be said that ideological development cannot be hastened, and is a purely existential process and individual responsibility, but if so, does systematic ideology have any communicable meaning at all?

Evidently I believe that it does, otherwise I would not concern myself with writing on the subject. The question is, what?

Yours etc.,
Martin Marsh

One does not often have the pleasure of pointing out to correspondents that their suggestions cover a wider field than they had thought, but it is so here. Martin says, of people adopting the metadynamic, ‘if they had pursued all of the requisite and relevant arguments, experiences and empirical tests-along the way they would hardly have reached such refinement of ideological development,’ and this applies to everybody moving to any new major ideology. Not one of them ever is exhausted, the limitations that provoke advance to the next are relative, not absolute. (Martin sees this but would credit only the ‘perceptive cynic’ with awareness of it; we would prefer to think of the insight as something gained by every serious student of s.i.).

Similarly with his tentative proposition ‘that the metadynamic arises not only as a consequence of ideological development, but also exists at each moment as potential which we rarely, precociously, realise.’ In ideology there are no rigid divisions; not just the metadynamic but all the later ideologies are potentially – present within any earlier one and may – in flashes as it were – occasionally achieve some degree of realisation while the person concerned remains substantially identified with the early one. One thing we do question is the validity of that ‘precocious.’ It suggests that those following this path have somehow got ahead of the game, but even in introducing the idea Martin himself almost says that this is the only route. We see what he is getting at, and suggest that ‘incompletely experienced’ might get closer to it, although that is not quite right, either.

On one issue Martin puts forward two widely differing views. He says that someone who (as a result of instruction) ‘becomes to an extent knowledgeable [of s.i.] could be recognised as evincing the metadynamic ideology.’ The implication is that without instruction this person (and presumably others too) would have remained non-metadynamic. But he also says ‘each one of us does…. touch upon the metadynamic’. We would not suggest that the discrepancy can be reduced to a simple choice between instruction either being necessary or not, but it does seem probable that further investigation would reveal reasons for supporting one of these alternatives rather than the other. We hope he will follow this up.

Martin suggests that anybody teaching s.i. would have ‘a responsibility for [the students] not being actively involved in areas of life where perhaps they should’. That ‘should’ suggests a reference to standards independent of ideology. We know of none such and the letter offers no support for the assumption of their existence.

On the opening theme, Yes! The metadynamic is better seen as ‘a perspective or stance rather than as a specific set of ideas.’ Its distinctive ideas are rather general than specific. But here, again, Martin underestimates his own thinking. This applies to every major ideology. It is the feature Walsby formulated when.he stressed, notably in the Foreword to The Domain of Ideologies, the importance of forms or modes of thought and the tendency to neglected in favour specific ideas, the content of thinking. One difference between the two is the much slower rate of change of the forms (stances, perspectives); for most purposes short of absolute, ‘philosophical’ truth they can be taken as unchanging. What we know of the earliest human communities indicates the presence there, something between forty thousand and four million years ago (it depends on your definition of ‘human’) of substantially the form of thought characterising the largest ideological group in our automated, computerised, nuclear-powered, space-travelling society today. But there is little overlap in specific ideas.

In response to the closing question we prefer to think not of the ‘meaning’ of s.i. (the term carries academic overtones) but rather of its value, which lies in its ability to incorporate into a rational system of thought features of social and individual life which without it remain incomprehensible. This approach also offers an answer to the question of further development beyond the point at which the value of s.i. comes to be recognised. S.i. is not itself independent of ideology; it does not stand (as, at some points in his letter, Martin seems to think of himself as doing) on some external ground. It is rather that at the point in ideological development where s.i. appears ideology becomes conscious of itself, ceases to stumble blindly forward and begins to take control of its own progress. Systematic ideology is no end but rather a beginning, the start of purposeful cultivation of a faculty which no other approach fully recognises. If, with the emergence of this study, it can be said that ideological development has been completed, it is only in the sense that a newborn child is complete.

– – –

‘Hello, this is Radio Rattleon, broadcasting on 284 meters, mediocre wave. This morning’s religious reflections are by delightful Delia Do-a-lot.’

Delia Do-a-lot: ‘And a very Gawd-filled morning to you. My friends, isn’t it very clear that humanity earnestly, sincerely, from the bottom of its heart, desires peace? … chatter, blah, Gawd, chatter, blah, Gawd, chatter …’

Announcer: ‘Thank you, Ms Do-a-lot. Now here is the latest news, with details of violence, rapes, hi-jacks, military coups, civil wars etc. etc….’

(From THE EGOIST, edited by S. E. Parker, [address]).

SUPPORTERS OF unrestricted freedom of speech sometimes find themselves faced with a trap question: Do you support the freedom to shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theatre? The difficulty is largely illusory. This freedom has to be suppressed because its acceptance would tend to reduce freedom of speech, permanently and completely, for considerable numbers of people.

But, having got that far, we have to recognise that that ‘unrestricted’ in our opening sentence is not, as it may appear to be, a commitment to the greatest possible freedom. On the contrary, its application would tend to restrict freedom of speech. The greatest freedom, here as elsewhere, is achieved by acceptance of restraints upon those uses of it that tend to limit it.

TAXATION SEEMS to have been the stimulus to the development of literacy. Both the Linear B tablets and the earliest Sumerian records show that receiving taxes and giving receipts for them, being the first activity to require the storage of great amounts of information, was the first great spur towards writing. (Eli Sagan, At the Dawn of Tyranny 1985, p.137)

from Ideological Commentary 35, September 1988.