Friday, May 21, 2021
XLVII. ACTUAL AND IDEAL.
The actual and ideal are twins of one mother, Reality, who failing to incarnate her conceptions in time, meanwhile contents herself with admiring in each the complement of the other, herself integrant of both. Alway are the divine Gemini intertwined; Pan and Psyche, man and woman, the soul and nature.
I sigh. Would it have been any trouble for Alcott to use the word in common use – “always,” for instance – instead of what I guess he thought of as the more poetic “alway’? Emerson was occasionally guilty of the same preference for somewhat strange variants of common words, but Alcott seems to positively revel in it. ”Integrant” almost seems a made-up word, it sounds so strange.
Oh, I’m getting to it. But even the meat of this saying is not what I would have expected it to be. He isn’t telling, and he certainly isn’t explaining. At most, he is hinting.
Still, the essence of a distinction is there, and he holds together the two halves of one whole.
And gives us something to argue out in our minds, true. Very well, here’s what I read in it: Since Reality cannot express fully in 3D – or I should say, since it cannot express as all one thing
Or, you should say, “since I have not yet recalibrated –”
Smiling, at that. You guys are funny sometimes. Yes, I can see it. Very well, let’s go at it more slowly.
Let’s put it this way. Reality is the 3D plus the non-3D, and the reason we have such difficulty assimilating the fact is because we experience life as if it were two things. Intuition reports one world; senses report a somewhat different world. We may reason ourselves (or may intuit ourselves) to the knowledge that “all is one,” but it is difficult for us to experience it that way. Thus, as Alcott says, Reality fails “to incarnate her conceptions in time.”
But although we don’t experience it as all one thing, we do experience both aspects: hence the division in our minds between the Actual and the Ideal. “Alway” they are intertwined, yet perceived differently. Thus we conceive of Actual facts as particular representatives in 3D consciousness of Real distinctions.
It is Plato’s attempt to express this that either opens up new understanding for his readers, or causes the reader to dismiss his conceptions as fantasy. Who has not heard of Platonic solids, Platonic forms? And maybe we tend to wonder, for a long time, if he is really describing something or is only engaging in a flight of fancy. Emerson said if he hadn’t known Alcott he would have thought Plato’s ideas merely ideas – generalizations, perhaps, idealizations (though in context that is something of a play on words) – but not a real, sober description of one of the laws of being.
So, polarities, linked but different poles. And now we need some assistance, as we come to his three paired examples.
Perhaps it will relieve your anxiety not to make a mistake, to remember to treat our words, and your words, no less than Alcott’s or Emerson’s, as sparks, not cement blocks. Any irregularity or even inaccuracy will smooth out and in fact will be of no particular importance, if the spark is passed. We realize that this is not the scholar’s way, but you have not set out to be a scholar in that way.
So I should relax about it. well, mostly I do. Okay, so our pairs?
Look at them together and then separately. The three polarities have in common that he is using them as parallel examples of Actual v. Ideal, so note the commonalities among them. (And in so doing, you are absorbing their Real-ness, their all-is-one-ness, their ideal nature.) Then we will look at each as it plays out in the world, and in so doing we will be absorbing their Actual-ness, their specific-instance-ness, their mortal, malleable 3D nature.
That’s very clear. In one paragraph you just made the distinction clearer and more substantial (that is, both more understandable in the abstract and more down to earth) than I have ever seen it. Or maybe I’m biased.
It’s nice to have a fan club, in any case. But, you see, it is a real and also an actual relationship. That is, it is an archetype and an everyday reality.
Yes, and it isn’t just playing with words, as it sometimes seems to be.
So, Pan and Psyche, man and woman, soul and nature. What do the three dualities have in common?
Clearly Alcott intends the former member of each pair to represent the real and the latter to represent the actual.
You might better put it, the former represents Reality as it expresses in 3D specifics, the latter as it represents non-3D larger relations. Both halves are real; both halves exist in specific circumstances (that is, are actual). We are dealing with relative positions on the polarity, not with either-or antagonisms.
I’m having a hard time, here. Am I garbling what you mean?
Maybe a little, but persevering is more important than fiddling with detail. As usual, it will come clear in the end.
I hope so. Okay –
In what sense, then, can it be said that these examples represent what he says they represent? Pan and Psyche may be said to be the spirit animating the 3D world (Pan) and the spirit representing the non-3D world (Psyche). In Alcott’s day they were closer to ancient mythology, and the nature of Pan, for instance, was well known among educated and uneducated alike, and so could be assumed as background knowledge of the reader, or listener. In your day you are more likely to recognize Psyche even if you don’t recognize her mythical representation as a person. But for our purposes here, it is enough to say that Alcott links Pan and Psyche in the way we have been linking 3D and non-3D, and you probably won’t have a problem with it.
Similarly you and your readers are unlikely to have a problem with his third set of polar-linked-opposites, “the soul” and “nature.” It will not be difficult intellectually or emotionally to see “the soul” representing individuals and “nature” representing all-that-is, or let’s say the all-that-is-ness as it expresses in the 3D world.
It is the second pair, “man and woman,” that has become charged in your time due to political and, let’s call it, ideological reasons. In Alcott’s time the differences and the interrelations were recognized and even taken for granted.
Yes, but the women’s suffrage movement, then, much later, the women’s liberation movement, found such distinctions to be the cause of their social and political and economic subjugation.
As they were – but not because the distinctions did not exist, but because they were exaggerated, misunderstood, and deliberately used as justification. An illuminating parallel would be society’s attitude in that time toward intuition per se, and in fact toward any of the Platonic end of the polarity – turned dispute – between Real and Actual.
Well, now, that’s very interesting, and immediately convincing, at least to me. Yes, they even spoke disparagingly of “women’s intuition” as if it were ignorant folk tales. In fact we could expand it – they spoke and thought slightingly of folk wisdom itself. Anything that couldn’t go through their “dark satanic mills” (meaning the logic-chopping mental mechanisms that converted the world into dead matter to be used as one pleased) was evident nonsense, not deserving investigation.
We remind you that the explosiveness of Sigmund Freud’s revolution stemmed from the fact that he made “respectable” thought realize that the world was deeper than thought. He in one fell swoop undercut the smug assumptions that had underlain the world the Victorians believed in. Freud and World War I, between them, blew it to pieces, and your time is still cleaning up after the event. In fact, what you and we are doing here, what Jane Roberts and Seth were doing, what Cayce and his sources – and so many hundreds of others, known and unknown, are doing – may be looked at as initial steps in recovering from that explosion. We are beginning to provide ways for people to think and experience. This is how a new age is structured; political and economic and social events are secondary, not primary, though their advocates rarely realize it.
Now, you can see that what appears at first to be a question of the definition of gender and sex is also a subset of a larger issue. And we should continue with this question when you are fresh, as we are already well past your hour.
This tells me it’s more than a summing-up sentence or paragraph to come. Very well, see you next time, and meanwhile, our thanks as always.
Frank DeMarco, author
Papa’s Trial: Hemingway in the Afterlife, a novel