"Only by collecting a group of your dearest, going forth with your heart among them, cementing, as it were, a collective entity, and continually enlarging it, putting forth the substance among you, can you start toward comprehension of the Universal Consciousness." |
This essay presents an explication of new elements within the Form, Commonwealth Community. Some of these new elements derive from a variety of efforts over a period of several years 1 to form an incipient, inchoate effort toward a commonwealth community with persons expressing an interest in cooperative community.
These new elements are related to and consonant with the author's earlier essays and books.
Cooperative Commonwealth Community
The actualization of a commonwealth community will necessarily involve an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, spiritual, and cultural needs and aspirations through joint effort and consensus-determined activities.
The new elements within the form, commonwealth community, involve, first, the possibility of performing the initial activities leading to the forming of a commonwealth community by using virtual (at-a-distance) procedures. A final commonwealth community must be a collection of persons living together in a localized community. But the initial, screening and training activities could be carried out through at-a-distance means.
This "virtual" or "at-distance" nature of the initial screening and training activities of a commonwealth community would be in keeping with the current world-wide coronavirus pandemic and "social-distancing." The screening and training of committed initiates of the commonwealth community would be carried out through dialectical interchange. The teacher and the initiates, using this virtual format, would engage in dialectical interchange via an online chat site set up by the teacher.
Knowledge concerning additional new elements within the Form, Cooperative Commonwealth Community, derive from a variety of efforts which have been carried out over a number of years to determine if persons expressing an interest in a "cooperative group" might serve as an inchoate (being only partly in existence or operation), incipient (beginning to come into being) group which could evolve into a fully-developed cooperative commonwealth community.
A number of online chat sessions, set up by the author, have been conducted in which the participants were free to express whatever thoughts or interests they chose. The various participants were intelligent, bright individuals with a variety of interests and pursuits. Though the dialectical interchanges proved to be engaging in many ways to the participants, no "core" of substance evolved capable of being developed into an inchoate, incipient, functioning, fecund essence which could possibly be used to form a fully-developed cooperative commonwealth community.
These various efforts were attempted because the author thought it possible that persons expressing interest in forming a cooperative community, engaging in dialectical interchange, might be able to generate a "force" capable of becoming the core of an inchoate cooperative commonwealth community. The fact that these efforts proved unfruitful is not a mater of anyone's fault and merely provides additional insight into new elements within the essence of the cooperative commonwealth community Form.
- The results of the efforts reinforce the absolute necessity of screening and training possible candidates for membership in a commonwealth community to assure that these persons possess necessary capabilities and characteristics.
- These "efforts" also proved that a commonwealth commumnity cannot be realized virtually, at-a-distance. I have corresponded via email and engaged in dialectical interchange via online chat site with a number of persons over a period of time. These activities have proven that a genuine commmonwealth community must be formed locally. Community, in it essence, involves mutual presence together in a specific location and common activities.
- The efforts made it even more clear what specific characteristics of thought and understanding are essential to the formation of a genuine cooperative commonwealth community.
- Through a number of dialictical interchanges with a variety of persons, it has become clear that information about, the formation of, and specific elements contained in the Form Cooperative Commonwealth Community are esoteric 2 essences that only persons advanced in the Perennial Tradition can understand, genuinely value, and are dedicated to.
- Only persons who have studied for a period of time to become qualified initiates in the Perennial Tradition possess the specific skills and personality traits which make it possible for them to understand the esoteric knowledge involved in forming a cooperative commonwealth community.
- Moral qualities which make it possible to discern what is being taught (e.g. a psychotic killer cannot understand the sanctity of human life
- Intellectual and philosophical skills which make it possible to understand advanced material
- Only qualified initiates have a genuine interest in advanced, esoteric teachings and knowledge and can therefore appreciate their value; to the merely curious or the scholastic, advanced teachings seem commonplace and lackluster.
"Esoteric knowledge can be given only to those who seek, only to those who have been seeking it with a certain amount of consciousness, that is, with an understanding of how it differs from ordinary knowledge and how it can be found . . . This preliminary knowledge can be gained by ordinary means, from existing and known literature, easily accessible to all. And the acquisition of this preliminary knowledge may be regarded as the first test. Only those who pass this first test, those, that is, who acquire the necessary knowledge from the material accessible to all, may hope to take the next step, at which point direct individual help will be accorded them. A man may hope to approach esotericism if he has acquired a right understanding from ordinary knowledge, that is, if he can find his way through the labyrinth of contradictory systems, theories and hypotheses, and understanding their general meaning and general significance. This test is something like a competitive examination open to the whole human race, and the idea of a competitive examination alone explains why the esoteric circle appears reluctant to help humanity. It is not reluctant. All that is possible is done to help men, but men will not or cannot make the necessary efforts themselves. And they cannot be helped by force." P. D. Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe, 1931
- These efforts proved definitively that only those persons can become effective and functional members of the Cooperative Commonwealth Community who have been:
- Screened to prove that they possess specific intellectual, emotional, and moral qualities essential to membership in the community
- Trained in
"The esoteric teaching about knowledge and being refers to the fact that knowledge cannot be understood unless there is a corresponding development of being. A man may know a great deal and understand nothing because his being is not equal to his knowledge. As a consequence, no inner union can take place between his being and his knowledge . . . The man of poor being and great knowledge can only give out meaningless material that leads nowhere. And not only this, but he can only complicate everything and make it unintelligible . . . The conditions of knowledge are no longer understood because the side of being is ignored."
M. Nicoll, The New Man
Understanding is appraised by the kind (e.g. partial or knock-down) and amount of evidence that supports one's belief--or disbelief--in a specific element of truth. When understanding of a political-economic-military-social phenomenon is a matter of national security, intelligence services indicate "the degree of certainty" with which an opinion is offered to decision-makers. Our personal beliefs, formed by our own understanding, should be gauged similarly.
One way to tell if a person is developing true understanding--as opposed to mere bigoted, dogmatic belief--is to determine if they "hold" specific beliefs to the degree of certainty appropriate to the kind and amount of evidence supporting each of their beliefs.
One test of the validity of a person's understanding is to ask the question: Can you conceive of the possibility of your being incorrect concerning your belief concerning X? If the person cannot even conceive of the possibility of their being incorrect about a specific belief, they are not developing true understanding, but merely a dogmatic belief system.
"Perennialist knowledge is like a powerful medicine, which cures strong bodies and kills weak organisms. At one and the same time, this puissant wisdom elevates the mentation which can understand, overcoming its shortcomings, while also killing the weak understanding of some people." Ibn Hazm, al-Tahiri, a Perennialist teacher of Cordova
The Search For Truth and UnderstandingThe unique Perennialist process of searching for truth and understanding is titled Progressive Awareness. This involves the careful consideration of multiple points of view and keeping our minds open to alternative sources of information. Unless we work at becoming progressively aware, the natural tendency is to limit our ideas to only those that are easily available and "seem" right to us, never really discovering or considering alternative sources of information or carefully examining the truth or falsehood of ideas and hypotheses.
"In esoteric training there is question of four attributes which must be acquired on the so-called preparatory path for the attainment of higher knowledge. The first is the faculty of discriminating in thoughts between truth and appearance or mere opinion. The second attribute is the correct estimation of what is inwardly true and real, as against what is merely apparent. The third rests in the practice of the six qualities already mentioned in the preceding pages: thought-control, control of actions, perseverance, tolerance, faith and equanimity. The fourth attribute is the love of inner freedom. . . Rudolf Steiner, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds, 1904
As we develop the skill to become progressively aware, we learn to suspend judgment until we consider a variety of ideas or hypotheses. Progressively aware persons provide support for their beliefs, not merely holding opinions for no reason at all, merely on whim.
One facet of progressive awareness is critical thinking. As is the case in most fields of human endeavor, the counterfeits of critical thinking have all but driven out genuine critical thinker from public awareness. There are very few critical thinkers today and there have been very few throughout human history.
Who are the counterfeits of critical thinking?
Counterfeit critical thinking is evidenced by:
- Persons who have studied the concepts and principles of critical thinking but who don't embody them ( critical thinking "experts," "scholars," pedants)
- Persons who assume that critical thinking is something that everyone does all the time, making no distinction between critical and non-critical thinking
- Persons who assume that they understand the principles of critical thinking when they don't understand them: academic "teachers" of critical thinking or New Age psychology and Trump-like non-thinkers who form unquestionable beliefs based on nothing but personal bias
Genuine critical thinking is evidenced by:
- Forming beliefs and making decisions on the basis of:
- Incomplete evidence
- Spurious evidence
- Irrelevant emotions (some emotions sometimes can be relevant)
- Presenting arguments by:
- Attacking someone personally
- Poisoning the well - asserting (not proving) that a source of information is tainted
- Using spurious evidence
- Believing they're free (politically and intellectually) when they are "bound" by unconscious bias and egomania
- Believing it's okay to put up with tyranny to achieve relative ease
- Believing there's no need for citizen solidarity
- Believing we have economic and political equality of opportunity
Progressive Awareness is a set of skills you work to develop as well as a body of knowledge. You work toward both understanding critical thinking concepts and developing essential critical thinking capabilities and attitudes. Progressive Awareness is a capability that persons must develop if they are to be able to understand or in any way be involved with the Perennial Tradition.
- Finding and considering alternative points of view before making a decision or forming an opinion
- Forming opinions and making decisions on the basis of evidence
- Learning how to examine past and current social issues and discovering the solutions to issues
- Getting behind the curtains (propaganda, distortions) that hide reality
- Gaining self-awareness
- Being aware of one's own point of view
- Discovering misconceptions and egomaniacal feelings that keep one from the truth
- Developing a mind which is open to a variety of ideas
- Gaining social awareness - going beyond the superficial view of what's happening in the world
- Life-long commitment to learn and investigate
- Learning how to find alternative information sources
- Learning how to evaluate information sources
- Learning to identify and counter myths and unproven conspiracy theories
Investigation of sources thought to be reliable which provide viable hypotheses
Proving these sources to be reliable or not
Useful, possibly true hypothesis 1
Useful, possibly true hypothesis 2
Useful, possibly true hypothesis 3
Capabilities in progressive awareness-- critical thinking, self-awareness, and social awareness--as quintessential as they are--comprise only part of the congeries of capacities and qualities that persons need in order to be functioning members within a cooperative commonwealth community. Persons must have an awareness of the spiritual essence and the essential elements of such a commonwealth, which can only come from an assiduous study of The Perennial Tradition and The New Commonwealth.
- The search for Truth and Understanding involves investigation, proving sources to be reliable or not, and forming useful (useful hypotheses enable predictions by reasoning) hypotheses (provisional ideas whose viability and truth require validation), not moving to Absolute Certainty or Settled, Unquestionable Belief.
- We determine the reliability of sources in terms of whether they lead to viable (possibly true), useful hypotheses
- Even when we arrive at a hypothesis which appears to be true, it remains a hypothesis, never an Absolute Certainty or Settled, Unquestionable Belief
Only when persons have successfully carried out study of these sources and gained the capabilities which they instill, will a cooperative commonwealth communty be possible.
"The idea of an integrated economic system co-ordinating the efforts of all for the common welfare, which is the basis of the modern state, is as old as philosophy. As a theory it dates back to Plato at least, and nobody knows how much further, for it is a conception of the most natural and obvious order. Not . . . until popular government had been made possible by the diffusion of intelligence was the world ripe for the realization of such a form of society [Cooperative Commonwealth]. Until that time the idea, like the soul waiting for a fit incarnation, must remain without social embodiment. Selfish rulers thought of the masses only as instruments for their own aggrandizement, and if they had interested themselves in a more exact organization of industry it would only have been with a view of making that organization the means of a more complete tyranny. Not till the masses themselves became competent to rule was a serious agitation possible or desirable for an economic organization on a co-operative basis." Edward Bellamy, Equality, 1897
1 These efforts were not of the nature of formalized experiments. They occurred within the context of determining if persons explicitly expressing interest in a "cooperative community," and having participated in one or more "dialectical interchanges" with the author, might possess the characteristics and capabilities necessary to form an incipient, inchoate effort toward a genuine cooperative commonwealth community.
The essence of an experiment is to introduce a change in a system (the independet variable) and to study the effect of this change on the rest of the system (the dependent variable). There was no such intent in these efforts, no manipulation of variables or constants. The intent was to set up a situation, use the Platonic science of dialectical interchange, and determine if the possible, desired results eventuated.
The efforts were specifically of the nature of Platonic Elenchus. Elenchus comes from the Greek word for "examine" or "investigate." In both the Meno and Book I of The Commonwealth (commonly mistranslated as The Republic), Plato compares elenchus to a Mystery initiation ritual, indicating that it plays a complex role in the experience of participants in dialectical interchange. Elenchus is today frequently misdefined as "cross-examination" or "refutation." It's actually the process of revealing inconsistent, unproductive, or thoughtless beliefs, characteristics, or ideas and establishing true and sound understanding and character. Socrates' use of elenchus revealed self-contradictions and character flaws in the participants; a kind of self-revelation. It revealed characteristics the participants didn't know they had. In Plato's dialogues, elenchus involves purging the mind and soul of internal and external obstacles that interfere with learning and development. The purpose of elenchus is to help participants in dialectical interchange become aware of their ignorance and character flaws and redirect them towards understanding and development, to benefit their souls.
2 Esoteric: known or knowable only to initiates; secret or mysterious knowledge; cryptic; hidden; concealed; clandestine, covert; knowledge or capability gained through dedicated study in the Perennial Tradition