SMALLER PICTURE vs BIGGER PICTURE
Ingo Swann (10Nov98)
THE INDIVIDUAL vs SMALLER AND BIGGER PICTURES
What is simply referred to as THE INDIVIDUAL is, in actuality, a very complex affair—so complex indeed that efforts to generalize too much are doomed to becoming bogged down with regard to whatever might be their purpose.
The above having been stated, it is incumbent on this writer to identify some kind of a basic starting point for the elaborations to follow.
On average, discussions about The Individual usually focus on differences—perhaps because the differences are most visible on the surface of the topic as it is usually first conceptualized.
The assumption that goes along with this is that the individual is an individual because of differences with regard to other individuals, and whom, of course, are different, too.
This has led many to assume that the differences among individuals appropriately DO constitute the central and most logical approach regarding whatever else might be involved.
Thus, the central concepts of The Individual and Individuality are closely related to the concept of Differences.
However, if one consults the established definitions of the term INDIVIDUAL, one will find no mention of differences among them. Rather, the central concept has to do with SEPARATE and the quality of being separate.
And indeed, the individual needs to be separate in the first instance of existing as an individual. And so it would transpire that only AFTER being separate would differences have much bearing on anything.
If this is reflected upon, we can illuminate a strange and contradictory factor that lurks somewhat invisibly just behind the common concepts of The Individual.
The factor is this: if individuals are majorly judged and demarcated by their differences, then they are all too often conceptualized as belonging within sets of differences that can indiscriminately and ambiguously comprise a great number of individuals.
When such is the case, the individual then loses the identity as a discrete individual or a separate entity.
One can think of many examples in which people are NOT conceptualized as separate, but are identified by the sets of differences into which they can be fitted—and this as other people see them or are taught to see them.
This leads into those situations where the individual is supported or condemned in much the same fashion as the sets of differences themselves are supported or condemned, or are tolerated or not tolerated.
Thus, depending on the circumstances involved, the individual can quite quickly suffer a loss of individuality by being ignominiously subsumed into a set of differences—within which the idea of The Individual becomes ambiguous, even unimportant and meaningless, and in which the idea of The Individual is NOT supported.
There are two important implications that descend out of this kind of thing.
The first is that the concept of The Individual might be representative of some kind of idealism. But as regards practical life and matters, the idealism can quickly fall by the wayside in a rather tattered condition.
The second implication revolves around the concept that individual-as-separate constitutes the bigger picture of the individual, while any differences constitute smaller, or at least, secondary pictures.
This latter concept might seem rather murky at first. But it become more clear if one considers that:
Differences are ALWAYS perceived and mediated via some kind of local societal framework.
All societal frameworks are set up and managed via various types of uniformism, reductionism, conformism, and deprivations of this or that kind of knowledge.
In this sense, then, although individuals may live among the social frameworks and adapt to their uniformisms, etc., the differences belong to the frameworks, not to the individual per se.
In this sense, if The Individual is to be fitted into any kind of uniformism, etc., then the fact that The Individual is a separate life-force-carrying entity must become downgraded and of hardly any interest except in some vaporous philosophical idealizing, if even that.
But the worst here also needs to be pointed up. If The Individual is to be fitted into any given, smaller-picture social framework, then The Individual is susceptible to the viruses of the mind that uniformism, reductionism, conformism, and deprivations of knowledge can possibly bring into existence.
(NOTE: A larger background for this possibility can be found in the book daringly entitled VIRUS OF THE MIND (1996) by Richard Brodie, who was the original author of Microsoft Word and personal technical assistant to Bill Gates.)
In any event, and because of the foregoing considerations, it is worthwhile digging deeper into the contexts of The Individual.
SAMENESS FACTORS OF INDIVIDUALS
While differences among individuals obviously have some kind of meaning to the concept of The Individual, each individual possesses certain sameness factors, and some of these are of extraordinary importance.
Over-emphasis on individual differences, and differences individuals have in common, has apparently served to almost completely occlude the fact that individuals also possess sameness factors.
First of all (and it IS a first of all) each embodied individual downloads from the generic intelligence-system attributes of our species. As such, no matter how different each individual ultimately is, each is first and foremost a replicated, downloaded intelligence-system incorporated as a separate and independent specimen of the species.
Incorporated into each independent intelligence-system are arrays of biomind sensors and awarenesses equipment, and a number of pre-installed hard-drive attributes—some of which were partially described in part 2 of this series of essays.
One of more obvious mainframe functions of the sensors, awarenesses, and hard-drive attributes is to permit the intelligence-system to experience phenomena and to grok meaning regarding them.
In this sense, by essential nature the individual is FIRST an experiencer of phenomena—AFTER WHICH, and to be sure, both positive and negative nurture can play significant roles with regard to ultimate differences.
It is important to point up here that the context elucidated in the above paragraph can become more easily visible if one considers the individual as a downloaded specimen of our species.
Achieving this visibility is made much more mushy and swampy if the individual is considered merely as a dweller within the labyrinthine complexities that clog the veins and arteries of local social frameworks.
It is also worth pointing up at this juncture that if an individual is basically an intelligence-system completely equipped to experience phenomena, then The Individual, in this sense, would frequently be viewed with abject alarm within sheep-cum-herder societal frameworks.
The reason is easy enough to deduce. Such societal frameworks much depend on this or that kind of uniformism, etc.
But in the case of all types of uniformisms, their parameters are to be maintained and safeguarded.
In this sense, individuals incorporated into the parameters can hardly be permitted to run around and willy-nilly experience phenomena that might put cracks into the uniformism—or, as well, disturb the desired balances of deprivations of knowledge.
Thus, arises the great specter regarding tolerance and intolerance of human experiencing, the specter having special importance regarding THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL.
Having to deal with this specter, however, is usually circumvented by establishing stringently enforced uniformity with respect to certain levels of deprivation of knowledge—especially with regard to what The Human Individual actually consists of.
THEN, if individuals experience stuff outside the boundaries of the uniformism, it is likely they won’t really want to tangle with the greater prevailing-wisdom (so-called) forces always stringently on guard within the uniformistic parameters.
As discussed elsewhere in this Website, this particular aspect is entirely relevant to any consideration of the superpowers of the human biomind, and pointedly so with respect regards any significant activation of them.
THE PHILOSOPHIC IDEA OF INDIVIDUALISM
Moving onward now, it needs to be pointed up that most concepts regarding The Individual download from the centralizing philosophical concept of INDIVIDUALISM.
This is essentially a modernist concept, in that most pre-modern societies didn’t incorporate it—and certainly not in the ways it has flourished in modernist times.
In tracking down the origins of the philosophic idea, it is surprising and interesting to learn that it somehow arose in the United States where it was early encountered by Alexis de Tocqueville, the French traveler, observer and writer.
In his 1835 book, DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA, de Tocqueville noted that "Individualism is a novel [American] expression, to which a novel idea has given birth."
De Tocqueville gives the working definitions as of 1835: "Individualism is a mature and calm feeling, which causes each member of the community to sever himself from the mass of his fellow creatures, and to draw apart with his family and friends."
From this was drawn the first formal definitions of INDIVIDUALISM: "Self-centered feeling or conduct as a principle; a mode of life in which the individual pursues his own life and ends or follows out his own ideas; egoism."
However, the concept of INDIVIDUALISM made very rapid progress, philosophically speaking. For about five years later (at about 1840) it was being defined in England as no less than a "social theory which advocates the free and independent action of the individual, as opposed to communistic methods of organization and state interference."
By about 1877, the theory of INDIVIDUALISM had been embellished with, of all things, metaphysical contexts and had made a metamorphosis from theory into a doctrine: "The doctrine that the individual is a self-determined whole, and that any larger whole is merely an aggregate of individuals which, if they act on each other at all do so only externally."
The "metaphysical" context of the above doctrine might not at first be visible today. As of 1877, the "whole individual" was still being thought of as some kind of life force "principle" that animates the material physical aspects of what we today would think of as the physical genetic body.
This life-force was considered the central principle of VITALISM, while the life-force principle itself was considered as meta-physical in source and origin.
As it transpired, this metaphysical doctrine quickly ran afoul with those particular Western societal trends intent on doing away with any kind of METAphysical stuff so as to cause the uniformism of materialism to emerge supreme and universal.
The foregoing definitions were about the only somewhat clear-cut description of what individualism was thought to have referred to. Thereafter, with its possible meanings, implications, inferences, and interpretations, the term was dragged into one of those hyper-dichotemizing swamps that clutter various intellectualizing aspects of The Human Condition.
Another enhancement to the swamp occurred as the twentieth century geared up—in that the proponents of HOLISM felt obliged to criticize and attack the proponents of INDIVIDUALISM, and vice versa.
Thus, because of the democratic processes of equal time, equal consideration, neither of the two isms could be discussed without the other, at least at academic levels.
Shortly, the individualism-versus-holism conflict took shape as a major philosophical conundrum, the nature of which can be found described in THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY (1967) under the entry for "Holism and Individualism in History and Social Science."
With apologies, part of the introductory paragraphs are quoted below.
"In most recent philosophical discussion, the contrast between holism and individualism in history and the social sciences has been presented as a methodological issue.
"Stated generally, the question is whether we should treat large-scale social events and conditions as mere aggregates or configurations of the actions, attitudes, relations, and circumstances of the individual men and women who participated in, enjoyed, or suffered from them.
"Methodological individualists say we should. Methodological holists (or collectivists, as some prefer to be called) claim, rather, that social phenomena may be studied as their own autonomous, macroscopic level of analysis. Social ‘wholes,’ they say, not their human elements, are the true historical individuals.
"This issue obviously bears directly upon the way we are to conceive the relations between such social sciences as psychology and sociology, and between these and historical inquiry."
The entry for this dual topic now continues for several double-columnar pages. The interested reader is now referred to those pages—albeit with the warning that ANYTHING to do with The Individual per se has disappeared from considerations so momentous they don’t really need to acknowledge the existence of individual specimens of our species.
We are thus left in a condition of wonderment about What The Individual IS.
Hot on the track of ANY answers here, most dictionaries define INDIVIDUAL in of the following ways:
A particular being or thing as distinguished from a class, species, or collection
A single human being as contrasted with a social group or institution
A single organism as distinguished from a group
Being an individual or existing as an indivisible whole
Existing as a distinct entity
If one wants to grasp what the individual IS, the above definitions are only of minimal help—because they establish hardly anything about what the individual IS, but only focus on the PLACE of individuals among other factors around.
However, it’s worth noting that definition 3 above is particularly odious, if contrasted to the established definition of an ORGANISM:
"A complex structure of interdependent and subordinated elements whose relations and properties are largely determined by their function in the whole."
In this sense, the term "single" in the definition should be amended to read "separate."
Furthermore, in this particular context, it’s worth entering here the definition for yet another ism, in this case ORGANICISM:
"A theory that life and living processes are the manifestation of an activity possible only because of the autonomous organization of the SYSTEM rather than because of its individual components [emphasis on SYSTEM added].
WHY the above should be considered a theory is somewhat mysterious—since the definition seems more or less to describe self-evident facts.
In any event, by tracking our way through the above definitions, we at least get into the proximity of the concept that whatever else the individual might consist of, it is in the first place some kind of indivisible SYSTEM.
THE INDIVIDUAL AS AN INDIVISIBLE INTELLIGENCE-SYSTEM
At this point, it is well worth while wondering WHY in the first place the term INDIVIDUAL took on common understanding as referring to ONE or to SINGLE, or even to SEPARATE or to DIFFERENT.
The term INDIVIDUAL is taken from the Latin INDIVIDUUS—and which meant: "One in substance and essence; not separable; that cannot be separated."
One of the problems here is that while the definitions just above MAKE SENSE, all of them have been declared OBSOLETE in most modern dictionaries. Even so, the obsolete definitions remain perfectly good and useful ones.
Indeed, those definitions were being carried into English as late as about 1650 at which time INDIVIDUAL was still being taken to mean "existing as a separate indivisible entity."
At about the same time, however, the term was also began to be utilized in the context of "distinguished by attributes of his own," and eventually this concept trended toward wider usage over the earlier ones.
And thus The Individual became thought of as individual because of having particular different attributes—not because of being of one in substance and essence.
One of the on-going fallouts of this is that people sometimes think of themselves as an individual because of their attributes different from those of others.
In this way, the very important idea of "an indivisible one in substance and essence" tends to get lost in the miasma of everyone’s different attributes.
The small nomenclature discussion above is extremely important to how the superpower faculties have been perceived in modern contexts.
Those contexts generally held that the superpowers emanated from a particular and uniquely special form of "giftedness" and/or set of attributes not shared by all individuals.
This meant that expressed forms of Psi, if they existed at all, would involve only a very small "gifted" percentage of the populations. And if this could be established as the case, then the small percentage was not a troublesome threat to any number of established societal uniformisms.
Any other troublesome threat would be further minimized almost to extinction if the "gifted" percentage could also be identified within the contexts of hallucination.
Thus, both the gifted small percentage and evidence for Psi could be reduced to a quite smaller picture—while attaching the label of "hallucination" would cause that smaller picture to be viewed with social disgust and horror.
Today, one might think that there were never any organized social measures undertaken that would result in the above scenario.
However, in 1889 the then quite socially powerful International Congress of Psychology meeting in Paris urged that a Census be established and conducted. This activity was ultimately titled the "International Census of Waking Hallucinations in the Sane."
In the mainstream societal sense, the Census was thereafter thought to have "furnished ample and trustworthy data" with regard to the fact that less than 7 per cent of the "sane" experienced hallucinations.
By lumping psychic phenomena into hallucinations, this was taken to mean that less than 7 per cent of the population would experience Psi perceptions, but which anyway were to be interpreted as hallucinations. Hence, nothing to worry about, percentage-wise.
(The interested reader is referred to HALLUCINATIONS AND ILLUSIONS: A STUDY OF THE FALLACIES OF PERCEPTION by Edmund Parish, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1897, and in which the Census and its findings are reviewed.)
In any event, some did not "buy" the anti-psychic hallucination concepts, and these opted to speculate that the psychic individual was psychic BECAUSE of special giftedness.
This pro-psychic "explanation" then became a dominant idea that floated within early psychical research and later parapsychological overviews. One of the results was that the modernist Western social systems have not fully recovered from its negative knowledge impacts.
Through the intervening decades until now, many ostensible psychics were also quite partial to this "explanation."
Of course, the "explanation" didn’t actually explain very much. But it did tend to bestow on psychics a status of "specialness" among all other presumably non-special people, and which special status tended to puff up not a few "psychic" egos.
From the whole of this, there occasionally descends here and there the idea that the superpowers cannot be tutored or trained because they are naturally special only to the few who "naturally" posses the (unspecified) endowments—and as such the special but unspecified endowments cannot be artificially installed in others.
Alas, whether this is the case or not depends on what one possesses as basic concept configurations regarding what the superpowers ESSENTIALLY consist of—especially if such configurations are based on traditional smaller-picture misinformation.
Such concept formations might indeed limit how the superpower faculties are perceived not for what they are, but only in accord with the marginal limits of the concept configurations.
Alternative concept configurations are possible. For example, if the superpower faculties principally involve the matter of awareness margins, then our species has a long history of expanding them (as well as contracting them in accord with societal uniformisms.)
It is also quite well understood (in the performing and mechanical arts, for example) that perceptual boundaries can be expanded by tutoring and training designed to do so.
More fundamentally, however, if the notion is entertained that each specimen of our species is an individual intelligence-system, then that system has to possess arrays of sensors replete with awareness equipment that goes along with them.
The fact that the awareness equipment can be cropped back and downsized to conform to this or that set of smaller-picture social realities would not alter the species bigger picture in any enduring way.
What might occur, though, is an on-going conflict between downsizing and upsizing of awareness margins—this conflict sometimes being referred to as the on-going conflict between the individual and society.
Further consideration of the individual as an intelligence-system now requires two forthcoming series of essays.
The first involves SYSTEMS in general.
The second involves two essays regarding the topic of MAPS OF THE MIND with special reference to catalyst and synthesis qualities of prepared and unprepared mind situations.
If one has the patient desire to do so, the contexts of this present set of six essays can now be integrated with previous essays already entered into this Website.
For example, it would be obvious that certain smaller-picture configurations can act as "noise" within bigger-picture ones, and so the essay regarding the signal-to-noise ratio can now take on wider awareness perspectives.
It would also be obvious that various mental information processing grids might be littered or clogged up with smaller-picture configurations.
The nature of smaller-picture versus bigger-picture phenomena can also be integrated into the contexts of the following essays (also on this website) entitled:
"Non-conscious Participating in Social Consensus Realities"
"Information Processing Viruses and Their Clones"