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CASSIRER, ON THE EXPRESSIVE FORM OF MYTHOPOEIC THOUGHT:
A FOUNDATION FOR BUCHANAN'S CONCEPT OF AMBIANCE
Bill Stroud, Ph. D.
Copyright by Bill Stroud, August, 2001
Disciplines whose mission is the acquisition of knowledge usually can clearly specify a rationale for the dynamics that operate in producing their data. Positivism positions itself on what it calls the firm ground of sense data, while rationalists extol the validity of the formal aspects of thought, sense data be damned.1 The discipline known as remote viewing, however, has entered the philosophical and psychological fray sporting data that supposedly appears on the scene like the grand entrance of a parentless child claiming ignorance about how it got here and where it came from. And how ironic: a confession of ignorance by a group whose very existence is rooted in the claim that information can be acquired by a means which transcends all formal epistemological constructs known to the history of philosophy. Most often, remote viewers tell us what is not happening in their acquisition of data, putting themselves in that position taken by many scholastics, who attempted to say something about God by declaring what He is not.
For instance, the Twelve Disciples of Ingo (more or less, according to some, but never overlooking a purported Judas who has refused to hang himself!) seem to agree that acquiring information using the protocols and methods of remote viewing is not a form of communication in the sense that we use the word in ordinary language. Data is not sent, they say, from some target location, and it is not received at another location on the analogy of radio waves (Ms. Craig Sinclair notwithstanding) or other models of communication. Many ostensibly evade the problem by citing leading edge physicists who teach a non-locality theory of the universe.2 This concept, they say, has pulled the rug out from under concepts of space and time per the Newtonian mechanical/sequential formulation, making normative constructs like send and receive irrelevant. And for whom does the John Bell theorem toll, a toll which some think should have awakened Einstein from his quantum slumber?3 It tolls for remote viewers. But not for death, but for life. In remote viewing parlance, experiments relating to this theorem prove that data is not required to traverse space and time from a target to a viewer. It is, as it were, snatched from nowhere and everywhere-or, paradoxically, it was not absent in the first place. It is radically available - impeded only by the noise that precludes its appropriation.
The old argument of empiricism vs. rationalism was the skeleton upon which hung the heated debates about what constitutes knowledge and how it is acquired. Today, however, the discussion of remote viewing and its theory of data acquisition rarely takes a tour through the thought of historical icons such as Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant-nor even a more modern scholar such as A. J. Ayer.4 Like a leap frog game, remote viewers skip over and ignore the classical pioneers of epistemological study. Again, such neglect is often justified by citing the dramatic impact of quantum theory, a theory that even many physicists admit that they don't actually understand, but find validated in their experiments.
This benign neglect of traditional epistemological constructs, however, has some justification. It acknowledges what traditional epistemologists themselves neglected by engaging in their own form of leap frog antics: They willy nilly skipped over a particular form of thought by virtue of seeing it as an illegitimate subject for serious inquiry: they saw myth as an illegitimate child of fable and fantasy. They viewed mythopoeic thought, the very antithesis of discursive analytical thought, not as an instrument for finding truth and reality, but as an aberration and a fantasy through which reason had gone astray.
It is to the credit of the seminal work of Ernst Cassirer, whose writings were made available in English in the mid-fifties, that we now have an erudite treatment of mythopoeic thought as a legitimate form of knowledge. Cassirer's three volume work, The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, his Language and Myth and his Essay on Man stand as beacons of light to those who have foundered in trying to sail through what on first sight seems like a hodge-podge of disconnected tales of gods and goddesses. It is beyond the scope of this paper to review the progression he outlines for the development of the phenomenology of knowledge as it culminates in scientific concepts. However, his treatment of myth as “experiences of pure expression rather than representation”5 introduces us to aspects of primitive thought which can throw light on a mode of experience which seems to be integral to remote viewing in contradistinction to conceptual formulations of rational thought (inferences, imagination and associations). In particular, this review of Cassirer's explication of mythopoeic thought will be limited to specific concepts which seem to support some cardinal ideas taught by Lyn Buchanan of Problems, Solutions, Innovations, Inc, namely his interpretation of what constitutes a “bridge” from Phase 2 to Phase 3 and his theory and rationale for the “Ambiance Exercise.”
Someone who knows nothing about the rationale that lies behind Phase 2 of the controlled remote viewing structure will usually view its list of descriptors as no more than pieces of a puzzle to be used for building a unified picture or illustration in Phase 3. But surveying a list of descriptors and inferring possible “connections” which might integrate these separate descriptors into some graphic production (Phase 3) often produces nothing more than a Stray Cat. (And this does not necessarily demean such a Stray Cat, because even an authentic Stray Cat can be significant, regardless of the particular crack through which it enters a session.)6 And Buchanan is savvy on this point. He categorically characterizes the bridge from Phase 2 to Phase 3 to be, not some implication or association, but an Aesthetic Impact.” One goes to Phase 3, according to Buchanan, when the process of listing descriptors evokes an Aesthetic Impact that culminates in the production of a graphic. The graphic, therefore, is more like a pregnant gestalt or ideogram than a bona fide illustration.
In describing such impacts on the feeling level, Buchanan has christened a word to serve for this special phenomenon of experience: “ambiance.” Ambiance, for Buchanan, is the experience of an emotional impact, one that conveys a type of information that is integral to a particular ambient milieu of a particular situation. This concept plays a crucial role in his training. He gets quite energized when impressing upon his students the importance of his Ambiance Exercise. Buchanan's Ambiance Exercise is tantamount to learning to distinguish the emotional impact of discrete situations. Buchanan instructs his students to start a procedure which they should continue for the rest of their lives, namely, to become aware, upon going through any door or passageway--or any move to a different space or situation-just how such an entrance feels different from the preceding milieu from which they have just exited. He never tires in emphasizing that “all knowledge involves discerning a difference.” If I understand Buchanan on this point, the ambiance exercise is merely an extension of another one of his exercises: teaching the Unconscious (called subconscious by him) a type of language (idiogrammatic and ideogrammatic language?) by practicing the production of one's ideograms upon the verbal cueing of the category for which the ideogram stands. Just as the Unconscious can communicate reflexively an aspect of a site through one's ideogram, so can a particular flavor (ambiance) of experience function as a match between an ambiance in everyday life situations and a site's emotive impact. (If you have never experienced being shut up in a small closet, how will you recognize such an experience in site contact?)
The notion of an ambient impact as revelatory is not entirely new. The father of the popular movement known as Transactional Analysis, Eric Berne, used a metaphor to describe the subtle intuitive appropriation of meaning from one's feelings. He called the phenomenon the Little Professor. For Berne, the Little Professor was that dynamic whereby one gets “messages” by how things feel. The best way to describe this hybrid of feeling/knowing is to reference how we often make statements such as “That feels like it means . . .” Expressed differently: Often we get messages which were never sent; we read our environment as if it were a book; and we say things like “Gee, that really tells me something”-even when no word has been spoken.7
We have inherited a tradition that early on took it as an established fact that thinking is one thing and feeling is another. That linguistic bifurcation often takes the form of demanding that someone stop telling us what he thinks when our request was for him to tell us how he feels. In reality, however, we probably never have a thought that is not riding on the crest of some feeling. And conversely, we probably never have a feeling that is totally void of some cognitive content. Our notion of intuition seems to indicate that through our feelings within particular situations we can actually receive information. Such a dynamic of emotional appropriation (or maybe such a dynamic needs its own word outside the nomenclature of feelings and emotion!) seems to have played a much larger part in primitive man's experience.
Cassirer contends that prior to the development of language as a conceptual system, man lived in a world that he experienced through a mythic state of mind, a form of thought, what Cassirer characterized as “the `complex' state, to distinguish it from our abstract analytic attitude.”8 This mythic expression of experience of primitive thought perplexes us today. We seem to have no frame of reference for understanding how primitive man made little, if any, distinction between a man's name and the man himself. The dynamic of pars pro toto (a part being experience as equal to the whole) in mythopoeic cultures tends to make us see such thought as totally illogical and at least stupid, if not crazy.
For instance, in mythopoeic-oriented cultures, to have possession of a man's hair or nails was tantamount to having power over the man himself. But when we step out of those discursive and cause-effect concepts--which are somewhat frozen into our language and conceptual view--and appreciate the emotional impact dynamic of experience, it actually makes sense. If the pronouncement of a person's name evokes a feeling (not just image!) that is congruent with the feeling one has when that person is present, then there is a sense of identity on the experiential level. Cassirer is quick to point out that a ritual like a rain dance is not merely an imitation in the sense of movements of representation for sympathetic magic or a primitive execution of some cause and effect9. According to Cassirer, the participant is expressing, not representing. When he methodically executes his ritual of the creation, he is not producing a drama in some stage-like fashion and spectacle. Within the ritual he himself and his world are being recreated at that moment.10
Cassirer is not easy reading, even for the person who has some background in philosophical studies. If I have gleaned from his philosophy of symbolic forms a true representation of his ideas concerning a progression in forms of thought (from myth to language to scientific thought), I feel justified in proposing that certain dynamics of mythopoeic thought processes have parallels to what is commonly called “being in the remote viewing mode.” For instance, except for one “notorious” remote viewer who claims to guarantee 99% accuracy for his teams of remote viewers, all the veterans of this discipline agree that hitting a target ordinarily does not produce results similar to a photographic-like image of the target. In fact, upon completion of a written summary, it seems to be an extreme exception for a remote viewer to be able to actually name the target (Eiffel Tower, etc.), although he or she might acquire extensive data integral to the target situation. Also, often the raw data, from which a summary is initiated, has more to do with images that overlap in some fashion than with abstract concepts. Images produced in a remote viewing session are often as diverse visually as the faces of mythical gods. However, as students of mythology are apt to tell you, in mythopoeic thought a storm god can be cited as present in war and a war god can be cited as present in a storm, because, on the experiential level, devastation is common to both.11
Maybe the mode of remote viewing, as it is often called, is replete with an atavistic element, a regression to a mode of experiential symbolism vis-à-vis a conceptual symbolism of representation. Maybe this former mode of “knowing” is rooted in descriptions of emotions more than descriptions of things, one which communicates with images which do not function as representative pictures any more than a broken heart refers to a organ's demise. Maybe Right Brain processes (whatever such a spatial metaphor means--in light of its reversal in some people!) is a factor.12 As most of us have learned, we seldom get pictures on the model of photographs, unless we are talking about very fuzzy ones that are radically out of focus.
We may be moving a little closer to an explanation of what constitutes the mode of remote viewing by seeing Buchanan's ambiance notion as being a pre-conceptual appropriation of information, an appropriation which is rooted more in an expression of an emotive formulation than a conceptual one. But alas! We still face the question of how that got here from there or how we got there from here. Maybe we just don't know how to ask a question that would deny both a here and a there!
1 Citing as exception the claim of mystical experience as direct appropriation of “knowledge” offers no explanatory value and becomes tantamount to extending the word “knowledge” until it has no cash value in the philosophical market.
2 For a survey of the contemporary theory of non-locality, see Robert Nadeau and Menas Kafatos, The Non-local Universe: The New Physics and Matters of the Mind. Oxford University Press, 1999.
3 For a concise summary of the impact of John Bell's theorem, see Evan Harris Walker, The Physics of Consciousness: Quantum Minds and the Meaning of Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books, 2000, pp. 115 ff.
4 For a concise and very readable introduction to the positivist's approach, see A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic. Gollanca, London, 1936.
5 Ernst Cassirer, Vol. III: “The Phenomenology of Knowledge,” in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957, p. 68.
See my article, Making a Stray Cat Prolific: Thesaural Imaging and Remote Viewing (Hawaiian Remote Viewers Guild's On Target Newsletter (August/September Issue), in which I propose a tool for “deconstructing” multiple images recorded in a session: http://www.hrvg.org (
Click on the On Target link and scroll down to title listings).
7 This dynamic should not be confused with logical implication. The intuitive experience here cited is more like a hunch, a conclusion reached on the feeling level, not on the cognitive level. For a treatment of this existential aspect of appropriating meaning from experience as if one is “getting messages,” see Chapter I, “Transactional Being” in the authors monograph, I Feel Like Me When I'm With You: The Experience of Intimacy. Memphis, Tennessee: Creative Life Publications, 1979, pp. 11-17.
8 Ernst Cassirer, Language and Myth. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., p. 13.
9 Cassirer, Vol. III: “The Phenomenology of Knowledge,” in The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, p. 68.
10 For an excellent treatment of this particular theme, see Mircia Eliade, Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, translated by W. Trask. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954.
11 For a discussion of this phenomenon, see Eric Voegelin, Order and History. Volume one: Israel and Revelation. Louisiana State University Press, 1956, p. 7.
For an examination of Right Brain dynamics in relation to Stray Cats, see the author's article, “When a Stray Cat Is Really an Angel: Target Data vs. Imagination in CRV,” published on his personal website http://www.drbillstroud.com/id18_writings.htm
Copyright by Bill Stroud, January, 2002
Bill Stroud, of Oxford, Mississippi,, has an extensive background in three areas: theology, philosophy and psychology (B.D, Th.D., Ph.D). Although semi-retired, he is active as a speaker, free-lance writer and a workshop presenter for educational and service agencies. He presently is an adjunct professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Ole Miss University.