Today we're going to weave some threads together, as an example of how to arrive at a non-standard claim of knowledge and why these things are so damned difficult.
By now you should have finished Mark Passio's presentation, posted two days ago. If you haven't, go catch up now; you need to grok what he's talking about for this post to do you a damn bit of good. You also should have read my post about non-standard knowledge claims; back up and read that if you haven't. This post will be here when you're done.
The key problem with non-standard claims of knowledge is that the source for the claim is internal to the claimant, so the audience cannot readily seek out that source and verify independently that the claimant's statement is correct. That does not mean that the audience cannot investigate the claim, but rather that the claimant must understand what the nature of the process for his claim of knowledge actually is and how this process works before relying upon such things when making an argument. Using a recent example, I shall illustrate what's going on.
Why am I insisting upon your familiarity with Passio's presentation? Because the points that he makes in his presentation are going to be thrust before you in the video embedded below, and they're going to come at you hard and fast because the video is less than five minutes long from start to finish, so you need to pay close attention when you watch it- and you will watch it.
Now, the meat of this matter:
- Non-Linear Expressions of Ideas: The use of the Fine Arts, as extensions of the Liberal Arts, allows competent users to efficiently communicate very complex ideas with very little effort. We acknowledge this as true through the saying "A picture is worth a thousand words." Each medium of Fine Art has particular and unique qualities--strengths and weaknesses--that favor some forms of expression over others, such that the same subject matter can communicate significantly different complex ideas merely by changing the medium wherein that subject matter is used. When used in concert, the synergy between them is so powerful that ideas that otherwise take years to communicate by way of standard academic practices can be had in minutes. The mechanics for this phenomenon stems in the ability to think in non-linear ways, taking otherwise disconnected thoughts and thought patterns and weave them together into a cohesive and coherent whole. This is what "great art", of any kind, is meant--and intended--to do.
- Emotionally-Powered Cognition: The mechanics of non-linear cognition comes from intuition, and intuition roots itself in emotion. It is the melding of Thinking and Feeling, each informing and guiding the other, covering each other's gaps and reinforcing each other's strengths. Non-standard knowledge claims, therefore, have a root in the emotions of the claimant at the time of discovery and are therefore specific to the individual that has such a claim. This does not make the claim false, or disallow transmission. What it does do is require that the recepient experience the same emotional state that the claimant had, or--in other words--the former individual must replicate the experience wherein that non-linear expression event occurred. This is, by the way, is what an Initiation Rite--properly comprehended and executed--is and does; by extension, we are talking about claims of knowledge that stem from an individual's ecstatic encounters with the vast portion of the universe that is beyond Mankind's sense-perception.
- Symbolism as Shortcut: The mechanics of this method for claiming knowledge rely greatly on symbolism for its efficiency. This is not just the visual symbol, but also the symbolism found in sound--music especially--as well as in the means of their use by the transmitter. For example, the video embedded below uses clips from a variety of recent major motion pictures over which one tune from one soundtrack plays. The transmitter--in this example, the individual that arranged the clips and matched them to the music--chosen with great care and deliberation what clips to use, when to use them in the sequence and how to match them to the time of the music employed. That not only transforms the components--symbols themselves, all of them--into something with different (sometimes very different) symbolic representations than originally presented, but also allows the creation of an entirely new symbol in the aggregate.
- Culture as Language: It is no accident that a vast array of Man's literature rests upon the narratives of individuals (themselves symbols) who undergo initiatory rites in pursuit of some goal, however great or small, and are transformed into what they must become to achieve those objectives. This is the basis for the formation and transference of culture across generations, of the assimilation of cultures when encountered, and adjustment of cultures as they adapt to pressures put upon them by other forces. It is also no accident that the decline of a culture coincides with the abandonment or usurpation of initiatory rites and the disdain of their power for discovery and transmission of knowledge by those now unfamiliar with them. Whatever else may be said of Joseph Campbell, this element--the power of myth as a means of initiation--and his recognition of its power as an element of Natural Law (for it is not created by Man; Man merely discovered it, and it is both universal and immutable) is sufficient to put him up as a great hero for generations to come- and he got from here to there through experiencing that initiation himself via his studies.
The effect of this method for non-standard knowledge claims increases as the culture connecting transmitter to recipient strengthens. Even a period of short-term preparation, as I have ask of you above, can greatly increase the efficiency of the process. By using multiple media, and multiple events, a transmitter can prepare the recipient for the ecstatic experience that the transmitter encountered previously; the recipient already comprehends the component symbols in the experience, becomes familiar with the circumstances wherein the encounter occurs (vital to achieving the emotional state that is necessary for successful transmission), and therefore has the vocabulary necessary to properly comprehend the experience. This is why preservation of a nation's--a people's culture--is something worth fighting for, literally so, and if necessary worth killing and dying for.
- And This Relates How?: Long before the academic world arose and imposed the now-standard criteria for claims of knowledge, this is the way it was done. Your elders, your teachers, etc. guided you through a process of preparation leading to a culmination that was an initiatory rite, past which you were expected to take on a new role and become a wholly different individual within the community. We still have remnants in the Western of this in our marriage traditions, but other elements that together comprised a very efficient system that guided newborns through the process that would create young adults have steadily been snatched out of our hands or cut away altogether- and we've suffered for it. This is Empire in action, abusing lawful systems where it can and cutting off access (but not destroying them; Empire cannot circumvent Natural Law anymore than Mankind can) where it can't; we see this in a more comprehensible manner through religious and political cults of all sorts, through the practices of culture-shaping seen in totalitarian regimes of all sorts, and in the influence of centralized media over the population.
We need to make use of this method once more, and if we don't know how to deal with it then we can't--and won't--benefit from sources of knowledge that don't come from centralized institutions that are easily corralled by powerful interests (Thralls of Empire) and suborned to their will. Part of what we have to do to save ourselves is to learn how to directly discover knowledge by way of encountering it directly, and then transmitting it through the means we once took as standard practice. This is not to discount critical thought; that way lies cults and all the madness therein. Rather, what I'm saying is that we must reclaim this as a valid basis for knowledge to be used as a full and equal partner to the externally-focused standards of academia- and that includes full and equal subjectivity to interrogation by means of the Trivium and Quadrivium. Logic and Intuition are partners, not enemies, and should be treated as such.