Reification LO21834
Sat, 5 Jun 1999 02:18:16 EDT

Replying to LO21384 --

Dear Organlearners,

My name is Andrew Campbell. I live in a small community near the city of
Oxford. I have been reading from you list for about a year. A few weeks
ago I wrote this contribution privately on the general subject of
creativity in the ***creative course of our lives*** to Mnr At de Lange.
He replied,

>It is a beautiful piece. I was moved by it. Your mind is far more
>mathematically tuned than you would ever believe. You are, what I
>would call, a classical example of someone intimidated by the
>formalism of mathematics, loosing all his mathematical wits as a
>result -- Digestor action par excellence. Scrape the daring together
>and send it to the LO list.


-Dear Monsignor de Lange,

When I was a kid I must have been considered retarded in reading, writing and
mathematics. Every week for a year or so I was separated out from the others
to wander off on my own down the road to a remedial class in a little annex
building, set a road or two away from the main school site.
This had many wonderful advantages, not least among them that the 'walk' took
me past a toyshop, sweetshop and a petshop. I preferred the petshop. No one
else in my school had possession of a ten-inch long fluorescent green and
yellow coloured lizard!
I have one very 'fluorescent' memory of the learning that took place then. It
was a story I managed to read in which there was a boy who used to do crazy
things, like unwrapping a banana only to throw the banana away and eat the
skin. This made me howl with laughter.
I think things looked up for me in reading after that.
Mathematics continues to be a problem, I would unhappily say I am enumerate,
such I cannot even now handle simple divisions, even less so geometry or
equations. I am baffled by it. My love is art.
I often reflect on those early days.
I tend to take an independent view in life.
Despite my difficulties I suspect I had a natural intelligence of sorts, what
might today be called some emotional intelligence. Not much, but enough to
make a difference. For instance I was once made the class 'star' monitor,
this meant that I got to put the stars along the lines of graph paper chart
that each child's name occupied, the aim was to flag up our star qualities,
or quantities I guess.
Every week's end for a year my stars formed the longest line, and they were
always gold. Not for any other reason than I liked to see it that way, and
anyway I got to keep the box of stars in my desk. To this day it is a mystery
to me that my teacher never noted the discrepancy between my 'vision' and her
'current reality'.
Then the time came for miracles. Yes, miracles! On the day before we broke up
for a week long holiday we placed quite a lot of water in a bowl where
nothing, not even my lizard, could get to it. When we got back it was gone!
Yes, I know, 'impossible' you are thinking. To this day I have never worked
out where that water went.
Later I was working with the ideas of the philosopher-physicist Ernest
Hutten, while studying other ideas about the 'hidden order of art'. Hutten
pointed out that there was a connection between Pythagorean mathematics and
Pythagorean mysticism. (The Origins of Science, London, George Allen & Unwin
1962) Whereas the Babylonians had been adept computers, who manipulated and
assembled numbers with great dexterity, they had failed to cross the bridges
(of adjunction?) to true mathematics in our modern sense since they failed to
develop abstract mathematical concepts. This Pythagoras did.
This was accomplished not in spite of but because of the fact that he also
associated these relationships with philosophical and irrational symbolism.
Numbers married, separated, combined into new entities with utter
flexibility, which was increased, not diminished by the metaphysical meaning
of the transactions.
Now numbers came alive so to say, infused by the instability and fluxus of
essentially unconsciously creative fantasies and manifested openly by their
conscious manipulation. Their almost frozen syncretistic solidity and seeming
permanence was dissolved, such that the abstract relationships became more
emotionally important than the numbers themselves.
So, according to Anton Ehrenzweig it appears that it was the case that in the
Pythagorean development the metaphysical aspect of reality expressed as
symbolism was not a primitive trait of a new science but was indeed the
midwife of its very emergence, an essential and chaotic ingredient for the
growth of abstract thought which was to serve as a fuel for the development
of mankind for another two thousands of years.
I recall when sitting in the classroom the sheer terror of not being able to
apply the mathematical model to the world, I felt alienated from it, frozen.
I suspect one way and another this experience is common at all stages of our
development as persons.
My understanding is usually cloudy. That is often the artist's way. Things
have to stay fluid, unresolved to 'conscious control' for as long as
possible. I believe that even Wittgenstein moved away from a model of crystal
clarity to one of 'diffusion' in his later life.
There is nothing more beautiful to my mind than that of a blue sky full of
puffy white clouds in which to see all manner of things. But I would never
spend an afternoon wanting to count them or guess the weight of one or ten of
them. It is the polyphony of clouds that interests my spirit of learning.
What I could not know then was that this time in my life when I lost the
thread of mathematics was called latency, and at this time part of my whole
creative or 'poetic' sensibility was being lost in the artifice of inept
maths teaching. In this I lost a connection to reality as a whole and today
one of my joys is to recover the loss by studying the sheer visionary beauty
of Lange's explanations of the riddles of the whole expressed in logic
and mathematics of sorts.
It is thought that once the versatility of numbers as abstract symbols has
been appreciated (learned/taught) its links with the unconscious creative
phantasy life are assured and in this connection is the locus of our feelings
for plastic reality largely dependent. It has taken half a lifetime to
recover what Peter Senge might poetically call, my own memory of the whole.
This is true joy in learning.
For the child the period of latency is one of personal crisis, growth
sexually is arrested and in this he unique among the animals. At and prior to
this time he or she treats numbers as syncretistic, solid and immutable
representations of objects as vital as animals and just as whole just like
his or her art products; not as abstract symbols capable of diffusion and
transformation. In latency this life of numbers is occasionally lost in a
transition of human development; teaching turns to memorisation of tables and
equations, there is no deep emotional content in mathematics thenceforth.
Ehrenzweig was convinced that this detached, unsymbolic and disconnected or I
prefer to say un-integrative and un-symboline educational phase in
mathematics could and does cause permanent damage and retardation.
So what am I expressing?
That the dissociation of conscious sensibility from unconscious phantasy
(which I sense is the 'reservoir' of our deep human creativity), in the
formal educational delivery and receipt of mathematics at a crucial stage in
human development is matched in the loss to the child of his or her total
artistic/creative potentiality. Such is this loss that his or her learning
may forever become frozen or shallow (meagre) as may the other products of
his imagination.
If you have wondered why some modern abstract art looks or feels shallow and
meaningless to you, then you now may have one reason, it is probably devoid
of feeling. The feeling that issues from making contact with the metaphysical
aspect. Through the power of abstract thought the surface of a painting can
become renewed through the willing and playful decomposition and
recomposition (living/dying) of abstracted forms that are suggested by the
often unexpected or surprising interplay between different levels of reality
and his growing curiosity in both realms.
A famous American artist expressed this connection beautifully when he said
of art ***Ones art goes about as deep as one's love goes.***
Senge has spoken of the need for us to see the patterns of nature. I suspect
he means all the patterns and more than that; all the patterns at all the
depths or scope of perception, not just as it is presented to our immediate
conscious visual attention but at every level to and including empathy with
No less a man than Einstein pointed to the need for this level of connection,
even unto inanimate objects in his reckoning.
Sometimes in creative teaching children handle this level of connection by
combining the efforts to mathematics with those of abstract art. A beautiful
way is to seek connection for the child through preventing the dissociation
of abstract symbols from their undifferentiated or chaotic matrix in the
unconscious. (Maybe this refers to the chaotic ground or field of emergent
learning?). If you give a child a set of complex interrelated construction
objects stressing the many and various ways in which they can fit to make
seemingly endless complex patterns that are explained as mirroring the
constructive but essentially unstable nature of nature the child assembles
new constellations of meanings both within and without him/herself of both
forms and content from what are no more than concrete symbols of purely
mathematical schema. He becomes a creator par excellence.
For an immediate creative reference or appreciation of this you might care to
examine a late Picasso cubist painting. It probably contains the complex
geometry of the Greeks via the use of the golden section expressed either
written as, - The smaller is to the larger as the larger is to the whole, or
numerically as approximately 8:13. In another dimension it contains the more
complex harmonies/discords of colour's hue and tone that he sets against the
psychic dismantling and reconstruction of the subject in the real world to
arrive at an image that is at once, more or less that which it seeks to
represent, the subject and object conjoined. 1+1 "="3 or 1+1=2 depending
perhaps upon his conviction in the moments of creation and yours in the open
participation of apprehending.
There is much talk and a little dialogue today of creativity, values, and
visions and learning.
C.G.Jung said we are prone to living and dying throughout the ***creative
course of life.*** I can empathise with this. My training in the history of
art and creativity, my own experiences as an artist lends me to the view that
in mid life and once more, finally in advanced age the creative potential of
mankind 're-presents itself' for invigoration.
We can then jump again into the streams of our collective memory (as Dante
did in the Divine Comedy) the thoughts of our vital, whole incarnate life.
Many of the greatest woks of art are the products of aged people.
For some there is the experiencing of a loss of vital creative tension. A
loss of sustaining mental energy.
A movement, (life may be understood as movement) from the life force of Eros
to the death instinct of Thanatos is proposed. This is a time of great
challenge for those not yet ready to see the flow of their creative life
stemmed. For Jungian interpretation it is said that in mid life the
archetypal symbols begin to stir within the deep unconscious. Creative active
engagement may secure a new life of deeper, fuller and richer creative
content. Failure to do so may result in complete disconnection from the
creative unconscious and a life full of neurosis.
What is required of us to meet this challenge now and the final challenge of
old age?
For Jung and for Ehrenzweig the answer is clear, to nurture in others and
ourselves the ability to de-differentiate of what we hold as reality in
unconscious phantasy, so as to re-assert connection to the life force that is
learning that is living within everyone. And in this to possibly re-connect
in great age to our childhood, defeating the terror of the death instinct by
acceptance that number and word are one indivisible part of the one
indivisible whole.
The most abundant universal sign and symbol for creativity is the circle or
the serpent /snake that devours its own tail.
I sense a collective thought, like a cloud imprinted upon the sky, from all
the writings around.
In 1966 Anton Ehrenzweig wrote that the re-education of the old into
creativity (I don't think he meant that quite as exclusively and literally as
it might seem) would be the compelling task of our generation.
After schooling, in my mid twenties I came to learn with Leonardo da Vinci.
Of all the articles and studies he made, those of animals make the longest
list and delight me the most.
When numbers come alive through creative action, as At de Lange has shown me
they can and as in architecture I have sensed they do, it is Leonardo again
who teaches well those who are keen to learn.
I sense you are all searching for bridges. Leonardo teaches you and me if you
did not already know it, of architecture.
***What is an Arch? An arch is nothing else than a strength caused by two
weaknesses; for the arch in the buildings is made up of two segments of a
circle, and each of these segments being (cut or unwhole) in itself very weak
desires to fall, and as one withstands the downfall of the other the two
weaknesses are converted into a single strength.***
So, all the lines I have written are condensed into one single thought or
exemplar by the genius of a poetic metaphor from Leonardo. In your LO list,
as the messages reply to messages in a sort of complexifying binary fashion,
I see thousands of bridges built from words, signs and numbers, and it seems
very much to me as if in this collective is not so much the discovery of
bridges but the very construction of them, innumerable and polyphonic.
*** In every instant God creates an immense number of new angels, all of whom
have only one purpose, to sing the praises of God before his throne for a
moment before they dissolve to
(From the ancient Hebrew tradition.)
Your community of dialogue seems very much like this to me.
Best wishes,
Andrew Campbell

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