THE RHEOMODE – AN EXPERIMENT WITH LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT
from “Wholeness and the Implicate Order” by David Bohm (Routledge Classics)
In the previous chapter it has been pointed out that our thought is fragmented, mainly by our taking it for an image or model of ‘what the world is’. The divisions in thought are thus given disproportionate importance, as if they were a widespread and pervasive structure of independently existent actual breaks in ‘what is’, rather than merely convenient features of description and analysis. Such thought was shown to bring about a thoroughgoing confusion that tends to permeate every phase of life, and that ultimately makes impossible the solution of individual and social problems. We saw the urgent need to end this confusion, through giving careful attention to the one-ness of the content of thought and the actual process of thinking which produces this content.
In this chapter the main emphasis will be to inquire into the role of language structure in helping to bring about this sort of fragmentation in thought. Though language is only one of the important factors involved in this tendency, it is clearly of key importance in thought, in communication, and in the organization of human society in general.
Of course, it is possible merely to observe language as it is, and has been, in various differing social groups and periods of history, but what we wish to do in this chapter is to experiment with changes in the structure of the common language. In this experimentation our aim is not to produce a well-defined alternative to present language structures. Rather, it is to see what happens to the language function as we change it, and thus perhaps to make possible a certain insight into how language contributes to the general fragmentation. Indeed, one of the best ways of learning how one is conditioned by a habit (such as the common usage of language is, to a large extent) is to give careful and sustained attention to one’s overall reaction when one ‘makes the test’ of seeing what takes place when one is doing something significantly different from the automatic and accustomed function. So, the main point of the work discussed in this chapter is to take a step in what might be an unending experimentation with language (and with thought). That is, we are suggesting that such experimentation is to be considered as a normal activity of the individual and of society (as it has in fact come to be considered over the past few centuries with regard to experimentation with nature and with man himself). Thus, language (along with the thought involved in it) will be seen as a particular field of function among all the rest, so that it ceases to be, in effect, the one field that is exempted from experimental inquiry.
2 AN INQUIRY INTO OUR LANGUAGE
In scientific inquiries a crucial step is to ask the right question. Indeed, each question contains presuppositions, largely implicit. If these presuppositions are wrong or confused, then the question itself is wrong, in the sense that to try to answer it has no meaning. One has thus to inquire into the appropriateness of the question. In fact, truly original discoveries in science and in other fields have generally involved such inquiry into old questions, leading to a perception of their inappropriateness, and in this way allowing for the putting forth of new questions. To do this is often very difficult, as these presuppositions tend to be hidden very deep in the structure of our thought. (For example, Einstein saw that questions having to do with space and time and the particle nature of matter, as commonly accepted in the physics of his day, involved confused presuppositions that had to be dropped, and thus he was able to come to ask new questions leading to radically different notions on the subject.)
What, then, will be our question, as we engage in this inquiry into our language (and thought)? We begin with the fact of general fragmentation. We can ask in a preliminary way whether there are any features of the commonly used language which tend to sustain and propagate this fragmentation, as well as, perhaps, to reflect it. A cursory examination shows that a very important feature of this kind is the subject-verb-object structure of sentences, which is common to the grammar and syntax of modern languages. This structure implies that all action arises in a separate entity, the subject, and that, in cases described by a transitive verb, this action crosses over the space between them to another separate entity, the object. (If the verb is intransitive, as in ‘he moves’, the subject is still considered to be a separate entity but the activity is considered to be either a property of the subject or a reflexive action of the subject, e.g., in the sense that ‘he moves’ may be taken to mean ‘he moves himself ’.)
This is a pervasive structure, leading in the whole of life to a function of thought tending to divide things into separate entities, such entities being conceived of as essentially fixed and static in their nature. When this view is carried to its limit, one arrives at the prevailing scientific world view, in which everything is regarded as ultimately constituted out of a set of basic particles of fixed nature.
The subject-verb-object structure of language, along with its world view, tends to impose itself very strongly in our speech, even in those cases in which some attention would reveal its evident inappropriateness. For example, consider the sentence ‘It is raining.’ Where is the ‘It’ that would, according to the sentence, be ‘the rainer that is doing the raining’? Clearly, it is more accurate to say: ‘Rain is going on.’ Similarly, we customarily say, ‘One elementary particle acts on another’, but, as indicated in the previous chapter, each particle is only an abstraction of a relatively invariant form of movement in the whole field of the universe. So it would be more appropriate to say, ‘Elementary particles are on-going movements that are mutually dependent because ultimately they merge and interpenetrate.’ However, the same sort of description holds also on the larger-scale level.
Thus, instead of saying, ‘An observer looks at an object’, we can more appropriately say, ‘Observation is going on, in an undivided movement involving those abstractions customarily called “the human being” and “the object he is looking at”.’
These considerations on the overall implications of sentence structures suggest another question. Is it not possible for the syntax and grammatical form of language to be changed so as to give a basic role to the verb rather than to the noun? This would help to end the sort of fragmentation indicated above, for the verb describes actions and movements, which flow into each other and merge, without sharp separations or breaks. Moreover, since movements are in general always themselves changing,
they have in them no permanent pattern of fixed form with which separately existent things could be identified. Such an approach to language evidently fits in with the overall world view discussed in the previous chapter, in which movement is, in effect, taken as a primary notion, while apparently static and separately existent things are seen as relatively invariant states of continuing movement (e.g., recall the example of the vortex).
Now, in some ancient languages – for example, Hebrew – the verb was in fact taken as primary, in the sense described above. Thus, the root of almost all words in Hebrew was a certain verbal form, while adverbs, adjectives and nouns were obtained by modifying the verbal form with prefixes, suffixes, and in other ways. However, in modern Hebrew the actual usage is similar to that of English, in that the noun is in fact given a primary role in its meaning even though in the formal grammar all is still built
from the verb as a root.
We have to try here, of course, to work with a structure in which the verb has a primary function, and to take this requirement seriously. That is to say, there is no point in using the verb in a formally primary role and to think in terms in which a set of separate and identifiable objects is taken to be what is basic. To say one thing and do another in this way is a form of confusion that would evidently simply add to the general fragmentation rather than help bring it to an end.
Suddenly to invent a whole new language implying a radically different structure of thought is, however, clearly not practicable. What can be done is provisionally and experimentally to introduce a new mode of language. Thus, we already have, for example, different moods of the verb, such as the indicative, the subjunctive, the imperative, and we develop skill in the use of language so that each of these moods functions, when it is required, without the need for conscious choice. Similarly, we will now consider a mode in which movement is to be taken as primary in our thinking and in which this notion will be incorporated into the language structure by allowing the verb rather than the noun to play a primary role. As one develops such a mode and works with it for a while, one may obtain the necessary skill in using it, so that it will also come to function whenever it is required, without the need for conscious choice.
For the sake of convenience we shall give this mode a name, i.e. the rheomode (‘rheo’ is from a Greek verb, meaning ‘to flow’). At least in the first instance the rheomode will be an experiment in the use of language, concerned mainly with trying to find out whether it is possible to create a new structure that is not so prone toward fragmentation as is the present one. Evidently, then, our inquiry will have to begin by emphasizing the role of language in shaping our overall world views as well as in expressing them more precisely in the form of general philosophical ideas. For as suggested in the previous chapter these world views and their general expressions (which contain tacit conclusions about everything, including nature, society, ourselves, our language, etc.) are now playing a key role in helping to originate and sustain fragmentation in every aspect of life. So we will start by using the rheomode mainly in an experimental way. As already pointed out, to do this implies giving a kind of careful attention to how thought and language actually work, which goes beyond a mere consideration of their content.
At least in the present inquiry the rheomode will be concerned mainly with questions having to do with the broad and deep implications of our overall world views which now tend to
be raised largely in the study of philosophy, psychology, art, science and mathematics, but especially in the study of thought and language themselves. Of course, this sort of question can also be discussed in terms of our present language structure.
While this structure is indeed dominated by the divisive form of subject-verb-object, it nevertheless contains a rich and complex variety of other forms, which are used largely tacitly and by implication (especially in poetry but more generally in all artistic modes of expression). However, the dominant form of subject-verb-object tends continually to lead to fragmentation; and it is evident that the attempt to avoid this fragmentation by skilful use of other features of the language can work only in a limited way, for, by force of habit, we tend sooner or later, especially in broad questions concerning our overall world views, to fall unwittingly into the fragmentary mode of functioning implied by the basic structure. The reason for this is not only that the subject-verb-object form of the language is continually implying an inappropriate division between things but, even more, that the ordinary mode of language tends very strongly to take its own function for granted, and thus it leads us to concentrate almost exclusively on the content under discussion, so that little or no attention is left for the actual symbolic function of the language itself. As pointed out earlier, however, it is here that the primary tendency toward fragmentation originates. For because the ordinary mode of thought and language does not properly call attention to its own function, this latter seems to arise in a reality independent of thought and language, so that the divisions implied in the language structure are then projected, as if they were fragments, corresponding to actual breaks in ‘what is’.
Such fragmentary perception may, however, give rise to the illusory impression that adequate attention is indeed already given to the function of thought and language, and thus may lead to the false conclusion that there is in reality no serious difficulty of the sort described above. One may suppose, for example, that as the function of the world of nature is studied in physics, and that of society is studied in sociology, and that of the mind in psychology, so the function of language is given attention in linguistics. But of course such a notion would be appropriate only if all these fields were actually clearly separated and either constant or slowly changing in their natures, so that the results obtained in each field of specialization would be relevant in all situations and on all occasions in which they the rheomode might be applied. What we have been emphasizing, however, is that on questions of such broad and deep scope, this sort of separation is not appropriate and that in any case the crucial point is to give attention to the very language (and thought) that is being used, from moment to moment, in the inquiry into the function of language itself, as well as in any other form of inquiry in which one may engage. So it will not be adequate to isolate language as a particular field of inquiry and to regard it as a relatively static thing which changes only slowly (or not at all) as one goes into it.
It is clear, then, that in developing the rheomode, we will have to be especially aware of the need for language properly to call attention to its own function at the very moment in which this is taking place. In this way, we may not only be able to think more coherently about broad questions concerning our general world views, but we may also understand better how the ordinary mode of language functions, so that we may be able to use even this ordinary mode more coherently.
3 THE FORM OF THE RHEOMODE
We now go on to inquire in more detail into what may be a
suitable form of expression for the rheomode.
As a first step in this inquiry, we may ask whether the rich and complex informal structure of the commonly used language does not contain, even if perhaps only in a rudimentary or germinal form, some feature that can satisfy the need, indicated above, to call attention to the real function of thought and language. If one looks into this question, one can see that there are such features. Indeed, in modern times, the most striking example is the use (and over-use) of the word ‘relevant’ (which may perhaps be understood as a kind of ‘groping’ for the attention-calling function that people almost unconsciously feel to be important).
The word ‘relevant’ derives from a verb ‘to relevate’, which has dropped out of common usage, whose meaning is ‘to lift’ (as in ‘elevate’). In essence, ‘to relevate’ means ‘to lift into attention’, so that the content thus lifted stands out ‘in relief ’. When a content lifted into attention is coherent or fitting with the context of interest, i.e. when it has some bearing on the context of some relationship to it, then one says that this content is relevant; and, of course, when it does not fit in this way, it is said to be
As an example, we can take the writings of Lewis Carroll, which are full of humour arising from the use of the irrelevant. Thus, in Through the Looking Glass, there is a conversation between the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, containing the sentence: ‘This watch doesn’t run, even though I used the best butter.’ Such a sentence lifts into attention the irrelevant notion that the grade of butter has bearing on the running of watches – a notion that evidently does not fit the context of the actual structure of
In making a statement about relevance, one is treating thought and language as realities, on the same level as the context in which they refer. In effect, one is, at the very moment in which the statement is made, looking or giving attention both to this context and to the overall function of thought and language, to see whether or not they fit each other. Thus, to see the relevance or irrelevance of a statement is primarily an act of perception of a very high order similar to that involved in seeing its truth or falsity. In one sense the question of relevance comes before that of truth, because to ask whether a statement is true or false presupposes that it is relevant (so that to try to assert the truth or falsity of an irrelevant statement is a form of confusion), but in a deeper sense the seeing of relevance or irrelevance is evidently an aspect of the perception of truth in its overall meaning.
Clearly, the act of apprehending relevance or irrelevance cannot be reduced to a technique or a method, determined by some set of rules. Rather, this is an art, both in the sense of requiring creative perception and in the sense that this perception has to develop further in a kind of skill (as in the work of the artisan).
Thus it is not right, for example, to regard the division between relevance and irrelevance as a form of accumulated knowledge of properties belonging to statements (e.g., by saying that certain statements ‘possess’ relevance while others do not). Rather, in each case, the statement of relevance or irrelevance is communicating a perception taking place at the moment of expression, and is the individual context indicated in that moment. As the context in question changes, a statement that was initially relevant may thus cease to be so, or vice versa. Moreover, one cannot even say that a given statement is either relevant or irrelevant, and that this covers all the possibilities. Thus, in many cases, the total context may be such that one cannot clearly perceive whether the statement has bearing or not. This means that one has to learn more, and that the issue is, as it were, in a state of flux. So when relevance or irrelevance is communicated, one has to understand that this is not a hard and fast division between opposing categories but, rather, an expression of an ever-changing perception, in which it is possible, for the moment, to see a fit or non-fit between the content lifted into attention and the context to which it refers.
At present, the question of fitting or non-fitting is discussed through a language structure in which nouns are taken as basic (e.g., by saying ‘this notion is relevant’). Such a structure does indeed formally imply a hard and fast division between relevance and irrelevance. So the form of the language is continually introducing a tendency toward fragmentation, even in those very features whose function is to call attention to the wholeness of language and the context in which it is being used.
As already stated we are, of course, often able to overcome this tendency toward fragmentation by using language in a freer, more informal, and ‘poetic’ way, that properly communicates the truly fluid nature of the difference between relevance and irrelevance. Is it not possible, however, to do this more coherently and effectively by discussing the issue of relevance in terms of the rheomode, in which as suggested earlier, hard and fast divisions do not arise formally, because the verb, rather than the noun, is given a primary role?
To answer this question, we first note that the verb ‘to relevate’, from which the adjective ‘relevant’ is derived, ultimately comes from the root ‘to levate’ (whose meaning is, of course, ‘to lift’). As a step in developing the rheomode, we then propose that the verb ‘to levate’ shall mean, ‘The spontaneous and unrestricted act of lifting into attention any content whatsoever, which includes the lifting into attention of the question of whether this content fits a broader context or not, as well as that of lifting into attention the very function of calling attention which is initiated by the verb itself.’ This implies an unrestricted breadth and depth of meaning, that is not fixed within static limits.
We then introduce the verb ‘to re-levate’. This means: ‘To lift a certain content into attention again, for a particular context, as indicated by thought and language.’ Here, it has to be emphasized that ‘re’ signifies ‘again’, i.e. on another occasion. It evidently implies time and similarity (as well as difference, since each occasion is not only similar but also different).
As pointed out earlier, it then requires an act of perception to see, in each case, whether the content thus ‘lifted again’ fits the observed context or not. In those cases in which this act of perception reveals a fit, we say: ‘to re-levate is re-levant’ (note that the use of the hyphen is essential here, and that the word
should be pronounced with a break, as indicated by the hyphen). Of course, in those cases in which perception reveals non-fitting, we say ‘to re-levate is irre-levant’.
We see, then, that adjectives have been built from the verb as a root form. Nouns also can be constructed in this way, and they the rheomode will signify not separate objects but, rather, continuing states of activity of the particular form indicated by the verbs. Thus, the noun ‘re-levation’ means ‘a continuing state of lifting a given content into attention’.
To go on with re-levation when to do so is irre-levant will, however, be called ‘irre-levation’. In essence, irre-levation implies that there is not proper attention. When some content is irre-levant, it should normally sooner or later be dropped. If this does not happen, then one is, in some sense, not watchful or alert. Thus, irre-levation implies the need to give attention to the fact that there is not proper attention. Attention to such failure of attention is of course the very act that ends irre-levation.
Finally, we shall introduce the noun form ‘levation’, which signifies a sort of generalized and unrestricted totality of acts of lifting into attention (note that this differs from the ‘to levate’, which signifies a single spontaneous and unrestricted act of lifting into attention).
Clearly, the above way of using a structure of language form built from a root verb enables us to discuss what is commonly meant by ‘relevance’ in a way that is free of fragmentation, for we are no longer being led, by the form of the language, to consider something called relevance as if it were a separate and fixed quality. Even more important, we are not establishing a division between what the verb ‘to levate’ means and the actual function that takes place when we use this verb. That is to say, ‘to levate’ is not only to attend to the thought of lifting an unrestricted content into attention but it is also to engage in the very act of lifting such an unrestricted content into attention. The thought is thus not a mere abstraction, with no concrete perception to which it can refer. Rather, something is actually going on which fits the meaning of the word, and one can, at the very moment of using the word, perceive the fit between this meaning and what is going on. So the content of thought and its actual function are seen and felt as one, and thus one understands what it can mean for fragmentation to cease, at its very origin.
Evidently, it is possible to generalize this way of building up language forms so that any verb may be taken as the root form. We shall then say that the rheomode is in essence characterized by this way of using a verb.
As an example, let us consider the Latin verb ‘videre’, meaning ‘to see’, which is used in English in such forms as ‘video’. We then introduce the root verbal form ‘to vidate’. This does not mean merely ‘to see’ in the visual sense, but we shall take it to refer to every aspect of perception including even the act of understanding, which is the apprehension of a totality, that includes sense perception, intellect, feeling, etc. (e.g., in the common language ‘to understand’ and ‘to see’ may be used interchangeably). So the verb ‘to vidate’ will call attention to a spontaneous and unrestricted act of perception of any sort what- soever, including perception of whether what is seen fits or does not fit ‘what is’, as well as perception even of the very attention- calling function of the word itself. Thus, as happens with ‘to levate’, there is no division between the content (meaning) of this word and the total function to which it gives rise.
We then consider the verb ‘to re-vidate’, which means to perceive a given content again, as indicated by a word or thought. If this content is seen to fit the indicated context, then we say: ‘to re-vidate is re-vidant’. If it is seen not to fit, then of course we say: ‘to re-vidate is irre-vidant’ (which means, in ordinary usage, that this was a mistaken or illusory perception). ‘Re-vidation’ is then a continuing state of perceiving a certain content, while ‘irre-vidation’ is a continuing state of being caught in illusion or delusion, with regard to a certain content. Evidently (as with irre-levation) irre-vidation implies a failure of attention, and to attend to this failure of attention is to end irre-vidation.
Finally, the noun ‘vidation’ means an unrestricted and generalized totality of acts of perception. Clearly, vidation is not to be sharply distinguished from levation. In an act of vidation, it is necessary to levate a content into attention, and in an act of levation, it is necessary to vidate this content. So the two movements of levation and vidation merge and interpenetrate. Each of these words merely emphasizes (i.e., re-levates) a certain aspect of movement in general. It will become evident that this will be true of all verbal roots in the rheomode. They all imply each other, and pass into each other. Thus, the rheomode will reveal a certain wholeness, that is not characteristic of the ordinary use of language (though it is there potentially, in the sense that if we start with movement as primary, then we have likewise to say that all movements shade into each other, to merge and interpenetrate).
Let us now go on to consider the verb ‘to divide’. We shall take this to be a combination of the verb ‘videre’ and the prefix ‘di’, meaning ‘separate’.
So, ‘to divide’ is to be considered1 as meaning ‘to see as separate’. We thus introduce the verb2 ‘to di-vidate’. This word calls attention to the spontaneous act of seeing things as separate, in any form whatsoever, including the act of seeing whether or not the perception fits ‘what is’, and even that of seeing how the attention-calling function of this word has a form of inherent division in it. With regard to this last point, we note that merely to consider the word ‘di-vidate’ makes it clear that this is different from the word ‘vidate’ from which it has been derived. So, to di-vidate implies not only a content (or meaning) of division but also that the very use of this word produces a function for which the notion of division is seen to provide a description that fits.
We now consider the verb ‘to re-dividate’, which means through thought and language to perceive a given content again in terms of a particular kind of separation or division. If to do this is seen to fit the indicated context, then we say that ‘to re-dividate is re-dividant’. If it is seen not to fit, we say that to ‘re-dividate is irre-dividant’.
Re-dividation is then a continuing state of seeing a certain content in the form of separation or division. Irre-dividation is a continuing state of seeing separation where, in the ordinary language, we would say that separation is irrelevant.
Irre-dividation is clearly essentially the same as fragmentation. So it becomes evident that fragmentation cannot possibly be a good thing, for it means not merely to see things as separate but to persist in doing this in a context in which this way of seeing does not fit. To go on indefinitely with irre-dividation is possible only through a failure of attention. Thus irre-dividation comes to an end in the very act of giving attention to this failure of attention.
Finally, of course, the noun ‘dividation’ means an unrestricted
and generalized totality of acts of seeing things as separate. As has been indicated earlier, di-vidation implies a division in the attention-calling function of the word, in the sense that di-vidation is seen to be different from vidation. Nevertheless, this difference holds only in some limited context and is not to be taken as a fragmentation, or actual break, between the meanings and functions of the two words. Rather, their very forms indicate that dividation is a kind of vidation, indeed a special case of the latter. So ultimately, wholeness is primary, in the sense that these meanings and functions pass into each other to merge and interpenetrate. Division is thus seen to be a convenient means of giving a more articulated and detailed description to this whole, rather than a fragmentation of ‘what is’.
The movement from division to one-ness of perception is through the action of ordering. (A more detailed discussion of this is given in chapter 5.) For example, a ruler may be divided into inches, but this set of divisions is introduced into our thinking only as a convenient means of expressing a simple sequential order, by which we can communicate and understand something that has bearing on some whole object, which is measured with the aid of such a ruler.
This simple notion of a sequential order, expressed in terms of regular divisions in a line on a scale, helps to direct us in our constructional work, our travels and movements on the surface of the Earth and in space, and in a wide range of general practical and scientific activities. But, of course, more complex orders are possible, and these have to be expressed in terms of more subtle divisions and categories of thought, which are significant for more subtle forms of movement. Thus, there is the movement of growth, development and evolution of living beings, the movement of a symphony, the movement that is the essence of life itself, etc. These evidently have to be described in different ways that cannot generally be reduced to a description in terms of simple sequential orders.
Beyond all these orders is that of the movement of attention. This movement has to have an order that fits the order in that which is to be observed, or else we will miss seeing what is to be seen. For example, if we try to listen to a symphony while our attention is directed mainly to a sequential time order as indicated by a clock, we will fail to listen to the subtle orders that constitute the essential meaning of the music. Evidently, our ability to perceive and understand is limited by the freedom with which the ordering of attention can change, so as to fit the order that is to be observed.
It is clear, then, that in the understanding of the true meaning of the divisions of thought and language established for our convenience the notion of order plays a key role. To discuss this notion in the rheomode let us then introduce the verbal root form ‘to ordinate’. This word calls attention to a spontaneous and unrestricted act of ordering of any sort whatsoever, including the ordering involved in seeing whether any particular order fits or does not fit some observed context, and even the ordering which arises in the attention-calling function itself. So ‘to ordinate’ does not primarily mean ‘to think about an order’ but, rather, to engage in the very act of ordering attention, while attention is given also to one’s thoughts about order. Once again, we see the wholeness of the meaning of a word and its overall function, which is an essential aspect of the rheomode.
‘To re-ordinate’ is then to call attention again to a given order, by means of language and thought. If this order is seen to fit that which is to be observed in the context under discussion, we say that ‘to re-ordinate is re-ordinant’. If it is seen not to fit, we say that ‘to re-ordinate is irre-ordinant’ (e.g., as in the application of a linear grid to a complex maze of alleyways).
The noun ‘re-ordination’ then describes a continuing state of calling attention to a certain order. A persistent state of re-ordination in an irre-ordinant context will then be called ‘irre-ordination’. As happens with all other verbs, irre-ordination is possible only through a failure of attention, and comes to an end when attention is given to this failure of attention.
Finally, the noun ‘ordination’ means, of course, an
unrestricted and generalized totality of acts of ordering. Evidently, ordination implies levation, vidation and di-vidation, and ultimately, all these latter imply ordination. Thus, to see whether a given content is re-levant, attention has to be suitably ordered to perceive this content; a suitable set of divisions or categories will have to be set up in thought, etc., etc.
Enough has been said of the rheomode at least to indicate in general how it works. At this point it may, however, be useful to display the overall structure of the rheomode by listing the words that have thus far been used:
Levate, re-levate, re-levant, irre-levant, levation, re-levation, irre-levation.
Vidate, re-vidate, re-vidant, irre-vidant, vidation, re-vidation, irre-vidation.
Di-vidate, re-dividate, re-dividant, irre-dividant, di-vidation, re-dividation, irre-dividation.
Ordinate, re-ordinate, re-ordinant, irre-ordinant, ordination, re-ordination, irre-ordination.
It should be noted that the rheomode involves, in the first instance, a new grammatical construction, in which verbs are used in a new way. However, what is further novel in it is that the syntax extends not only to the arrangement of words that may be regarded as already given, but also to a systematic set of rules for the formation of new words.
Of course, such word formation has always gone on in most
languages (e.g. ‘relevant’ is built from the root ‘levate’ with the prefix ‘re’ and the suffix ‘ate’ replaced by ‘ant’), but this kind of construction has tended to arise mainly in a fortuitous way, probably as a result of the need to express various useful relationships. In any case, once the words have been put together the prevailing tendency has been to lose sight of the fact that this has happened and to regard each word as an ‘elementary unit’, so that the origin of such words in a construction is, in effect, treated as having no bearing on its meaning. In the rheomode, however, the word construction is not fortuitous, but plays a primary role in making possible a whole new mode of language, while the activity of word construction is continually being brought to our notice because the meanings depend in an essential way on the forms of such constructions.
It is perhaps useful here to make a kind of comparison with what has happened in the development of science. As seen in chapter 1 the prevailing scientific world view has generally been to suppose that, at bottom, everything is to be described in terms of the results of combinations of certain ‘particle’ units, considered to be basic. This attitude is evidently in accord with the prevailing tendency in the ordinary mode of language to treat words as ‘elementary units’ which, one supposes, can be combined to express anything whatsoever that is capable of being said.
New words can, of course, be brought in to enrich discourse in the ordinary mode of language (just as new basic particles can be introduced in physics) but, in the rheomode, one has begun to go further and to treat the construction of words as not essentially different from the construction of phrases, sentences, paragraphs, etc. Thus, the ‘atomistic’ attitude to words has been dropped and instead our point of view is rather similar to that of field theory in physics, in which ‘particles’ are only convenient abstractions from the whole movement. Similarly, we may say that language is an undivided field of movement, involving sound, meaning, attention-calling, emotional and muscular reflexes, etc. It is somewhat arbitrary to give the present excessive significance to the breaks between words. Actually, the relationships between parts of a word may, in general, be of much the same sort as those between different words. So the word ceases to be taken as an ‘indivisible atom of meaning’ and instead it is seen as no more than a convenient marker in the whole movement of language, neither more nor less fundamental than the clause, the sentence, the paragraph, the system of paragraphs, etc. (This means that giving attention in this way to the components of words is not primarily an attitude of analysis but, rather, an approach that allows for the unrestricted flow of meaning.)
Some insight into the meaning of this change of attitude to words is given by considering language as a particular form of order. This is to say, language not only calls attention to order. It is an order of sounds, words, structures of words, nuances of phrase and gesture, etc. Evidently, the meaning of a communication through language depends, in an essential way, on the order that language is. This order is more like that of a symphony in which each aspect and movement has to be understood in the light of its relationship to the whole, rather than like the simple sequential order of a clock or a ruler; and since (as has been pointed out here) the order of sounds within a word is an inseparable aspect of the whole meaning, we can develop rules of grammar and syntax that use this order in a systematic way to enrich and enhance the possibilities of the language for communication and for thinking.
4 TRUTH AND FACT IN THE RHEOMODE
In the ordinary mode of language, truth is taken as a noun, which thus stands for something that can be grasped once and for all or which can at least be approached, step by step. Or else, the possibility of being either true or false may be taken as a property of statements. However, as indicated earlier, truth and falsity have actually, like relevance and irrelevance, to be seen from moment to moment, in an act of perception of a very high order. Thus, the truth or falsity in content of a statement is apprehended by observing whether or not this content fits a broader context which is indicated either in the statement itself or by some action or gesture (such as pointing) that goes together with the statement. Moreover, when we come to statements about world views, which have to do with ‘the totality of all that is’, there is no clearly definable context to which they can refer and so we have to emphasize truth in function, i.e. the possibility of free movement and change in our general notions of reality as a whole, so as to allow for a continual fitting to new experience, going beyond the limits of fitting of older notions of this kind. (See chapters 3 and 7 for a further discussion of this.)
It is clear, then, that the ordinary mode of language is very unsuitable for discussing questions of truth and falsity, because it tends to treat each truth as a separate fragment that is essentially fixed and static in its nature. It will thus be interesting to experiment with the use of the rheomode, to see in what way this can allow us to discuss the question of truth more fittingly and coherently.
We shall begin by considering the Latin ‘verus’, meaning ‘true’. So we shall introduce the root verbal form ‘to verrate’. (The double ‘r’ is brought in here to avoid a certain confusion of a kind that will be evident as we proceed.) This word calls attention, in the manner discussed in the previous section, to a spontaneous and unrestricted act of seeing truth in any form whatsoever, including the act of seeing whether this perception fits or does not fit that which is perceived actually to happen in the apprehension of truth, as well as seeing the truth in the attention-calling function of the word itself. So, ‘to verrate’ is to be in the act of perceiving truth, as well as to be attending to what truth means.
To re-verrate, then, is to call attention again, by means of thought and language, to a particular truth in a given context. If this is seen to fit what is to be observed in this context, we say that to re-verrate is re-verrant, and if it is seen not to fit, we say that to re-verrate is irre-verrant (i.e. a particular truth ceases to be valid when repeated and extended into a context that is beyond its proper limits).
We see, then, that the question of truth is no longer being discussed in terms of separate and essentially static fragments. Rather, our attention is called to the general act of verration, and to its continuation in a particular context as re-verration and irre-verration. (Irre-verration, i.e. the persistent holding to a truth beyond its proper limits, has evidently been one of the major sources of illusion and delusion throughout the whole of history and in every phase of life.) Verration is to be seen as a flowing movement, which merges and interpenetrates with levation, vidation, di-vidation, ordination, and indeed with all the other movements that will be indicated in the subsequent development of the rheomode.
Now, when we discuss truth in the ordinary mode, we are the rheomode inevitably brought to consider what is to be meant by the fact. Thus, in some sense, to say: ‘This is a fact’ implies that the content of the statement in question is true. However, the root meaning of the word ‘fact’ is ‘that which has been made’ (e.g., as in ‘manufacture’). This meaning does have bearing here because, as is evident, in some sense we actually do ‘make’ the fact: for this fact depends not only on the context that is being observed and on our immediate perception, it also depends on how our perceptions are shaped by our thoughts, as well as on what we do, to test our conclusions, and to apply them in practical activities.
Let us now go on to experiment with the use of the rheomode, to see where this leads when we consider what is meant by ‘the fact’. We thus introduce the root verb ‘to factate’, meaning a spontaneous and unrestricted attention to consciously directed human activity in making or doing any sort of thing whatsoever (and this, of course, includes the ‘making’ or ‘doing’ of the attention-calling function of the word itself). To re-factate is, then, through thought and language, to call attention again to such an activity of ‘making’ or ‘doing’ in a particular context. If this activity is seen to fit within the context (i.e. if what we are doing ‘works’) then we say ‘to re-factate is re-factant’ and if it is seen not to fit, we say ‘to re-factate is irre-factant’.
Clearly, a great deal of what is ordinarily meant by the truth or falsity of a statement is contained in the implication of the words ‘re-factant’ and ‘irre-factant’. Thus it is evident that when true notions are applied in practice, they will generally lead to our doing something that ‘works’, while false notions will lead to activities that ‘do not work’.
Of course, we have to be careful here not to identify truth as nothing more than ‘that which works’ since, as has been seen, truth is a whole movement, going far beyond the limited domain of our consciously directed functional activities. So, although the statement ‘re-verration is re-factant’ is correct as far as it goes, it is important to keep in mind that this calls attention only to a certain aspect of what is to be meant by truth. Indeed, it does not even cover all that is meant by fact. Far more is involved in establishing the fact than merely to observe that our knowledge is re-factant, i.e. that it has generally led us successfully to achieve the goals that were originally projected in thought. In addition, the fact has to be tested continually, through further observation and experience. The primary aim of such testing is not the production of some desired result or end but, rather, it is to see whether the fact will ‘stand up’, even when the context to which it refers is observed again and again, either in essentially the same way as before, or in new ways that may have bearing on this context. In science, such testing is carried out through experiments, which not only have to be reproducible but which also have to fit in with ‘cross-checks’ provided by other experiments that are significant in the context of interest. More generally, experience as a whole is always providing a similar sort of test, provided that we are alert and observant to see what it actually indicates.
When we say ‘this is a fact’ we then imply a certain ability of the fact to ‘stand up to’ a wide range of different kinds of testing. Thus, the fact is established, i.e. it is shown to be stable, in the sense
that it is not liable to collapse, or to be nullified at any moment, in a subsequent observation of the general sort that has already been carried out. Of course, this stability is only relative, because the fact is always being tested again and again, both in ways that are familiar and in new ways that are continually being explored. So it may be refined, modified, and even radically changed, through further observation, experiment and experience. But in order to be a ‘real fact’, it evidently has, in this way, to remain constantly valid, at least in certain contexts or over a certain period of time.
To lay the ground for discussing this aspect of the fact in the rheomode, we first note that the word ‘constant’ is derived from a now obsolete verb ‘to constate’, which means ‘to establish’, ‘to ascertain’, or ‘to confirm’. This meaning is made even more evident by considering the Latin root ‘constare’ (‘stare’ meaning ‘to stand’ and ‘con’ meaning ‘together’). Thus, we can say that in the activity of testing, we ‘constate’ the fact; so that is established and ‘stands together firmly’, as a coherent body, which is able in a certain relative sense, to ‘stand up’ to being put to the test. Thus, within certain limits, the fact remains con-stant.
Actually, the very closely related word ‘constater’ is used in modern French, in much the sense that has been indicated above. In a certain way, it covers what is meant here better than ‘constate’ because it is derived from the Latin ‘constat’ which is the past participle of ‘constare’, and thus its root meaning would be ‘to have stood together’. This fits together quite well with ‘fact’ or ‘that which has been made’.
To consider these questions in the rheomode, we then introduce the root verb ‘to con-statate’. This means ‘to give spontaneous and unrestricted attention to how any sort of action or movement whatsoever is established in a relatively constant form that stands together relatively stably, including the action of establishing a body of fact that stands together in this way, and even the action of this very word in helping to establish the fact about the function of language itself ’.
To re-constatate is then by means of word and thought, to call attention again to a particular action or movement of this kind in a given context. If this latter is seen to fit within the context in question, we say: ‘to re-constatate is re-constatant’, and if it is seen not to fit, we say: ‘to re-constatate is irre-constatant’ (e.g. the fact as it had previously been established is not found factually to ‘stand up’ to further observation and experience).
The noun form ‘re-constation’ then signifies a particular kind of continuing state of action or movement in a given context that ‘stands together’ in a relatively constant way, whether this be our own action in establishing a fact, or any other kind of movement that can be described as established or stable in form. It may thus, in the first instance, refer to the possibility of confirming again and again, in a series of acts of observation or experimentation, that ‘the fact still stands’; or it may refer to a certain continuing state of movement (or of affairs) which ‘still stands’ in an overall reality including and going beyond our acts of observation and experimentation. Finally it may refer to the verbal activity of making a statement (i.e. state-ment) by which what one person re-constatates can be communicated, to be reconstatated by other people. That is to say, a re-constatation is, in ordinary use of language, ‘an established fact’ or ‘the actual state of movement or of affairs that the fact is about’ or ‘the verbal statement of the fact’. So we do not make a sharp distinction between the act of perception and experimentation, the action of that which we perceive and of which we experiment, and the activity of communicating verbally about what we have observed and done. All of these are regarded as sides or aspects of an unbroken and undivided whole movement, which are closely related, both in function and in content (and thus we do not fall into a fragmentary division between our ‘inward’ mental activities and their ‘outward’ function).
Evidently, this use of the rheomode fits very well with the world view in which apparently static things are likewise seen as abstractions of relatively invariant aspects from an unbroken and undivided whole movement. However, it goes further in implying that the fact about such things is itself abstracted as just that relatively constant aspect of the whole movement appearing in perception and experienced in action, which ‘stands together’ in a continuing state, and which is thus suitable for communication in the form of a statement.
5 THE RHEOMODE AND ITS IMPLICATIONS
FOR OUR OVERALL WORLD VIEW
In seeing (as pointed out in the previous section) that the rheomode does not allow us to discuss the observed fact in terms of separately existent things of an essentially static nature, we are led to note that the use of the rheomode has implications for our general world view. Indeed, as has already been brought out to some extent, every language form carries a kind of dominant or prevailing world view, which tends to function in our thinking and in our perception whenever it is used, so that to give a clear expression of a world view contrary to the one implied in the primary structure of a language is usually very difficult. It is therefore necessary in the study of any general language form to give serious and sustained attention to its world view, both in content and in function.
As indicated earlier, one of the major defects of the ordinary mode of using language is just its general implication that it is not restricting the world view in any way at all, and that in any case questions of world view have to do only with ‘one’s own particular philosophy’, rather than with the content and function of our language, or with the way in which we tend to experience the overall reality in which we live. By thus making us believe that our world view is only a relatively unimportant matter, perhaps involving mainly one’s personal taste or choice, the ordinary mode of language leads us to fail to give attention to the actual function of the divisive world view that pervades this mode, so that the automatic and habitual operation of our thought and language is then able to project these divisions (in the manner discussed earlier) as if they were actual fragmentary breaks in the nature of ‘what is’. It is thus essential to be aware of the world view implied in each form of language, and to be watchful and alert, to be ready to see when this world view ceases to fit actual observation and experience, as these are extended beyond certain limits.
It has become evident in this chapter that the world view implied in the rheomode is in essence that described in the first chapter, which is expressed by saying that all is an unbroken and undivided whole movement, and that each ‘thing’ is abstracted only as a relatively invariant side or aspect of this movement. It is clear, therefore, that the rheomode implies a world view quite different from that of the usual language structure. More specifically, we see that the mere act of seriously considering such a new mode of language and observing how it works can help draw our attention to the way in which our ordinary language structure puts strong and subtle pressures on us to hold to a fragmentary world view. Whether it would be useful to go further, however, and to try to introduce the rheomode into active usage, it is not possible to say at present, though perhaps some such development may eventually be found to be helpful.