Wholeness and the Experience of Periodic Change - 5
The act of measuring is most likely an important part
of even the most primitive types of cultural and collective activities. But the principle of measurement in ancient times was certainly not what it is understood to be today in a Western world mentality which, because of the spectacular way in which the principle has "worked," has made it the basis of the only kind of scientifically acceptable knowledge. Not only the practice of measurement, but also the concept of quantity
as a defining factor in all relations, have acquired — particularly since the sixth century B.C in East-Mediterranean regions — a rather new and all-pervasive character. What seems to have been a mostly intuitive sense of proportion and rhythm became intellectualized and objectivized by the increasingly precise reference of events to standards of measurement accepted by philosophers and scientists all over the world.
When Pythagoras taught his disciples how to refer personal experiences of tone to a measurable length of vibrating string (the monochord), he may have given the impetus which led the Greek culture to glorify the practice of measuring and the meaning of "proportion." Yet for him, Number and Proportion were not merely abstract concepts but were cosmic principles which could be experienced directly, or at least reflectively. Pythagoras is said to have been able to experience the "Music of the Spheres"; but when he referred to planets and the spatial intervals between them, and to what became known as the Pythagorean scale, he was not thinking of the physical mass of celestial bodies, but of principles of organization of what he already knew to be a sun-centered cosmos (heliocosm).
In ancient Greece the term intellect
had a highly spiritual meaning, essentially different from the modern use. What was then the "new mind" was a mind of pure relationship and proportion, rationality, and beauty; and its measuring power was believed to be the means to give concrete, experienceable form to cosmic order. This concretized order was the invariant foundation of "the Beautiful" It was only during the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. that an abstract formalism developed, substituting itself for the experience
of pure proportions.(1
The monochord was a rather crude instrument; and so were the sundials and clocks used to reveal the time at which the bells of churches and city halls were rung as vibrant markers of time for a whole integrated community. But as social and business processes became increasingly complex and required more precise "timing" of exactly when to begin and end a particular activity, time-measuring devices became more exact They also became individualized, providing for each person his or her own time, thus breaking up the wholeness of personal experience into a series of fragmented happenings.
When changes which affect and to some extent transform an entity (or group of entities) are measured in precise quantitative terms, what is measured has to have an objective character; it is perceived as being external to the measurer. Moreover, the entity in question must have a beginning and, however remote it may be, an end. The process of change being measured should be divisible and commensurate with a previously accepted standard of measurement. While in olden days the standard of measurement necessarily had some kind of relation to the experiences of the measurer — a life-span, certain proportions of the human body, etc. — in modern science the units of measurement, at both ends of the scale of quantitative values, no longer have any experienceable or even rationally imaginable meaning. This leads to the belief that what the atomic scientist and astronomer attempt to measure actually belongs to a level of being which transcends, if not the human condition of existence, then at least the interpretive power of the modern mind. It makes one suspect that the most basic postulate of science — i.e. that "laws of nature" are true everywhere in space and at any time (even at the Big Bang!) — is not true, because the method and perhaps the very concept of measurement apply only to the space "in the neighborhood" of the measurer — which may mean in astronomical terms our Milky Way galaxy, or what the experience of human eyes can observe and directly measure.
One might phrase the issue differently by asking whether man should trust his mental processes of interpretation rather than his senses. So stated, the issue seems easily answered by the obvious unreliability of human senses in many well-known situations. Yet what is unreliable are the sense-perceptions of an individual human being
. They are unreliable because they originate not only from one local point of observation, but also from the specific perspective of a particular culture; and perhaps above all because they are affected by the subjective state and the desires (unconscious though they be) of an individual perceiver and experiencer.
The preceding statement, however, should not be construed to imply that anything depending upon a subjective factor is unreliable — though this is the general approach taken by modern Western science. There could be a unanimous
as well as an individualized
kind of subjectivity, and I shall deal with the former when speaking of the Pleroma state of being. Indeed, a gradually emerging desire to base collective decisions on a consensus (thus the principle of unanimity) rather than on majority rule has recently become noticeable. This may be not only because of the irrational assumption that the decision of 51% of a people is wiser than that of 49%, but also because of the deep feeling that anything having a fundamental human validity should involve the whole of mankind. It should command unanimous acceptance at the level of subjectivity, rather than in terms of a system of intellectual concepts mathematically proven to be "true." But how could all human beings reach a state of unanimity of desires? How could they all
have the same desire expressing a unified, all-human subjective self as they are confronted by a fundamental experience implying a crucial choice?
Majority rule and the statistical approach in general are concepts whose validity is evident where strictly intellectual processes operate. They belong to the level not only of formalistic theories, but to the concept of form itself. Modern science has recognized the pitfalls of such thinking by stressing the need for any experiment to be repeatable under varying circumstances for a relative consensus of trained observers and theorists. Likewise, modern democracy since the foundation of the United States of America has more or less reluctantly accepted the existence of self-evident truths and inalienable rights belonging to all
human beings, not just to the majority or (even less) to a ruling minority. Nevertheless, the powers of perception and the mentality of "trained" observers, as well as the essential beliefs imbedded in a particular culture and the particular conditions of collective existence, do not necessarily have the same character at the level of mind. In human experiences, mind is the interpreter; and interpretation implies a frame of reference which can differ in various cultures. If a frame of reference is to be acceptable to all human beings, it must be based both on the realization that there is a superhuman structure of being underlying the diversity of culture-conditioned collective mentalities, and on the vivid awareness of a more-than-human Being — a "Subject" whose subjective selfhood encompasses in a transcendent manner and unifies all individual selves.
Such a Subject has been given the name of God; and the superhuman structure of being subsuming all natural or cosmic "laws" formulated and formalized by the human mind has been defined as God's Plan of Creation and the manifestation of His Will. This manifestation has a mysterious, humanly incomprehensible and non-rational purpose; but as human beings we are part of it, and we find ourselves existing on a planet whose regular motions provide a sufficiently reliable and effective frame of reference for our sense of time as long as we relate our desires and our basic activities to its simple rhythms
See my recent book The Magic of Tone and the Art of Music
. Shambhala Publications, 1982, chapter four. Now available free online at the Rudhyar Archival Project
By permission of Leyla Rudhyar Hill
Copyright © 1986 by Leyla Rudhyar Hill
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