Review of Being and Neonness by Professor Jeffrey Meikle

in CHOICE MAGAZINE, Copyright American Library Association.

This slim volume of philosophical musings masquerading as a cultural history of neon lighting is reminiscent of Jean Baudrillard’s America (1988). Like Baudrillard, Miranda draws metaphoric significance from contemporary technology and delivers scintillating but quirky pronouncements. Regarding the incandescent light bulb, for example, he remarks that “by domesticating light, the twentieth century would seek to waylay the sublime and objectify the intimate” (p. 45). Many readers forgave Baudrillard’s verbal excesses because he defined and critiqued a superficial culture they disdained. For Miranda, the bar is higher because he hopes to inspire as well as criticize. After questioning the passive conformity of a clean, well-lighted society–represented by the garish emptiness of the neon sign–he goes further by proposing an ecstatic, visionary alternative to the negativism of postmodern critics. Valorizing uncertainty over certitude, sound’s warm suggestiveness over light’s harsh perspectives, and flow over substance, Miranda urges readers to embrace a provisional, ever-creating reality he refers to as “Creal,” in whose ever-ongoing construction one may participate after freeing oneself from the prison of signs, from the neonness of consumer culture and hierarchical society. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty. —Jeffrey L Meikle, University of Texas at Austin

To Be Is To Create

Everything is creation. Nothing is inert. Everything is constantly blossoming, not only the flower but also the industrial building that I see outside of the train’s window. The world is anthesis, which means that the synthesis of all beings is blossoming, phaino, crealing. Things and beings are constantly phenomenalizing themselves, not out of themselves, but out of the creal principle in them. Things are also enmeshed in complex creative processes, not just manifesting themselves. To be is to create. 

One may ask: what is the novelty production of an industrial building minute after minute? It looks the same now and one minute ago. How is it creating? Because despite the fact that it looks the same, it is not the same. A closer look, a more artistic attunement, knows that everything is constantly changing in multiple ways. A simple way to understand this constant becoming is to compare it with a time-lapse movie, in which images are highly accelerated such that we discover that everything is in flow. An industrial building is of course producing goods, this is the obvious process, but the industrial and social production is only one part of the multifarious creating process of any actual entity. If we forget about this, there are not only philosophical consequences, but also environmental consequences: an industrial building is also creating nefarious effects.

One may ask: what is the new if creation is everywhere? From the perspective of process philosophy and crealectics, novelty is ubiquitous: it is the effect of creative becoming itself. Every smile is new, every breath you take, and if you look at this cup of coffee, it is constantly manifesting a new state of itself, slightly different from the previous one.

But nothing is new sui generis, out of nowhere: only the Creal is sui generis, self-creating. A human being for example cannot be fundamentally self-creating. This does not mean that we do not have some creative agency: we can orient ourselves, we can shape our intellectual-ethical coherence, our philosophical health, we can be more or less creative, because we are (in) the Creal. The first principle of philosophical health is to accept that the multiverse is constantly creating, that humans do not have the monopoly of creation. Ants create. Plants create. To create is to participate in the actualization of the Creal.

Let me finish this post with an apple tree time-lapse, which manifests the truth that Eve and Adam could have figured out without the input of the snake…

Publication: Philosophical Health

The Palgrave Encyclopedia of the Possible

Living Edition | Editors: Vlad Petre Glăveanu (Editor-in-Chief)

Philosophical Health, by Luis de Miranda

Abstract/Summary

In the last decades of the twentieth century, the first contemporary “philosophical counselors” started to appear in Europe and the USA, sometimes equating the idea of “philosophical health” with “spiritual health” or “therapy for the sane,” thus partly reviving traditions of Ancient Greek and Roman philosophical practice. Philosophical health is a state of fruitful coherence between a person’s ways of thinking and speaking and their ways of acting, such that the possibilities for a sublime life are increased and the need for self- and intersubjective flourishing satisfied. One is engaging in philosophical health when one’s behavior is careful (and care-full) in considering not only the physical or psychological individual balance but also a certain idea of what the collective and holistic good of humans and all beings on earth might be. Compared to “physical health” and “psychological health,” the idea of “philosophical health” may still appear to be new. In the twentieth century, the phrase was mostly used as a metaphor to describe sound philosophical thinking versus faulty reasoning, and the meaning has been since then extended to describe the attunement of a way of life with its conceptual evaluative grounding. A first step to understand that the idea of philosophical health is equally as important as physical and psychological health is to recognize that any human being possesses philosophical beliefs, intellectual allegiances, and conceptual concerns, even if not yet fully explicit or compossible.

Keywords

Philosophy Health Care Eudynamia Possible Philosophical counseling 

Link

Video: A Philosophical Counseling Session with Luis de Miranda – Nicholas

Nicholas came to me because he was disappointed with Jordan Peterson’s realistic advices (get a job, don’t dream, etc), which he tried to apply but which, Nicholas said, shut down his spirituality. Here is what a Philosophical Counseling session can look like. Sessions at the Philosophical Parlour are all different, and yet humans from all origins seem to want the same: to self-actualise while experiencing well-belonging with others.

Fred Tschida’s Bodies of Delight

As a follow up to my book Being and Neonness (MIT Press), I was asked to write a piece for the catalogue of Circlesphere, the Neon Sculpture Exhibition organised by the Wakefield Art House (UK) and curated by Richard Weather around the work of Fred Tschida. Below is the text I wrote.

Luis de Miranda

Bodies of De-Light

The dervish whirls, bridging the material realm and the divine. On the surface, a twist of colour manifests itself, to our reflective delight. Twentieth-century physics and metaphysics have proposed to transform the altered state of consciousness of the whirling dervish into a state of affairs: “Everything flows”, the Heraclitean motto, was rediscovered by Bergson, Whitehead or Deleuze. Continuous creation for these philosophers, and for physicists such as David Bohm or Fred Hoyle, became the cosmological core of the Real. What we saw as substances, real things, became an interconnected stream of becoming and possibility – not an eternal platonic Real, but a creative flux of potentials and actualisations, a “Creal.”[1]

Let the idea of the rotating neon be a visual thought experiment informed by these post-Newtonian processual epistemologies. The phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty spoke of “hyperdialectic” processes; reality becomes an ongoing creative meta-dialectic – or “crealectic” – production, a co-participative expansion, in which the observer and the observed are enmeshed in the same matrix of experience. Substances can now be recognised as fragile and evanescent. Everything is vibration like the gas of the neon. What we call things to justify our repetitive transactions are luminous and dynamic repetitions. Their deeper state is that dynamic flux, a superluminal field of continuous creation, an ever regenerating or reshuffling of what may or ought to be real.

We, subjects, have also become breakable and fragile, the glasslike rigidity of things being imposed on us by normative identities, corsets of silica: we tend to identify with our neon shape, rather than with the inner chaotic and fundamental vibrant state regenerating us. Let’s contemplate: the artist propels initial symbols into infinite speed. These philosophical signifiers do not aim at the precision of reductionism: they point to a possible imparadisation of our way of seeing, feeling, doing. Art may hurt when you touch it, but rarely more than the plethoric forces aiming at our soullessness, programmed to stop the whirling, designed to staple us to the walls, be they of lamentations, of shame or fame. Objective data may be forcing us to the false solidity of statistic definitions and bodies of evidence, but we aspire to superluminal bodies of de-light.

Filigrees here, beyond their “neonness”, sing our immanence, supported by the wakening field of craftmanship and goodwill. Rays are diffracted in a conversational spiral. Eternal forms are a vibration of transparent strings. Diving in the same river twice is not permitted to signifiers in this vortex of phenomena.

Try and listen to what is not mere image; it is whispering in the style of a buzzing sticcado of colourful notes. Surrender to the ideal of a vase or cup and let it be our Holy Grail. Caress with your mind the circle of living glow of which your anticipatory consciousness is the co-author.

How about the author of these philosophical instruments? Initials of the first word of the eleven last sentences of the present text reveal the name of the artist, himself a whirling halo bridging the many and the one. Dreams are not only shadows. And gently we may now appear, ourselves initials of wonder whirling in the maelstrom of our intertwined biographies.


[1] I first proposed in 2008, in the novel Paridaiza, this generic concept made of the portmanteau contraction of Creation and Real to designate the creative flux of infinite possibility and immanent becoming which is the ultimate principle of most process philosophers, chief among them the British mathematician Alfred North Whitehead, who termed this ultimate principle “Creativity”.

What is the Essence of a Person?

To think is to attempt to grasp a circle of abundance that is moving and maintain its energy for a while in a given portion of spacetime. It is possible that everything is true only for a moment. 2+2=4 is true every time I write, say or count it, but in-between these moments what guaranties us that it remains true? Does not truth imply a human gaze? What is the sound of 2+2=4 when no one is looking? One might say, the calculator continues to perform and to use logic while we sleep. But that machine itself corresponds to our gaze; it is an exteriorization of our perspective and codes. A machine allows us to keep our glasses on while we are sleeping…

What is the essence of a person if everything flows? Certainly not her name, because a name is not a verb. The God of the Old Testament was smart enough to have a name that was a verb, but we? We are consciousness, as posited in phenomenology. Husserl writes that our consciousness is absolute inasmuch as it perceives here and now. We are here, but that is a universal essence, and Hegel would say that it is therefore empty, since you, reader, can say “I am here”, and someone else can say at the same time “I am here” and yet, simply put, you are not in the same place. Is your feeling of being here the same? Perhaps not. Perhaps what constitutes the essence of a person is her mode of being here, her style of being here? Perhaps each human has a different mode of being here? There are not two humans who are in the same spacetime. You cannot be in my body and therefore you must occupy a slightly different spacetime. But this does not mean that each of us always displays a constant style of being here. Or if we do, we are not necessarily aware of it since we cannot perceive ourselves as someone else, or only in some rare cases or moments.

It might be possible to say that each person has a specific style of being here, but then might not the notion of style become quite shallow? When we speak of the essence of a person, we seem to be wanting more than just a way of moving into spacetime. Because an object also possesses such a moving line, even if it moves less often.

Certainly, the object cannot shape itself; it cannot give meaning and purpose to itself. We believe we can. For example, the entire economic domain of self-development presupposes the idea that we can give meaning to our lives, that we can shape our purpose. Most people however, despite investing much time and money in personal development, do not seem to achieve permanence of purpose and clarity of purpose at the same time. Let us say that one million humans in the world will tomorrow realize that they should dedicate their life to justice. The next day, probably only 10% of them will still be having that thought of full dedication to the ideal of justice, and the day after 1%. Most people are transitory in their philosophical engagement, probably because they are too occupied in maintaining a semblance of identity in their daily life, for example with the people they now, the people they would like to know, or the people they are avoiding.

We are constantly being observed by others, our family, our colleagues, our culture and even those who ignore us. The actors on television, whom we believe we are watching, are watching us by apparently ignoring us, thus maintaining, like bodyguards or better, mindguards, our domestic and standardized identity. We think we forget about ourselves when we watch a movie, but in fact we are by most movies or news reports reminded of our normality, of our average humanity. Some rare bizarre experiences transport us to the threshold of an altered state of consciousness, but that does not last because all the objects or persons in our environment are also here to remind us about our default state of being, a state of prematurity, a state of being minor in the sense of Kant. We are not autonomous yet.

What is then the essence of a person? I ask this well aware of the anti-essentialist dominant worldview in philosophy and culture of the last half century. I could rephrase the question slightly differently: what is essential in you, given the fact that everything is in a creative flux and that you are unfinished? We are born premature, and does not this fact remain a part of our essence for the rest of our life? Yet this supposed incompleteness, this state of possibility, and, therefore, self-creative power defines us all. It cannot be said to be your essence in particular, or the essence of John or Maria only.

One might conclude that only a few rare people grow enough, become mature enough that they attain a personal immutable conceptual constellation, a philosophical and yet personal structure of values that remains the same despite the multiversal ground of change, possibility and prematurity of the Real. Only a few beings would become eternal and unique, and not even by themselves, perhaps, but because we make them so! We become biographers of their singularity, we mystify them, we create a myth out of their more or less advanced work towards uniqueness, because we desire that uniqueness for ourselves but we believe we cannot attain it.

I believe we are all book characters, much more idiosyncratic than we think. We are just missing a good narrator. As a philosophical counselor, I let people talk with me and I help them, slowly, to become the author of the book of themselves. 

What is the essence of a person? The fact that they can, with some work, with much passion, craft the narrative of their autobiography.

From Split-Mind to Attunement

Open Access article: Effects of Renaming Schizophrenia in Korea: from “Split-Mind Disorder” to “Attunement Disorder”

Jang Won Cho et al.

Korean Neuropsychiatric Association changed the Korean name of schizophrenia from ‘Split-mind Disorder’ to ‘Attunement Disorder’ in 2012.

C.R.E.A.L.

Those who follow this blog know that Creal is not originally an acronym. It is an ontological axiom on which I have written more or less (less than more) extensively since 2008. See for example the Crealectic Intelligence entry of the Palgrave Encyclopaedia of the Possible:

Or see this paper on the concept of Creal published in The Dark Precursor on Deleuze and artistic Research:

Other references include my essay Being and Neonness (MIT Press), or for example the following open access article on the difference between analytic intelligence and crealectic intelligence.

I first “discovered” Creal in the process of writing the novel Paridaiza (originally in French in 2007 and recently available in American English translation). I moved on to academic life quite late, as I was offered in 2014 (I was born in 1971) very generous funding to write a PhD at Edinburgh University, a work that became a book with Edinburgh University Press, Ensemblance, available in paperback since the current month. In 2017, I moved to Sweden both for family reasons and personal reasons, as I had been admiring their way of life for a while (quite remote from the unhealthy Paris environment I struggled with from age 3 to age 41).

After a parenthesis at Örebro University where I co-founded CREA (the L was still missing!), I am currently completing the first year of my postdoc at the department for History of Ideas and Science of Uppsala University, where I think, write and teach at the Center for Medical Humanities. My research concept is Philosophical Health.

Since 2018, I also work as a philosophical counselor with individuals and groups. I help them get closer to a philosophically healthy life, a protocol on which I have published this year the following two articles for example:

A bit less than one year ago, I recommended that Vattenfall, a power-production multinational I am advising via some of its head managers, starts looking into the regenerative paradigm, which is slowly replacing the sustainable notion. How do we co-create a regenerative world? What does this even mean?

The scientific-industrial-capitalist world has been organised into an ideological scheme that implied a fragmentation of reality imposed by analytical forms of intelligence, competition between individuals for the same (often mechanical or bureaucratic) jobs, antagonistic rivalry between groups, progressive exhaustion of the earth’s affordances, and forms of organisation that disrespect beings or ecosystems that are not concerned by their main focus. The result of that is a dissonant, fragmented and unhealthy world without a shared global cosmology and without a common affirmative purpose.

Since I completed my PhD, I decided to focus my research on what is most important and personal for me, that is the crealectic practice and theory and the Creal vision. This was clearly not the easiest choice, but this kind of relative epistemological courage is not proving (for the moment) to be a complete losing strategy, even by the mainstream standards of academia (but who knows, I might fail in a way or another).

So let’s say that C.R.E.A.L. stands for: Cocreative and Regenerative Environments of Attuned Living. The cocreative adjective was easy to suggest: that is what the Creal is about, it is a cosmology of cocreative fluxes, in the manner of Bergson, Whithead, Deleuze, Heraclitus, etc. The regenerative adjective is connected to my work with Vattenfall but also to the renewal and joyful factor of creativity. I don’t find the word sustainability very sexy, but regenerative has certainly some appeal to it. The idea that this broken world should be regenerated is not knew: the Ancient Greeks called it apocatastasis.

In many fields it is claimed that the 21st century will be the century of “regeneration”. Regenerative medicine is steadily making progress and expected to revolutionise the way we treat both the body and the mind via regenerative therapies. Regenerative ecology proposes to replace the insufficiencies of sustainability, as explained for example in this interesting book. Regenerative economy, regenerative corporations are labelling the new discourse of capitalism in yet another of its transformations, hopefully the transformation that will be the self-destruction or eudynamic mutation of capitalism itself.

The idea of regeneration, while currently gaining global and multifarious momentum, is not new. Regeneration is a concept that has fascinated humans for centuries. Whether we have been trying to bring things back to life, extract additional resources from the world, or remodel our living spaces, domestic and urban, regenerescence (I like this wording more than regeneration) is presented as an unproblematic force for good. But what exactly does it mean to regenerate a body, mind or space?

Clearly, we need a history of the concept of regeneration (which is not my core project). Concepts underpinning the modern discourse of regeneration can perhaps be traced to Aristotelean ideas posited in On Generation and Corruption. However, the brand of regeneration research stemmed from ideas articulated at the very outset of the twentieth century with the biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan. In his book Regeneration, Morgan drew on examples of the phenomenon of biological regeneration of cells, tissues and structures from across the natural world, beginning with a historical account of investigations into regeneration and ending with a rebuttal of the atomistic conception of life: “the most fundamental characteristics of the organism, those that concern growth, development, regeneration, etc., seem to involve in many cases the organism as a whole.” So regenerative models are holistic.

Can this concern for holism be the common thread between the various regenerative fields? But if regenerative practices attempt to tap and control natural forces, isn’t there a paradox in mediating the regenerative authenticity of life via technique (biotechnologies, AI, hard or soft protocols of human intervention)? Is mediated regeneration an existential risk that does more than what it promises or is it the new utopia for the century to come?

Several companies are now branding themselves regenerative or aiming to become so. But no one really knows what it means at this stage. Rather than be cynical and see “regeneration” as a buzz word, I propose we take it seriously and co-create its meaning, engagements and protocols.

Environments is a convenient term than connects with environmental issues. Restorative environment has been a concept of ecological psychology for a while. The plural in environments is important, since we want to keep some diversity in the exemplars of attuned living we shall examine or invent. Pluralism, multiplicity is a core element of crealectics, since the Creal is infinite multiplicity.

Which leads to the idea of attuned living. That one was the most difficult to find in the acronym game. I knew I wanted a world that started with A. I thought of Ample, Auspicious, Antitoxic, Ataractic, Appreciative, Authentic, Abounding, Accorded, Assonant. Eventually I felt that attunement was the right concept, partly because it echoes one of the 5 principles of philosophical health I have defended in the above Eidos Journal publication: deep listening. The musical metaphor in attunement also echoes what I wrote in Being and Neonness regarding the fact that everything is music, vibrations, waves.

Living beings are increasingly exposed to unhealthy environments, and in order to counter the multifarious expansion of unhealthy living and to facilitate the growth of healing environments, I wish to explore the possibility, reality and design of healthy milieus defined as cocreative and regenerative environments of attuned living (C.R.E.A.L.).