Technologies of the Self

This is an experiment. I’ve taken an old post from deep in the archives of Okanagan Okanogan …


… and will attempt to polish it up to support some observations on identity and creativity.


and will now try to do what even the Goethe Museum in Weimar fails at splendidly, despite putting on a big show and charging something like 10 Euros to see it, which is like a zillion Canadian dollars. I will try to explain what Goethe meant about light in his “Lecture on Colour”, which he wrote to dispel Newtonian science once and for all, but didn’t. Just to whet your appetite for a visit to Weimar, try this on for size:

goethe-color-diagrams-01Goethe Explains His Theory of Colour With Pretty Pictures

Great minds have been broken by this for 200 years. Three German states have been built on this principle, which might have been a mistake. One in between was built to torture it until its spiritual death. A nasty business, that. Definitely a mistake.

One point of Goethe’s unconventional imagery was founded in his observation that a science built on splitting light with prisms, or with mathematical calculations, as were Newton’s, would observe only the worlds which resulted from those interventions. If you wanted to observe the world in its entirety you had use a subtler tool, the human eye.

Photo on 12-11-05 at 4.18 PM #2Rare Glimpse of Okanagan Okanogan Manifesting in Human Form

As this eye is guided by the human mind, that mind had to be trained. Machinery just wouldn’t do the trick.


To train the mind, tricky pictures were required, which almost no human trained by Newton’s science can make hide nor hair of.

The goal was not to explore the dissection of light into a spectrum …

Newton’s Rainbow

but to train an eye to perceive white light in its place, enriched by nuance. In Newton’s science, the white light that streams from the sun is actually an amalgam of seven colours, which are released from solution, so to speak, when they pass through a prism. It’s excellent science. Here’s Goethe’s science:

P1410398Male Staghorn Sumacs After Flowering

Notice the complicated interweaving of darkness and light. NO prisms. NO rainbow. In its place are moods of colour, representing moods of observation. In Goethe’s conception, they are all white light.

Confused by the ‘mood’ thing? Don’t worry! We’re used to reading words like that in regards to those particular explorers of light, artists, but not in terms of those others, their twins, scientists.


Scientific Measurement Devices at Play (Well Daring Each Other, Anyway)

Unfortunately, the romantics got ahold of the technology and messed with it big time. The result is teenagers. I’m not kidding, by the way. Photo: Anassa Rhenisch

Goethe also wanted us to consider that darkness is a component of seeing, too, for humans, and that colour, as perceived by humans, occurs at the intersection of darkness and light. Fundamentally, he was saying that a science can be built out of human presence and its interaction with the world, in and of itself, because that presence is the world. Here are a couple images of Goethean presence to get you started on this journey …

butter3 Orange Mood

… and  …

clematisPurple Mood

Oh, what’s that?

Reader: Mood, mood, mood, you’re mad. What’s this mood? That’s a butterfly on mustard up the hill and a clematis on your backyard fence, you nut.

Harold: Only if you use the romantic version of your operating system. (I wasn’t kidding. The romantics really did start playing around with this individual consciousness thing. It was awfully fun for them. We are their heirs.)

Reader: My operating what? !!!$%%%**&(&*!!!$^%^!@@$***!##!!!!!

Ah, yes. Well. Ahem. Hmmm. The measurement device Goethe had in mind is twofold. First, it is spiritual. It is the presence of God in the world, without reservation, which brought Christ to Mary’s womb, Christ to the Cross, and ultimate resurrection and faith. Goethe had that faith, but even without it the observation remains as potent as it was to Goethe: Christ (or the manifestation of eternity and infinity within the bounds and bonds of  the world and, especially, in the human form) could be reborn in every civilized, or trained, individual, through their training (the artistry they made of their identities), so that when men and women acted in grace with it, they saw not white light but the infinite beauty of creation (and the world.)


John Day River Valley, Oregon

Secondly, Goethe lived at the end of the aristocratic age and the beginning of the democratic one. In the aristocratic age, a prince or king or duke or queen embodied the union of state, land and Christ. To effect this, a lot of training in poetry was required. Goethe’s plan was to adapt this conception, politically on its way out, with new concepts of individual freedom, and place a different image of Christ within each democratic individual. His models were complex, but the final one was the individual consciousness, which was created by his friend, the philosopher Gottlieb Fichte in 1793, as a reference point on which a science could be built. Without a reference point, all things would be relative to all things and nothing could be measured, at least in Newtonian terms. Goethe wanted to use this measurement device, individual consciousness, to measure unity instead— exactly that thing which Newtonian scientists wanted a reference point (individual consciousness) to dispel! You can probably tell that Goethe hated Newton. The details of their spat are unimportant. The important issue is that Newtonian scientists wanted to use this Fichtian consciousness to create devices that could break apart unity, then to measure the effects of that breakage, and then to assemble them again into a logical system, all from a distance. That is what we call science today.

FichteProfessor Fichte

The wide eyes are, no doubt, symbolic.

To be absolutely clear: this little Christ in every man (and woman — let’s be more generous than Goethe) was not a metaphor, but the actual presence of Christ. The form it took was irrelevant to the power of the manifestation (one can’t, after all, direct or limit the llimitless), but essential to the results that would come out of the human mind so trained and so inhabited by its training. Every human so conceived was a lens, focussing the world (or God). This was Goethe’s conception. It mattered little if a person so trained was a Christian or believed in God or not. He (or she) had been made into a poem and would then filter the world in the same way a trained reader would filter a poem (or a poem would filter the reader — kind of a two way street). This training of little Christs to live in and focus eternity (and the mind of God, or the universe) is what is today called schooling and education.


Goethe’s Bust and his Death Mask

Filtering away.

Fichte’s conception was not so poetic. He argued that in order to say that one had a self, one had simultaneously to say that there was a non-self (and vice versa.) Consequently, he argued (brilliantly), the self and the not-self are one, but can be considered separately. Wherever one trained the perception or mind of the self, accordingly, would reveal the not self. To put that into plain language, if a human, such as Fichte, looked at a hawthorn tree …


… the observed tree was the not-self; everything else could be considered the self. This was a mighty handy and extremely portable observational tool. Just walk around, look at stuff, and you would perceive the objective world, clear of your own subjectivity, which would probably be all tangled up with notions of Christ, God, eternity and what not.

Goethe: Hey!

Harold: Hey, yourself.

Goethe found nothing in Fichte’s system incompatible with his attempts to train the self as a spiritual artwork (or technology), because to him the true self was not Fichte’s too, or the artwork, but the energy it channeled. To him, if there was to be a logical system that could support independent, democratic men and women it must operate from within the unified world, which means it must perceive white light, must perceive it with rigour, and must build logic up without first breaking the unity of the world. Otherwise, it would be outside that world and have no access to it, and that was exactly what the individual liberty of the time was attempting to do away with.


Vive La France!

That state of being outside of the world, however, is exactly where human beings are today after 223 years of Fichtian human technology applied to Newtonian science. In this respect, the important thing is Goethe’s observation that the system one chooses determines the world we get.


Vernon, Okanagan Illahie


Camas Prairie (now reduced to wheatfields), Nimíipuu Illahie


Puddinhead Screes, Smlqmx Illahie

By choosing Newtonian science without any exploration of the Goethian system, the Western World has lost touch with white light and unity, in all its moods …

P1390603 Harold Above Kalamalka Lake

… and pursues (as Goethe warns) a fragmented world observable through technical measurement, that does not come together again, because unity was never the design of the Fichtean self. It was designed, from the start, to create and measure difference, not unity.

derrida,0Jacques Derrida, Contemporary Philosopher of Difference

The Fichtean-Newtonian self in one of its purest manifestations. Note the dead tree.

The applications of this process of difference and the products of Newtonian measurement, are what is now called technological civilization. It has progressed so far that contemporary discussions include reengineering of biological life to create slave creatures capable of producing any possible industrial chemical, and reengineering human bodies, without regard to their links to unity. In this conception, those links, being outside of the Newtonian frame, are what is called emotion, and are considered negligible effects. Only an inhuman system would look upon life that way. Unfortunately, all of this activity (which calls itself humanism) was  built upon error and will lead only to greater error. It has already begun.


Secwepemc Horses, Wallhachin.

There is nothing to eat in this field of weeds.


Next, I’ll be looking at creativity, and how these human technologies (or selves) affect the world, society, art, technology, environments and the future. I hope you’ll tune in. The results for creativity are really quite profound and, I think, surprising.

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