Rolf Sattler: Special Interests

Process Language

I have become very interested in language, especially
language structure and logic because they fundamentally influence our perception of the world, and our perception in turn influences our actions. Most modern languages have a noun-verb structure. Nouns (and pronouns) refer to things, persons, that is, entities, and verbs to processes. Entities appear primary, processes that occur within or between them secondary. Thus, this kind of language structure reflects and reinforces a worldview according to which the world consists of separate things, persons, entities, objects: you and I appear separate, the trees appear separate from one another and us, the good appears separate from evil, etc. Hence, this language structure reinforces a worldview and experience of alienation. However, holistic science as well as personal experience such as mystical experience of oneness portray the world as basically whole and one. David Bohm (in Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 1981) referred to undivided wholeness. Since this undivided wholeness is dynamic, Bohm referred to holomovement, Heraclitus to pantha rei, which means that everything flows, everything changes. On this view, process appears primary, and entities are seen as abstractions from the process. The question then arises: can we develop a language that reflects the fluidity of manifest reality? In other words, can we develop a process language? Since process is represented by the verb, we would want a language in which the verb, not the noun or pronoun, plays the primary role. In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertium, Jorge Luis Borges gave a nice example of process language. Instead of saying: “the moon rose above the river,” he suggested: “upward behind the onstreaming it mooned.” In Fragmentation and Wholeness (1976), David Bohm (see Quotes from Holistic Scientists # 9-15) made an attempt to construct rudiments of a process language, which he called the rheomode. I am not aware of further developments in this respect, and so far I have not been able to construct a purely verb-based language that satisfies the linguists I consulted. However, I have learned that at least some Amerindian languages are much more verb-based than English. Contrary to English and other languages, in many native languages the verb appears central and primary. “The verb is the heart of [for example] the Ojibwe language” (Roger Spielmann. 1998.’You’re so Fat!’ Exploring Ojibwe Discourse, University of Toronto Press 1998, p. 46). Supposedly there are even native languages such as Nootka that consist only of verbs (Language, Thought, and Reality. Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. 2nd ed. 2012, p. 310). “Sakej Henderson said that when talking in, say, Mikmaq, he could talk all day long and never utter a single noun” (Dan Moonhawk Alford et al. 2009. The Language of Spirituality, DVD). I have also learned that instead of saying “I love you” (subject-verb-object), a Japanese would simply say “Aishiteru”, which means “loving”: the activity, the process of loving. On this view, lover and beloved, subject and object, are seen as abstractions from this process ( J.-E. Berendt: The World is Sound. Nada Brahma. Destiny Books, Rochester, Vermont, 1991, p. 46). I think that if we begin with such changes in language structure and then extend them to more and more situations, we might be able to overcome much alienation, which could lead to a more harmonious and peaceful world.

Chinese and similar languages may also help us to overcome the static aspect implicit in the noun-verb dualism because "Chinese makes no rigid distinction between parts of speech. Nouns and verbs are often interchangeable, and may also do duty as adjectives and adverbs (Alan Watts:
Tao: The Watercourse Way. Pantheon Books, 1975, pp. 8-9). Thus, if the noun functions as a verb, a sentence with a noun becomes purely verb-based and thus reflects the fluidity of reality. For example, if the noun 'flower' functions as a verb indicating process it means 'flowering,' and then the sentence "The flower appears red" means "Flowering appears red," which means that the process of flowering appears red. One could also just refer to "Red Flowering." I was told that in ancient Hebrew, the word 'flower' actually meant 'opening,' thus also indicating process. And I read that during the early evolution of human language nouns and verbs were not always clearly differentiated from one another (Deutscher, G. 2005. The Unfolding of Language. Metropolitan Books; Hurford, J. R. H . 2014. The Origin of Language. Oxford University Press). One can see then "that objects are also events, that our world is a collection of processes rather than entities" (Alan Watts. 1957. The Way of Zen. Vintage Books, p. 5).

The Language of Spirituality (2009), Dan "Moonhawk" Alford and others pointed out that the primacy of process in some native languages resonates well with quantum physics, which also emphasizes the primacy of process. They mentioned that Heisenberg "lamented the limitations of noun-heavy western languages in explaining physics." We cannot describe the workings of an atom in our ordinary noun-verb structure. We need a language in which process is primary. This indicates that we have come full circle from native languages and the associated dynamic worldview to the dynamic worldview of modern quantum physics. Both appear more realistic than the mechanistic materialistic worldview of Newtonian physics and our mainstream culture and science. And because they emphasize dynamics and wholeness, they appear well suited to counteract the alienation that has been created by the mechanistic materialistic worldview. In a world where we do not appear divided and separate from each other, we can feel oneness and compassion.

Korzybski - My present interests also include Korzybski’s ideas that he presented in his book Science and Sanity (see Korzybski Quotes and Healing Thinking through Non-Identity (Korzybski)). He pointed out the inadequacy and often negative psycho-logical consequences of ‘is’-statements that imply identity (A is B). We often make such statements, which distorts our perception and may lead to more or less troublesome or insane reactions. For example, saying that Fred is dishonest identifies Fred with dishonesty. Fred is, however, also honest (if only at times), insecure, fearful, handsome, talkative, charming, etc. Furthermore, Fred changes. For example, Fred in the context of October 22, 2009 was not the same as Fred at another time. Therefore, referring simply to Fred is an oversimplification that could have disastrous consequences because it may omit highly relevant contextual information. For example, it may omit the fact that he felt sick at the time when he behaved inappropriately. Finally, Fred does not exist in isolation but as an integral part of his environment. Thus, instead of saying Fred is dishonest, it seems more appropriate to say Fred-October 22, 2009-environment was dishonest, etc. This formulation, although more cumbersome, if not awkward, conveys much better what was going on and leads to saner psycho-logical reactions.
Using Korzybski’s more appropriate language, or at least keeping in mind this language while using more ordinary language, requires intensive training because we have been deeply conditioned by ordinary language and its metaphysical implications that lead to a distorted worldview and more or less insane behaviour. Part of this training implies learning to pause before we speak. Instead of immediately verbalizing when we encounter a situation, Korzybski suggests to first pause, sense, intuit, visualize, and only then verbalize because through immediate verbalization we miss much of the situation. And we have to keep in mind that “
Whatever you might say something “is”, it is not” (Korzybski, A. 1958. Science and Sanity, p. 35). The word is not the thing, and the map is not the territory. Hence, to come closer to reality, we have to be silent. However, when we have to or want to speak, it would be highly desirable to use a language and logic that does not lead to or reinforce insanity (see also my essay on Health and Sanity of Body, Speech, and Mind).

Healthy Thinking, Healing Thinking

- This brings me to a related topic that has become very important to me: healing at individual, social, and global levels. In Chapter 2 (Either/Or Thinking and Beyond) of my book Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond, I pointed out already how Aristotelian either/or logic, the logic we usually use, can create deep wounds and conflicts that could be healed or prevented if we used other kinds of logic such as both/and logic and fuzzy logic. Subsequently, I published a book manuscript entitled Healing Thinking and Being, in which I explore in more depth and detail healing kinds of logic such as fuzzy logic, both/and logic, Yin-Yang thinking, Buddhist logic and Jain logic, and I point out their importance for healing of our planet, society, and us. This book manucript also relates to the AQAL map by Ken Wilber and his integral vision.

Although healing kinds of logic could provide a saner world, ultimately logic and thinking cannot reveal
the unnamable mystery of Being. Various kinds of meditation, including Qigong, Taiji (Tai Chi), dancing and laughing meditation such as laughter yoga, and a general awareness of the unnamable mystery can help us transcend the limitations of the thinking mind (see also Mystic Quotes and Beyond Thinking, Writing, and Speaking - the Unnamable).

My webpage
Health and Sanity of Body, Speech and Mind presents a comprehensive discussion of many facets of health and sanity: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.

In 2016 I published an online book entitled
Wholeness, Fragmentation, and the Unnamable: Holism, Materialism, and Mysticism - A Mandala. This book presents a synthesis of major insights I gained in my professional and personal life.

My Core Message:
An Integral Nondual Worldview (based on a dynamic mandala) presents a more detailed overview of my interests and webpages on this site.


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