Monday, 5 February 2018

Original Immersion, Detached Agency, Agent Participation: Renaming Original and Final Participation, and the Consciousness Soul

I have very often used Owen Barfield's categories to describe the evolution of consciousness over the past three years. These are Original Participation (OP), the Consciousness Soul (CS) and Final Participation (FP).

However, I have not been happy about the actual names, which are partly uninformative and, as I now have come to feel, somewhat inaccurate.

Original Participation is not truly a participation in reality and creation because it is a passive and unconscious state. The Consciousness Soul (this term comes from Steiner, rather than Barfield) is simply uninformative. And  the term 'Final' in Final Participation is not descriptive - but rather it informs us that this is the qualitative mode of divine consciousness, and therefore no further evolution (except quantitatively) is possible.

So I will be trying-out a new set of terms: Original Immersion, Detached Agency and Agent Participation.

Original Immersion (this was OP)

This refers to the original state of consciousness for Man. Original in the sense of its being both the mode of consciousness of young children, and also of early tribal man - foragers/ hunter-gatherers.

It is a state of passive and unconscious immersion in reality - 'animistic', regarding the world as alive and conscious.

There is little in the way of a separate self - therefore little in the way of agency. The content of thought is mostly caused.

The child's thinking is therefore essentially a consequence, rather than being internally-generated. So, the child is not 'creative' - does not originate or generate thinking. 

It is also something of a 'twilight' state, in some ways intermediate between the awake and asleep state of modern Western adults - and a modern adult can experience Original Immersion in some altered states of consciousness such as trances, delirium and certain 'drugged' states and psychosis (for example).

Detached Agency (this was CS)

This refers to the characteristic state of consciousness of an awake, alert, modern Western Man.

Our self is detached from the world, observing it through the senses; and we are strongly aware of this separate self and its agency in thinking.

The evolutionary step is in agency - thinking becomes a primary cause, self-caused: thinking emerges-from the self intrinsically. Thinking need not be a consequence of external factors.

With detached agency, Man becomes creative - originates thinking. However, this thinking is at the level of ideas and imaginations. These thought must be translated into the external world - by 'actions'. And actions are known only via sensory perceptions.

Therefore in the stage of the process is indirect. Thinking does Not participate in reality 

Initially the self may feel cut-off, and doubt the reality of the world ('solipsism'); and ultimately - by inference - may doubt its own reality.

The agent self experiences the world as perceptual/ sensory input that is made-sense-of by reasoning - i.e. a matter of facts and theories. Thus is it is literalistic, scientistic, materialist and reductionist. Reality is dead/ not-alive.

There is no experience of objective meaning nor purpose nor relationships: these are just theories.
Subjectivity is the dominant experience; objectivity is conceptualised sensation.

Agent Participation (this was FP)

The thinking of the creative and agent self participates in reality - directly. This is the divine mode of thinking.

That is, thinking is real, and reality is thought - and there is a unity, no separation - therefore reality is changed (expanded) by thinking.

So, with Agent Participation, the Man directly knows reality - not indirectly via senses and reason or facts and theories. Direct knowing means there is no mediation, which means that there is unity.

For a divinity, reality is 'made' by thought; and known directly because the reality is the divine thought.

However, Agent Participation is partial, from a perspective. Thus some of reality is known directly, and creativity has also a limited scope. 

Thus, in Agent Participation, everything than can be thought is real - but only some things can be thought. Everything than can be thought is known - only some things can be thought.

And in Agent Participation with respect to creativity: everything that can be thought is original, uncaused and self-generated (although, naturally, it may and probably will use the existing knowledge of that self).

Everything that can be thought is participated-in, and therefore this thinking is directly creative (without mediation) - but only some things can be thought and only some kinds of creativity are possible.

The idea is that scheme describes the (ideal) development of a child to an adult who is divine - being a son or daughter of God: Original Imersion being young childhood, transforming to Detached Agecy at Adolescence. Most modern men are arrested at this adolescence of consciousness, but almost all will have periods of Agent Participation - even though they may be brief, feeble, and not taken seriously.

The scheme also describes the development of human society from earliest Man through modern Man to the divinely destined future of man. And it describes states of consciousness which we each may move-between - even during one day of our lives.

But the main 'lesson' or value of these categories is that Agent Participation is what we ought to - and need to aim at in our lives - as indeed the primary aim of a Christian.

In other words, these categories are a description of spiritual progression, theosis, sanctification or divinisation. Therefore, Agent Participation cannot be achieved except insofar as a person is Good and motivated by Love.

Because to participate-in creation is to participate in the loving work of God, it is the most profound alliance-with God.

Hence the absolute nature of the first and second commandments: Love of God, and of Neighbour (our neighbour being our co-participant). Only thus may creation proceed.

Note: These three states are - strictly speaking - 'polarities' in the sense that although they can be objectively distinguished (as above) they cannot be fully separated or detached one from another. For example, even a young child is not fully without agency or creativity; and certainly some hunter gatherers display these traits at some times.  

In other words, these are extremes or emphases of a unitary process of human consciousness. Any categorical scheme, when applied to a process, can only result in such polarities - because ultimately the unity cannot be divided without destruction of its nature. 


  1. This is wonderful; and I like the new categories. I would very much love your understanding of why it is "indeed the primary aim of a Christian".
    How is it that Christianity is connected to this evolutionary process?
    I'll put forward my own understanding, by quoting Steiner from (i think) Goethe's theory of knowledge;

    "The world-foundation has poured itself completely into the world. It did not remain outside of the world in order to control it externally; it has not withheld itself from the world, but impels everything internally. Its highest form of appearance in reality of ordinary life is thought - and with it, the human personality. If, therefore, the ground of the world has goals, they are identical with the goals that the human spirit sets for itself in life. We are not acting according to the purposes of the guiding power of the world when we search out one of the commandments of this power; rather, when we act according to our own individual insights, the guiding power of the world manifests in them. This guiding power does not live somewhere outside of humanity as will; rather, it has entirely renounced its own will so that everything depends on human will."
    The biography writer Christoph Lindenberg follows this with;
    "This passage is an invitation to contemplate its meaning more deeply. In the final analysis, it appears to be the expression of a philosophy based in the life of Christ that has left the Old Testamentary world of commandments behind. By emptying itself completely into the world the spiritual essence of the universe has entrusted itself to humanity and placed itself at (humanities) disposal.

  2. " I would very much love your understanding of why it is "indeed the primary aim of a Christian". How is it that Christianity is connected to this evolutionary process? "

    Well, that is very much the theme of this blog - and of the Notions one. One answer would be to say that this link was solidly argued by Steiner, Barfield and William Arkle. Another would be that this is what I intuit for myself.

    It derives from my focus on the 'theosis'/ divinisation aspect of Christianity (rather than salvation, which I regard as a gift from Christ which we simply need to 'accept' - although of course it seems tht many reject it). We are children of God and destined to become brothers and sisters of Christ.

    My basic theology is that of Mormon Christianity (CJCLDS) which is evolutionary in its metaphysics, and sees human life as divided into pre-mortal spirit life, mortal incarnate life and post-mortal ressurected life. Ultimately, we may choose and work to become fully divine - as Steiner/ Barfield also agree; but for Mormons incarnation is higher than spirit life, and God the Father is incarnate (also his spouse, Heavenly Mother).

    Mormonism sees maleness and femaleness as metaphysically true, all the way down and for eternity - and the full Man as by a dyad of man and women in celstial marriage.

    (Whereas for Steiner we return to spirit form after being incarnated multiple times; and sex is arbitrary and temporary - ultimately there is neither male nor female.)

    But it's rather a big topic for a comment. You'd need to read some more of my stuff, I suppose!

  3. Thank you for your answer, and thank you for the link on Mormonism. You certainly have my attention.