[Joseph] claimed to be not only God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, but other important personages as well. … Joseph claimed to have been all over the world … He went on to say that he was governor of Illinois
Were you governor of Illinois, or God?
“God … and I was also the governor of Illinois”
You were both”
“Yes!…I have to make my living you know.”

From  ‘The Three Christs of Ypsilanti’ by Milton Rokeach

There! …
There is no cave, it is gone
But where did it go?
I cannot find me….
Where am I?
… Lost!

From a poem by a schizophrenic patient – ‘Psychiatry Quarterly’-Vol XXX

____________________________

Not surprisingly – Yet More Stuff on Words…(mostly silent)

The last couple of posts focused, in the main, on the subject of the ‘spoken word’ –  a form of ‘organized sound’ that we commonly refer to as ‘language’ (or ‘parole’ if you prefer), plus suggestions by me as to what audio-files from the ‘Eugene Halliday’s Archive’ that you might like to start with. Obviously there’s a lot more in Eugene Halliday’s approach to the subject of language than the ideas contained in these two talks. But as one of the major purposes of this blog is the attempt by me to describe my particular, over-all, approach to Eugene Halliday’s material, I won’t be staying on any one particular topic for too long – at least not at this stage… So I’m now going to move on to the subject of the ‘written word’ – where it pertains to ‘active’ and ‘passive’ forms of language, that is ….

Which brings me rather nicely to subject of ‘the production of précis’ …

The suggestions by Eugene Halliday re the writing of ‘précis’ are contained in his ‘Rules for Ishval Members’ (Rules 2 – 6 inclusive), created by him sometime around 1966…  I have written something about these rules in my early blog posts… Anyway, here are these rules again:-

2. Each member shall, with due regard to ISHVAL’S purpose, and according to his capacity, undertake to convert his passive vocabulary into an active one, firstly by dictionary research into the etymology of his existing vocabulary, subsequently by extending this vocabulary as far as possible.

3. Each member shall, according to his capacity, modify his proced­ures of thought, feeling, will and action, in conformity with the new understanding arising from the conversion of his passive vo­cabulary into ever wider fields of significance.

4. Each member shall periodically offer to his fellow members the fruits of his studies and be prepared on request of the Chief Officers to précis these studies for the general benefit of members, and to lecture upon or discuss his findings and, conclusions.

5. Each member shall contribute, according to his capacity, to the general extension of the Institute’s work in whatever field it may find an application.

6. Each member, according to his capacity, shall study the basic scriptures of world religions, and the major writings of phil­osophers and scientists and artists, and  recognise  the value of making précis of these.

Did Eugene Halliday produce any précis himself? … Well until relatively recently, I had no idea whether or not he had. But then in 2006, quite by chance, I discovered that – over an extended period that must surely have spanned decades – he had produced an astonishing number of them …covering a variety of diverse subjects: science, art, religion, ethics, philosophy… There was even one on ‘The Tarot’…And if you had no real knowledge of the actual source material he had been working with, you could easily mistake these précis of Eugene Halliday’s for original works. … I believe that very few people were even aware of their existence, or – even if they did – what these documents actually were (that is, what was ‘going on’ here)… Indeed, at the present time, I still have no idea really, just how many people have seen these documents for themselves – or if, in fact, anyone else has …  Luckily though, I did manage to get the opportunity to look through a great many of them, and I can tell you that a considerable number were over four hundred pages long… I eventually scanned a dozen or so of them – not only as examples of Eugene Halliday’s ‘Work’ for my own research, but also because I had a gut feeling at the time, that these notebooks would never see the light of day, and would simply ‘disappear’ for lack of direction on the part of those responsible here. Regrettably, some twenty-five years after Eugene Halliday’s death, my understanding here is that these documents have still not been made available – even for limited viewing. … So here are my scanned copies of ten of these notebooks.

My purpose in making these scans available is twofold. First it is to demonstrate that, in my view, the degree to which Eugene Halliday was capable of applying himself to this task was considerable; and two, to clarify, once and for all, that he did not receive information in the areas of (for example) science, religion, art, philosophy etc. via some sort of ‘supernatural osmosis’ or ‘cosmic-information-field-transfer’; or because he was ‘an avatar, or ‘a chosen one’; or that he traveled to some ‘astral place of learning’ in a ‘trance’; or something equally ridiculous …. But rather, that he did it  – like any normal human being would do it – by getting up off his behind and applying himself … And that he cultivated this ability of his to do so, by methodically laboring at it for a significantly greater percentage of his waking life – across a period that must have spanned decades – than most folk are willing to devote to anything, even for a few days… However, although I would be the first to agree that this ability of his was remarkable, the use of this technique is certainly not that unusual – at least to the extent that some folk might claim… What was unusual perhaps, was the depth of insight that this ‘Work’ – which he labored at all his life – subsequently provided him with.

After examining these notebooks of Eugene Halliday’s I would advise you to spend some time in contemplating just how long it might have taken him to produce even one decent sized volume; realize that there were very many of these notebooks produced by him over the years; and then go on to consider that this activity represented only one aspect of his ‘Work’…. And finally, go on to realize that there is nothing supernatural about this ability at all….Incidentally, in my opinion, it would surely be a truly cruel thing to suggest to others that they ‘do as you have done’ if it wasn’t possible for them to do so, in principle at least, … due to the ‘fact’ (say) that you were in receipt of some kind of ‘special’, one-off, ‘celestial dispensation’ here … … Would it? … On the other hand, if you were at something of a disadvantage in life to start with (say you were … I dunno … severely disabled for example) then your advice here would surely shame at least one or two of those people who were forever claiming to be ‘followers of your teachings’ into attempting to do as you suggested… You might like to think about that when you have a spare moment or two … I appreciate though, that for most of the time at least, and for some reason which you can’t get ‘get your teeth into’, you’re ‘doing something else’, or ‘simply ‘just ‘too busy’ at the moment’ … ‘What a life’, hey? …

These précis were hand-written by Eugene Halliday; each notebook page being roughly the size of a unlined postcard, and written on both sides (which he has usually numbered)  …. I would say that he made use of a black biro. However, it is possible that he may have used an ink pen – but I couldn’t be sure. These pages were subsequently bound together by hand, using needle and thread, and over most of them, a cover was then glued. (I have also scanned these covers).

What was the source material of these précis … Well, I would suggest here – if you’re interested that is – that you can do this part of the research for yourself… I will give you two of them though, to get you started. The ‘Zen’ précis is from a Suzuki book; and the ‘Sorcery’ précis is from a series of books by Carlos Castaneda about the Yaqui shaman, Don Juan (notably the second book in this series)… There are also two smaller notebooks here – ‘The Body’ and ‘Modern Physics’ – and about the source material of these, I have no idea. … However, the subject material contained in the latter of these two notebooks is similar in content to other books for the non-scientist – such as Gary Zukav’s ‘The Dancing Wu Li Masters’ (1979), or Frijof Capra’s ‘The Tao of Physics’ (1977) ….

Anyway, here they are…. By the way, some of these files are small, but one or two – such as ‘Islam’ (wouldn’t you just know it!) – are much bigger:

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Zen

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Sorcery

Précis – Eugene Halliday – The Body

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Modern Physics

Précis – Eugene Halliday – The Basics of Judaism

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Soul

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Pseudo-Denys

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Karlfried Von Durkheim

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Hierarchy

Précis – Eugene Halliday – Islam

The amount of work involved in producing each of these notebooks is obviously considerable. But, even so, let me again make it clear here that I do not see this very ‘sensible’ piece of advice from Eugene Halliday – re the the study, and consequent production of a précis, of some particular subject or other – to be anything more than sound common sense. Particularly as it would not be unusual at all for any diligent student to have incorporated this approach to learning into their studying regime… Although, in my opinion, Eugene Halliday brings far more rigor to the task in hand than your average student (at least more than I ever did!)  … And thus, while this technique might be a component – even an essential one – in the task of ‘Working’ – it is by no means, in my view, the most important one….

Of premier importance to me also, was the realization (actually more of a ‘dawning revelation’) that the contents of Eugene Halliday’s précis material were not really of any use to me personally, particularly when it came to my own efforts at ‘Working’ … With the result that I now maintain it is not actually possible, in principle, to appropriate the fruits of anyone else’s ‘Work’ in order to increase the vocabulary of one’s own ‘active language’…. No matter how reasonable, or attractive, or ‘harmless’, that this idea might seem at the time…Although, obviously, your own clarification of a body of particular ideas can be achieved by reading, or hearing, someone else’s approach to the subject, particularly if the subject concerned is an already well-established academic discipline …. Which is really how we all personally decide whether or not that teacher of ours – ‘way back when’ – was ‘any good’ … Don’t we? … At least as far as our own ‘learning curve’ goes.

Indeed, I now view Eugene Halliay’s précis material in the same the way that I view the practice regimes of musicians, or the training schedules of athletes…  And while I would agree that it is encouraging to know that someone else out there has ‘gone the distance’, I don’t believe that studying Eugene Halliday’s own précis material will really do much more than that – at least not for individuals like me…

And where it concerns your own attempts at studying, and the production of précis material then?  ….Well … If you are interested in a particular subject, and if the manner in which you go about studying it is ‘agreeable’ to you. That is, you respond positively to the teaching-style of the teacher; the text-book(s) that you are required to read are written in an approachable way as far as you’re concerned; the technical words that you need to acquire are being presented to you at an assimilatable rate; and if you have been ‘taking’, or making, copious notes throughout the whole of this learning process, then you are going to ‘learn something’… obviously!… But none of this, of itself, automatically constitutes ‘Working’…

And if you give all this any serious thought at all, that should become obvious to you…. Because you will surely have met many people in your life who have engaged in this sort of activity … So you should be able to say how many of them strike you as – in any way – ‘enlightened’ … Or to look at this in another area – there have been a myriad ‘Yoga groups’ dotted around the country now for fifty-plus or so years now, with a collective membership numbering hundreds of thousands (if not millions)  – How many of those members that you have met strike you as enlightened beings, particularly? … Thousands… A few hundred … Scores … Dozens … A handful … One or two … … … None? …

Practicing techniques in order to be able to ‘cope’ with modern life; being a lot calmer; claiming to be ‘in control’ of things; being ‘in touch with your body’; waving your arms and legs about; etc. is all well and good, but it usually has little or nothing to do with ‘Working’ … Think about someone you might know who has studied philosophy, or theology, or medicine, or law, or physics, or a martial art; or who ‘works out’; or swims every day; or who has embarked upon some life-long specialized feeding regime. Do these people strike you – as a consequence of engaging in these activities to whatever degree – as knowing a great deal more about what is ‘going on here in this life’ than you do? That is, simply as a consequence of engaging in these activities? ..Because if you do, then you will have no problem in agreeing here that, “Those people over there clearly know what it’s all about, because they study arithmetic, the alphabet, ancient history; practice amateur boxing; never bathe; … and only eat beans.” … If, on the other hand, you would like to protest that this suggestion of mine here is, “Ridiculous!” , then what component(s) of other peoples activities is it exactly that you would label “The way to enlightenment’, and, as a consequence, earnestly seek to emulate? …. Do tell! ….

In my case, I soon realized that producing précis material (making copious notes about various subjects) wasn’t really doing that much for me. In fact I was becoming somewhat ‘bloated’ with all this studying .. And I started to believe strongly that I needed to step back a little from this whole ‘précis idea’, and attempt to view this activity as just a component of what it was that Eugene Halliday might be ‘doing’, or at least, had ‘done’ … And so I gave up on the idea that we all had to attempt to become ‘The Brain of Britain’ here, or someone like that …

I spent a long time pondering over this whole business… And this eventually produced more insights into my realization that the task I appeared to be compelled to engage in (like it or not) – including the problem of conceptualizing, in a clearer fashion, those questions of mine that I wanted answering, such that  I would be able to ‘beaver away at all this a bit better’ – appeared to be a completely different task from the one that (almost) everyone else I spoke to here appeared (to me at least) to be attempting to engage in … Admittedly, the initial experience that I had of all this – like everyone else who appeared to have enthusiastically ‘taken it up’ way back when – was that it all seemed to be very straightforward; reasonably clear enough to comprehend… and also extremely attractive (Oh dear!) …  But I quickly found, in my case anyway, that the whole thing soon became extremely illusive, slippery, and very ‘deep’ … And also incredibly irritating … at least for a great deal of the time! …

Luckily though, I eventually came to realize that the most important insight I needed to cultivate when attempting to acquire an ‘active’ language was not to simply begin studying ‘willy-nilly’ – making précis as I ‘went along’ as it were – but to, first of all, reach a position where I believed it was a lot clearer for me to see what this ‘active’ language, that I was attempting to acquire, might be…. This viewpoint had to also include an understanding of how this ‘active language’ might differ from the language that ‘knowledgable folk’ use to disseminate information to others… Because I didn’t believe now that Eugene Halliday was simply advising members (in these rules of his) to ‘know what they’re talking about before they open their mouths,’. Because I saw that many people could do this – particularly if they confined their utterances to their own particular ‘area of expertise’ … I say ‘luckily’ here, but it still took me a very long time to make any measurable progress …. and I’m still working at it ….

So – if I were to say here that the most important thing I came to view as crucial to the acquisition of an ‘active language’ was not necessarily an understanding of those texts that I was being advised to study – an understanding that was perhaps brought about with the assistance of my ‘précis production here (but, then again, maybe not) – but of far more importance here was my relationship to these texts. Because it is this relationship that constitutes any meaning that they might have for me….

This is why we don’t believe we are witnessing the ‘Second Coming’, when we see a seven-year-old lad from Tennessee on the TV, who can recite the Bible from start to finish, and then pull out any quotation asked for – on request – for an encore…. Because (I would suggest to you) he doesn’t seem to have the ‘correct relationship’ to these texts …

I will also add here, if you like, that I broadly support the idea that there is no privileged reading of any text, only the reader’s interpretation of it – and that we reap whatever benefits are due to us, purely from our attempts at ‘Working’ with it – that is, to embody it – by the process of engaging with it – in order to do just this ‘relating’ to it.

In my view then, this ‘précis technique’ of Eugene Halliday’s – where it concerns attempts to acquire an ‘active language’ – forms only a part of the system that he put in place in order to develop his own, increasing, self-reflexion. And so then, I am saying here, in effect, that I don’t believe Eugene Halliday was a ‘fully self-reflexive being’, but that he was continually attempting to ‘work on it’… The major difference I see between him and most others then? … He had ‘worked’ and they hadn’t … ‘Iz all’ …..

I believe that the essence of an ‘active language’ comes solely from its ‘experiential nature’ –  and it is only this experiential aspect which endows any being’s ‘active language’ with its unique, and particular, perspective on any particular subject… The realization of mine as to what the root of what ‘meaning’ was actually all about was crucially important to me …because I saw that it was the root of why it is that, underneath it all – and to quote my maternal grand-mother – “We’re all the same .. only different.”

‘Meaning’, from my perspective then, only emerges as a result of this ‘Working’ and, as a consequence therefore, a person’s ‘active language’ actually is them … it constitutes them … And it is not just some random body of information that they have taken a fancy to lugging around, unpacking it for display at opportune moments to hapless bystanders: a segment of their ‘personality’ or persona – as a component of ‘who it is that they like to think they are; and that they want to convince others that they are’ – then… Think here of your ‘fashionable atheist’… “liberal Westerner’ … ‘new-ager’ ‘…’yoga teacher’ … etc. etc.

So you won’t be all that surprised if I tell you that I eventually ended up deviating (considerably) from  Eugene Halliday’s  suggested, straightforward, methodology – the one that’s contained in those ‘Rules for Ishval Members’ that is …And began delving a little deeper into what it was that he actually wrote about, and spoke about….

This being the case, I will now attempt to explain the system that I ended up adopting – in part at least – and also my reasons for doing so … If I can, that is.

The first thing I would advise you to consider here, is whether or not the basic subject material that you have decided to currently ‘work’ on is already familiar to you at all. Because if it is, then your reactions to it will almost certainly be different to those reactions that you experience when you attempt to ‘Work’ with a subject that is new to you … My advice here? … Begin with a subject that you already know something about.

Why? … Well, my reason for suggesting this approach to ‘Working’, is that you will almost certainly find it relatively easy to immediately engage with this subject-matter personally, because you will already possess pre-formed opinions about it. And, consequently, you will feel an urge to express these, particularly if you disagree at some point with the ideas contained in the subject you have presently  decided to study … Crucially here for me, I maintain that these opinions you hold about this subject already constitute a part (or component if you prefer) of your being – because these opinions of yours possess ‘form’  (see previous posts of mine here for my meaning of this word)… But the chances are, that, for the moment, these ‘forms’ of yours will not contain much ‘active language’, and will probably, instead, be constructed from a clobbered-together bunch of prejudices; half-baked ideas; fashionable ideologies; sentimental junk; and topped-off with a sprinkling of dimly understood relevant technical terms….

Fortunately for you – at least as far as my way of looking at all this is concerned – this situation is exactly the one that you want… Simply because these opinions of yours carry an emotional charge… And it is these emotional charges of yours that we are really interested in here .. and that we really have to examine, evaluate, describe, and understand…

And look … If the subject being ‘Worked’ on already interests you, such that you might already know something (or even a great deal) about it. Can we take it ‘as read’, that by the end of this process you will know more – at least intellectually – about it, simply as a matter of course…. You can call this acquisition of any new ‘knowledge’ here ‘a bonus’ – if it makes you feel any better… ….To put this in another way – your muscles will be ‘toned up’ by the act of chopping up a large tree for firewood, although your intention was probably simply to ensure that you could keep warm… So then here, you could be said to have received a ‘bonus’ by virtue of the fact that you are, as a consequence of this activity, now ‘fitter’. And that this result was not something that was initially factored-in by you…(Yet another cheesy metaphor by me there… What a writer!) …

So … the idea here is to deliberately ‘bring up those emotional charges that are associated with your opinions’. Give them ‘free reign’, have ‘a bit of a rant’ if you like, use ‘active imagination’ if this will do the trick here – rather than focusing on attempting to ‘understand’ the particular subject’s intellectual content. But – and this is most important – you must keep a record of these responses of yours, describing your emotional responses…(I eventually used an audio-recorder for this, because I found I couldn’t understand ‘my own’ handwriting, when I came to interpret my own written attempts   … Creepy, hey?)

To start then, you might (sometime after you come ‘come down off the ceiling’ and have ‘settled down’ that is) like to attempt to consider a paragraph or so of the original text that you are working on, together with your recording of your reaction/response to it, and try to figure out why you were behaving in the way that you were …Because, although you can claim that the ideas contained in the subject under study, and also even (perhaps) those ideas you already hold here, did not actually originate with you; you cannot claim the same where it concerns your emotional responses –  these belong entirely to ‘you’… Unless that is, of course, you can construct a taxonomy here that satisfactorily explains why these emotional irruptions you experience are not, in fact, ‘yours’….

So – and more disturbingly now perhaps – however you chose to view these emotional responses then, they must surely still ‘inhabit the same building’ that you do. That is, they reside in your body (or being, or whatever term you prefer to use here – I use ‘psyche’, which for me includes the physical body). And that perhaps you might come to see that they influence – far more than you have been aware of up until now – your patterns of behavior…. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I should also warn you that these ‘psychic states’ you will experience here are also extremely contagious – so much so, that even your dog, or your cat, can be affected by them … (I’m not so sure about ‘Amanda the goldfish’ though…).

In my opinion, Eugene Halliday was referring to these patterns when he was using the late nineteenth century term, ‘engrams’, I prefer to use the later term, ‘complexes’.

The preamble to ‘Working’ proper, is, in my opinion, to labor at an understanding of those engrams/complexes that were constellated in your childhood – and this applies to those people whose childhoods were ‘a walk in the park’, just as surely as it applies to those people whose childhoods were the ‘stuff of nightmares’. These patterns are relatively easy to appreciate (which is why regression therapy is so popular) – but understand here that perceiving these early emgram/complexes does not, in itself, constitute ‘work’, although it does constitute, in part, the beginnings of some sort of ‘self-knowledge’. Which, while it is an essential component to all this, is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the main concern here. It might help if you see this  aspect of ‘self-knowledge’ as (here comes another cheesy metaphor) ‘cleaning out the cellar’ and ‘renovating the attic’…. Many people are quite content to finish here and, in fact, consider it to be ‘quite an achievement’. … But you don’t have to experience this particular feeling of self-knowledge very long to realize that – where it concerns you future behavior – it hasn’t necessarily improved things at all! … Indeed, with the removal of  this childhood pattern, which normally might have functioned for you as a crutch, or self-excuse, many go on here and blunder about even worse, becoming even more screwed up. …

But I never said that all this was going to be easy… I said it was ‘simple’ … But I also reminded you that ‘Simple does not mean easy’.

So anyway, if you’re still with me here …. Keep on repeating this process until such time as you can begin to see the pattern(s) that your responses make – as much as you are able to, that is… You will find that these patterns exhibit a definite ‘personality’ … a ‘structure’ … That they are in fact ‘beings’ …Just like you! …Your very own ‘little family’ in fact! …. And you will, finally, begin to recognize them….You might even decide to give them names, such as ‘Naughty Adrien’ ….or ‘Beohetmethemoth’ ….and imagine them looking like, say, a half-man/half-sardine …. or something.

 … The idea here then in studying texts, is that one should really attempt to ‘engage’ with them; to react to them … And I’m not just talking here about getting a ‘bad vibe’ either. You could be so entranced with the person supplying the material here (the one you find yourself  listening to, or reading) that you could be in an almost permanent state of ecstasy  – brought about, say, by both your delight in your ‘understanding of the material’, and in the ‘clarity’ of the ideas being expressed…. While, at the same time, being possessed of an irresistible urge to … How shall I put it? …’Acquiesce’….(Take that any way you like)

And this particular process – this separating out of the ‘cognitive’ from the ‘feeling’ (or ‘male’ from the ‘female’ – if you prefer a more esoteric, trendy, terminology) is – in my experience at least – extremely tricky and slippery, difficult, and sometimes even down-right dangerous thing to attempt to do …. Moreover, the degree of difficulty that is experienced emotionally – as frustration, anger, despair, pleasure, surrender, etc. – I also find to be very exhausting … And, in fact, I would even go so far as to say that, “If you don’t find this activity exhausting, then you must be doing it wrong!”…

My experience here was that the ‘happy, happy, joy, joy’ reactions were, far and away, the most dangerous for me ‘psychically’ ..Because I didn’t realize for a long time that this reaction simply prevented me from going any deeper – and so I didn’t experience this ‘positivity’ as a problem here for some considerable time …

To put all this another way, and perhaps to try and finally nail it for you… The ‘quality’ (good or bad; positive or negative: or however you want to refer to it) of your reaction is irrelevant to this exercise . The only things you are attempting to focus on here, and that is of any real importance to you, are both the states that you are experiencing here, and your subsequent attempts at evaluating them….

I find this exercise very hard to ‘pull-off’ myself – because everything that is not productive of lots of praise and encouraging taps on the head immediately; or that I can’t manage to do excellently, and without effort – exhausting … But you might also like to know details about one of my own special, secret, techniques for dealing with the affects of these serious, negative psychic attacks… And that is, to engage in -what I like to refer to as – ‘ritualistic-rest-period activities’…. Among the fetish objects essential to me here in this actively are, packets of digestive biscuits, and also copious amounts of tea … and it helps things along immensely here if one trains oneself to repeat (almost – but not quite) silently, the mantra ‘Zzzzzz’  (but only on the ‘out-breath’) for at least half an hour or so  – or at least until one is dragged back into the ‘World of Maya’ by the vengeful, malicious, voice of that ‘keeper of your conscience’, who appears to be insisting that, “You know it’s your turn to wash the dishes tonight, so why haven’t you done them yet?”; or by the salacious, dulcet, tones of some succubus (or incubus if they all happen to be too busy), tempting you unmercifully with the offer of (yet) another cup of tea…..More advanced techniques of mine here include having a game of Tetrus ‘running in the background’ on my computer at all times – but this assumes that you are now an advanced student here, and are familiar with a variety of dimly understood hermeneutic texts, such as, ‘Manual For Windows – Version 99 (or whatever)’, and also rigorously trained in the cautious use of sources of cosmic energy, such as ‘the mains socket’ – So it’s not for the faint-hearted, or for those of you who are in receipt of any form of free public transport… (As I say, “There are metaphors …. and then there are my metaphors.”)… …

Meanwhile …

Our initial starting point then, was to consider words from an intellectual perspective – their definitions and their histories (etymologies). And I hope I’ve made it reasonably clear to you that not only is this what every reasonable person might ordinarily do when they come across a word that don’t ‘understand’ and that has ‘tweaked their interest’; but also that this information will tell you little or nothing about the ‘meaning’ of a particular word …’Meaning’ is instead, metaphorically, situated ‘in the critical space’ between you, and what it is that the word represents… ‘Meaning’ then is your unique, particular, ‘relationship’ to a word… And its major feature – or the one that we now need to focus on here if you prefer – is it’s ‘feeling tone’…. Understand now though, that even after doing this, we have by no means finished examining what an ‘active language’ might be..

… Anyway,enough of all that. Here’s that piece of Eugene Halliday’s writing on the subject of words – first presented as nine short essays in the 1970’s, under the collective title of ‘Words of Power’     Words of Power

Here’s Ken Ratcliffe’s audio recording of the same material  Words Of Power (1 of 4)  Words Of Power (2 of 4)  Words Of Power (3 of 4)  Words Of Power (4 of 4) if you would also like to experience the added pleasure of listening to it while you’re skateboarding to work, or whatever else it is that you get up to when you’re wearing your ear-phones.

It starts with Eugene’s ideas on words themselves, and he goes on to write about their relationship to ‘power’ (‘they produce responses’ etc.) … There’s a very interesting bit (for me) on non-lingusitic forms of ‘texts’ .. Words are considered positively and negatively as to their affect… There is an examination of many words from this perspective of his; such as the meaning of ‘inertia’, ‘love’, etc … There is a piece on ‘words of powerlessness’ …. All this material is – refreshingly for me – presented from a Western philosophical, ideological, and ‘spiritual’ perspective… And there’s no ‘phonetics’ involved … (‘Oh, deep joy!’)…

This approach to ‘words’ that Eugene uses here is a lot more concise and useful for me then; and I found it far more practical as a tool in getting to understand more about what this ‘active language’ might be – particularly from the point of view of praxis – than any of his recorded material… And so, as a consequence, I tend to interpret much of his audio material from the viewpoint he expresses here in these nine essays … And if he moves too far away from this perspective in his talks, then I interpret this as him coming to the ‘edge’ of , or ‘demonstrating where’, the ‘limit of the application of  those terms’, that he happens to be speaking about at that particular moment, lie …

So, in his talks then, I experience Eugene Halliday as exploring his own linguistic ‘unedited space’ and revealing what it is that happens to him (to those like me, that is, who experience what it is that he is ‘doing’ like this) when he has reached the parameters of any particular concept… That is, the practical way in which he moves on to another concept (‘change the form of a word, change its function; change the words, change the concept’) in order to move forward… Any movement (forward) that Eugene Halliday achieves here, I believe, constitutes a successful attempt by him to objectify (to himself ) – within the confines of an ‘active’ language – that all there is, is ‘Sentient Power’. ….

I do realize that I could be accused here of attempting to tell everyone what this ‘Work’ of Eugene Halliday’s – that I experience him as striving to accomplish – was actually about for him. … But that’s my problem isn’t it? … It works for me, and really that’s the only reason why I’m doing all this … And, just so you don’t waste your own precious time here, and if you hadn’t caught on already – I am definitely not seeking endorsements from others in this matter…

Remember though – that I fully appreciate your experiences might be completely different from mine here, and if that is so, then I would be very interested to hear from you about your own experiences – those that you actually had, when you took these ideas on board, and attempted to put them into affect. What we might call your ‘consequential ideas’ perhaps…You can post them on the blog forum here; or contact me privately at archivequery@gmail.com if you’d rather.

I’m going to leave the study of texts re ‘Words’ here now, for the time being at least, because I believe that you will only understand what I’ve been on about here if you ‘Work’ with this material yourself. And that this will – in my experience – take you some time……

Oh Yeah.. You might like to know if I have any special reason for  my continual use, throughout these posts, of this word ‘Work’ or ‘Working’?… Well, yes there is, because – as I like to put it – it reminds me that, “It is only when you cease ‘Working’ that you can be said to have failed.” And looking at it this way ‘keeps me at it’….That being said though, it should also be clearly understood here that I also have no doubt I am still, of course, going to die – anyway.   … (I didn’t want you to think I had some ‘magic reason’ for doing all this; one that might have got your ‘hopes up’ unnecessarily, that is)….

Finally …  ‘And  now for something completely different’ …

I hope that it’s reasonably obvious by now (but I will point it out here anyway) that I did not engage with any of these ideas of Eugene Halliday’s ‘in isolation’ as it were….But that I was also, simultaneously, examining other concepts of his (and those of many others, I should add)… Including, what Eugene Halliday refers to as – ‘Sentient Power’. A concept that I see as the starting point of his approach to the eventual possible meaning of a more familar contemporary term – ‘consciousness’…. But, to say something about this interaction of mine in the next post here, I will have to start with both my perception of his approach to, and also (you’ve guessed already, haven’t you?) my subsequent problems with – Eugene Halliday’s repeated use of the ‘F’ word … … … … … ‘Feeling’.

To be continued………….

Bob Hardy

January 2013

  7 Responses to “11. Words – Part 4 (…Not so much your ‘précis’ … More your ‘aperçu’ …)”

  1. Bob,

    Good bit of ‘work’. Would be interesting to get comments from you on what elements of how Eugene operated that worked well for you, and what didn’t. So if you were to step back and say I liked the way he did that, or that didn’t do anything for me. By doing that you are conveying some value to the ‘work’ that he did in the context of its approach or his method by providing learning/selling. A case in point is where you say ‘I found I couldn’t understand ‘my own’ handwriting, when I came to interpret my own written attempts … Creepy, hey?)’ the same may have applied to Eugene, I know it happens to me all the time with my ‘work’. A method and structure is of value if you stick to it and it works, if not then it needs to change or you will outsmart yourself. So pointing out his ‘mistakes’ and failing in his approach is as much value as anything else not just the content, even if just a set of likes and dislikes, do’s and don’ts.

    So for ‘work’, plan it as such, what are the objectives, tools you will use, disciplines to follow. Clearly a lesson from Eugene would be if nothing else, don’t write undated notes on bits of postcard and stitch them together, that one has been done a few thousand years back. These days you need to be a bit more self disciplined, structured, objective and aware of yourself. Easier said than done.

    I think this section could be split into two for ease of reading, but the content is excellent. Thanks

    • Hi Nick

      Good bit of ‘work’. Would be interesting to get comments from you on what elements of how Eugene operated that worked well for you, and what didn’t. So if you were to step back and say I liked the way he did that, or that didn’t do anything for me. By doing that you are conveying some value to the ‘work’ that he did in the context of its approach or his method by providing learning/selling.

      Well, I do intend posting more about this later if I can, but I’ll briefly mention one or two aspects here … since you asked..
      Perhaps the most important initial ‘point of entry’ where it concerned the ‘use value’ to me of Eugene Halliday’s concepts, was my immediate attraction to his definition of a ‘System’ which I came across very early on here… That is – ‘A system is a ‘savior for a time’’….
      My appreciation of this concept of his, was that the purpose of any system then, was only … ‘just that’ …That is, it is constructed to serve a particular purpose and nothing more. And further – that interacting with it and understanding its construction had nothing (necessarily) essentially to do with what it is that you are attempting to accomplish. There is no such thing then as a panacea here – no ‘Absolute Philosopher’s Stone’ … And no such thing as an exact methodology (system) either then, only relative, and (hopefully) appropriate ones… So you also have to do your own customizing here then – by intimately engaging with it – no matter what system you decide to use.
      To give you a practical example. It clearly does not matter what color a screwdriver is… Although you might (in the system you find yourself using here) admit that – with regard to the particular job you have both taken on; and the manner in which you have decided that it needs to be done – a screwdriver itself, is definitely an essential piece of kit here… For the ‘obvious’ reason, say, that you need to use it to affix a screw…..
      To make this a little more complicated, I, on the other hand, might decide to use a hammer and a nail here (I mightn’t even know what a screw is), or I might tie the parts together with string; or I might use glue. …
      This way of looking at systems for me, also immediately explained the fetishism that a certain class of folk suffer from, and that manifests itself in an uncontrollable desire to do things the ‘the right thing’, ‘the correct way’’ etc. etc…. This approach seems to bring a real earnestness to the accomplishment of any task, but looked at from EH’s definition of a ‘system’ it is far more likely to be masking fear and consequent shame, and far more tragically, denial…. In that you seem to look to everyone else as if you really intend to ‘get started on the job’ here, but that in fact this is the last thing you want to happen – So you construct a system that justifies your dithering here.. It ‘saves you for the time being’ … Which is how I came to see that this is what it was that most people were doing here …So I see that Systems (no matter what they are) are also not necessarily a ‘good thing’. … And I came to the conclusion that this was a necessary property of any ‘System’ because, dialectically, it must exhibit positive and negative aspects in order to allow me to exercise any decision making here – there was an important element of choice – in whether I engage with it or not
      The second part of this, and it’s far, far, far, more important now as far as I’m concerned, is that once the task is accomplished, the system can now be abandoned, or dismantled if you prefer (everything put back in the box) because it has served its purpose….and so the life has gone out of it …. ‘Hanging on’ to a system like this – by the way – is what I refer to as ‘idolatry’..
      There’s loads more to this, but the above might give you some idea as to ‘where I’m at’ here, at least

      A case in point is where you say ‘I found I couldn’t understand ‘my own’ handwriting, when I came to interpret my own written attempts … Creepy, hey?)’ the same may have applied to Eugene, I know it happens to me all the time with my ‘work’. A method and structure is of value if you stick to it and it works, if not then it needs to change or you will outsmart yourself. So pointing out his ‘mistakes’ and failing in his approach is as much value as anything else not just the content, even if just a set of likes and dislikes, do’s and don’ts.

      I broadly agree with you here Nick. Because you appear to situate this opinion of yours in your own experience … and I would say that this is the only legitimate criteria….
      Where it concerns our relationship to some others, who we have decided are ‘working – which would be my view of Eugene Halliday, say – I have to immediately add that I, in fact, have no way of knowing really whether these talks and essays of his were aspects of his own system in it’s positive phase (when he was actively employing them himself), or if I am merely musing over the fragments of it that had become available to me from his dismantling and packing away of it, in order to free himself up to move further along on this journey of his… I suggest that one way for others to figure something of this out here would be to attempt to experientially embody their own particular understanding of this system of his that they have come to believe he employed – for themselves…. And if it doesn’t work … then ditch it… A difficult thing to do I know, particularly if you’ve tied up a great deal of your free energy in order to pay the subs required in order to become a fully paid up member of the Eugene Halliday Fan Club….

      So for ‘work’, plan it as such, what are the objectives, tools you will use, disciplines to follow.

      I have been known to bash a screw into place with a claw-hammer… I use whatever I can … whatever is ‘to hand’ … and hope that I will have safely moved forward, before it collapses … hopefully …behind me …

      Clearly a lesson from Eugene would be if nothing else, don’t write undated notes on bits of postcard and stitch them together, that one has been done a few thousand years back.

      I think with any system that the only criterion is, “Did it work for you.” … Whether his system did or did not actually work for him is not something I feel competent to pronounce on… It’s difficult enough to illuminate the affect of it on me as it is … I tend to stay away as much as I am able from these sorts of judgments (but I will admit that I do find that difficult) … So it doesn’t matter whether he was a ‘wizard with his screwdriver’ or not to me…At the end of the day the only question of any importance for me is, “Does it work for me?” …

      These days you need to be a bit more self disciplined, structured, objective and aware of yourself. Easier said than done.

      That’s me ‘out of the frame’ then ☺

      I think this section could be split into two for ease of reading, but the content is excellent.

      Thanks….You might try increasing the beer to paragraph ratio here …. But remember, ‘One Carlsburg Special’ equals two and a half ‘Heineken’, equals one small Barleywine’… The place where you fall asleep should now be exactly where you need to stop for the time being… Real magic … I know

      Bob

  2. There! …
    There is no cave, it is gone
    But where did it go?
    I cannot find me….
    Where am I?
    … Lost!
    From a poem by a schizophrenic patient – ‘Psychiatry Quarterly’-Vol XXX

    Are you refering to the common cave vision that they seem to have ie they all see the same cave but with different things on the walls, but always on their own in a cave ?

  3. Hi Nck
    Yes, that’s how, in the main, I interpret this piece.
    I have elaborated a little on my take below though, in case you might find it useful…
    I would start by saying that – as far as the present stage of this blog account of my interaction with Eugene Halliday’s ideas is concerned, that is – I appreciate that it’s not at all obvious why I might connect this piece with his material …
    First things first then: Possessing an ‘active language’ has little to do with possessing ‘truth’ necessarily, in fact I view ‘active language’ as primarily a tool for achieving satiation. In this instance then, this would be where the appetite for expression by this person is satisfied by their production of this piece… The point where they go, “That’s it! … I’ve said that ‘just right! … I’ve really nailed it!”
    And I see the piece quoted here as the use – by this patient – of their own particular ‘active language’ in this sense, …
    The degree of ‘relative truth’ contained in it? …. Well, I’ll leave that evaluation up to the individual reader. ….
    To continue then ….
    Plato’s cave is, for me, the quintessential dualist position… That is, inside the ‘theater’ (that’s the wall in the ‘cave’ here) in my ‘head’, or ‘mind’, there is a spectator (me) viewing all the action – even if this ‘viewing’ is perceived by ‘me’ only dimly, or by reflection (as in Plato’s analogy)…
    This position – as I see it anyway – does not square up with, “All that there is, is ‘Sentient Power.’’ Which is a statement that I maintain constitutes both Eugene Halliday’s ‘Governing Concept’, and also his sole purpose in ‘Working’…
    This piece is written by a schizophrenic patient, and I consider it to be more honestly expressed than if it were produced by a sane person …And I do appreciate that this could be viewed as just personal bias on my part.
    My interpretation of it, is that treating consciousness as if it was a ‘field in which things appear’ (this field would be the ‘cave’ here), does not appear to be the position of this patient/writer … Because, on my reading of this piece – as soon as the cave ‘goes’, he ‘goes’! ….‘Cave’ and ‘me’ then are aspects of the same thing.
    Thus, I can interpret this – from the viewpoint that ‘All there is, is “sentient power’ that is – to mean that this ‘cave’ and this ‘me’ here are ‘not two’ (another phrase that Eugene Halliday was very fond of using), but are merely different aspects of this, one, ‘sentient power’.
    That’s a brief, sketchy, outline I know, but it might help clarify my perspective on it for you at the moment. … And I do intend to go into all this more deeply in the future.
    By the way, in case you were wondering why I stuck that first quote in… It’s about ‘Working’ …(“My father worketh hitherto, and I work”) …
    Bob

  4. Thanks, Bob for sharing your thoughts,

    I enjoyed reading about your experiences. I was never a member of ISHVAL (I’m too young) but I heard about it from my parents. I’ve listened to a few of the tapes now and consider Eugene to have been an intelligent man.

    I heard that the ‘sessions’ (for want of a better word) in Liverpool and Manchester were not “lectures” and Eugene was not a “teacher”. This is why the “house rules” were a bit of a surprise to me, as such rules would undoubtedly set expectations more effectively than any student-teacher relationship could have. Those of us like myself who were never members of ISHVAL or knew EH personally may be in a better position to appreciate the subject matter of tapes, the art, the texts but from outside the shackles of any imposed rules or expectations – however harmless these may have seemed at the time.

    Why am I saying this? Well, reading from your blog I see that you have struggled in some way with the Eugene Halliday ‘legacy’ to some extent. Reading comments from other past members, and having heard comments from my own parents, I see that you have not been alone in the ‘struggle’.

    Eugene Halliday once said in one of his tapes (sorry but I can’t remember which one now) that “the word” was the most important thing. This is also strongly reflected in the first ‘house rule’:

    “…convert his passive vocabulary into an active one, firstly by dictionary research into the etymology of his existing vocabulary, subsequently by extending this vocabulary as far as possible.”

    I’m not a wordy person – it’s not really one of my strengths. If I had been old enough to become an ISHVAL member, I would have been quite a passive one! While trying to abide by such high expectations as written in the rules and all the while listening to such a prime example of exactly such behaviour in EH, I guess this would make most members feel in awe or possibly a bit inferior – but maybe I’m wrong on that point.

    I don’t consider that ISHVAL’s heavy emphasis on words is a bad thing in itself, but the “underlying” themes of the talks, e.g., “reflexive self consciousness”, or “infinite sentient power” don’t appear anywhere in the rules.

    I don’t just want to dish out negative criticism of EH here as I think his views were very interesting. I especially like the holistic approach of his analyses. Flying high at the 11000 meter level one gets quite a good view of the world. A concern I have about ISVHAL and the EH legacy is the fact that the house rules were quite clear, putting high expectations on members, but there was no clear objective or “mission statement”.

    So, reading your text I was happy to see you deviated from this rule by delving deeper into the subject matter for yourself. Good for you 🙂

    Best Regards,
    Alex

    • Thanks, Bob for sharing your thoughts,

      You’re very welcome Alex – it’s good to know that there are people out there who are getting something out of my efforts here!

      I enjoyed reading about your experiences.

      Many thanks again… I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I particularly enjoy the experience of writing about them though!… I can think of much more enjoyable ways to spend my time – even at 70!

      I was never a member of ISHVAL (I’m too young) but I heard about it from my parents. I’ve listened to a few of the tapes now and consider Eugene to have been an intelligent man.

      For what it’s worth, I’d say you didn’t miss that much. The fact that you have access to recordings of his talks and can read his many writings from this period is far more important to what it was that he was really about, in my view. ‘Parklands’ was very ‘over the top’ for me, and if I was to qualify this by speaking of what went on there as a ‘performance’, I would say that it was distinctly ‘Hammy’… I always felt vaguely embarrassed and uncomfortable about the ‘goings on’ of the audience to tell you the truth … Happily for me though, I was only interested in the man himself, and I would add here that he seemed, to me at least, to be able to manage the whole thing effortlessly..
      I would have loved to have attended his early talks in Manchester myself – the ones he gave from his own home, and which went on apparently, well into the 1950’s – possibly even later – I don’t know…. From the accounts I have on record, from my interviews with a number of those who were present at them during that time, they must have been truly amazing.

      I heard that the ‘sessions’ (for want of a better word) in Liverpool and Manchester were not “lectures” and Eugene was not a “teacher”.

      Many, who claimed to have known him personally during that time, that I have spoken with, have told me also that this was the case. And speaking from my own experiences here of listening to him speak (and also from being a qualified professional teacher for ten-or-so years) I would certainly agree that he was not a ‘teacher’ – not in the accepted sense of that term at least.

      This is why the “house rules” were a bit of a surprise to me, as such rules would undoubtedly set expectations more effectively than any student-teacher relationship could have.

      Well, if you just put these rules ‘out there’, and don’t insist that members comply with them, you then have an extremely efficient way of monitoring just who is, and who is not, really serious here don’t you?
      To monitor any individual members process here, all that Eugene Halliday had to do was engage them in casual conversation, and ask them now and again, “What do you mean there, exactly?”…
      I see the creation of these rules as a brilliant maneuver on his part… Just the correct amount of cunning in the formulation and presentation of them; together with the required degree of freedom of choice here, for those who fancy that they wish to become involved – to become members that is; and finally, a wonderful example of a genuine initiation process, the completion of which cannot be purchased by the supplicant other than by the application of their own free will…. Rendering all the sycophantic posturing that went on at the place – in order to procure some sort of hierarchical position in ‘Ishval’ – farcical.

      Those of us like myself who were never members of ISHVAL or knew EH personally may be in a better position to appreciate the subject matter of tapes, the art, the texts but from outside the shackles of any imposed rules or expectations – however harmless these may have seemed at the time.

      That’s very possible also, in my view …But I would add here that, in my opinion, the overwhelming number of people who considered themselves to be members, actually were not – at least as far as complying with those rules were concerned. ….
      And I don’t see the rules re ‘language’ here as shackles myself, but as a very simple and approachable way of enabling those who were – what shall we say – dazzled by Eugene’s talks, to move away from simply being superbly entertained – as members of a somewhat exclusive audience – to actually doing something for their own development as human beings..

      Why am I saying this? Well, reading from your blog I see that you have struggled in some way with the Eugene Halliday ‘legacy’ to some extent. Reading comments from other past members, and having heard comments from my own parents, I see that you have not been alone in the ‘struggle’.

      An interesting point … … I have never have any serious problems appreciating his ideas intellectually myself, particularly where it concerns his essay writing. Although any initial understanding here obviously required varying degrees of concentration and engagement … But maybe it’s more the case that what I’ve struggled with particularly, are the perceived implications of this material for me – where it concerns the actual embodiment of these ideas in praxis, that is…?

      Eugene Halliday once said in one of his tapes (sorry but I can’t remember which one now) that “the word” was the most important thing. This is also strongly reflected in the first ‘house rule’:
      “…convert his passive vocabulary into an active one, firstly by dictionary research into the etymology of his existing vocabulary, subsequently by extending this vocabulary as far as possible.”
      I’m not a wordy person – it’s not really one of my strengths. If I had been old enough to become an ISHVAL member, I would have been quite a passive one! While trying to abide by such high expectations as written in the rules and all the while listening to such a prime example of exactly such behaviour in EH,

      I only work on those words that are important for me… So I don’t have a problem here. These rules, as far as my application of them goes then, function more as sound, good, advice rather than as some kind of a ‘hurdle’ that it is necessary for me to jump over, in order to become a ‘member’ of some ‘Institute’.

      I guess this would make most members feel in awe or possibly a bit inferior – but maybe I’m wrong on that point.

      I would say that it all depends on how important you believe ‘talking’ to be – in your evaluation of a person, that is.

      I don’t consider that ISHVAL’s heavy emphasis on words is a bad thing in itself, but the “underlying” themes of the talks, e.g., “reflexive self consciousness”, or “infinite sentient power” don’t appear anywhere in the rules.

      I don’t see how these particular example of his ‘themes’ could be myself …
      “Members must strive to become Reflexively Self-conscious at all times, and understand that all that there is, is Sentient Power” …
      I dunno …
      How would you go about incorporating these concepts in the formulation of these ‘rules’. (Remember here also, that you have decided to incorporate your ideas into becoming the modus operandi of a registered public charity – and thus you are now accountable to the general public at large.) …And how would you monitor the progress of members?….
      “Well Eugene, I would say that, for a few hours a day at least, I am now reflexively self-conscious; and I can also now clearly see that my dog is an aspect of this ‘sentient power’ that you talk of. But I’m having trouble seeing that is also the case with this empty Shredded Wheat box…Could you elaborate here please?”
      I’d be interested to know how you might go about incorporating these concepts of Eugene’s into those ‘rules of Ishval’ myself… … ?

      I don’t just want to dish out negative criticism of EH here as I think his views were very interesting. I especially like the holistic approach of his analyses.

      I don’t think you are being negative Alex …
      And it’s funny but I experience his approach as extremely reductive much of the time!

      Flying high at the 11000 meter level one gets quite a good view of the world. A concern I have about ISVHAL and the EH legacy is the fact that the house rules were quite clear, putting high expectations on members, but there was no clear objective or “mission statement”.

      Where it concerns those rules…. I don’t see agreeing to study those subjects that Eugene repeatedly spoke about as an imposition on people who appeared to be falling over themselves to enter into some sort of relationship with the man… But then you might be surprised to know that I don’t happen to believe it was ever Eugene Halliday’s intention/ambition to ‘form a charity’… These projects (the formation of at least three public charities that I know of that he was involved in) were the expressed goals of others here, in my view … And he ‘went along’ with their ambitions here, because … well… “It might be interesting.” … And to quote the man himself, “When you’re interested … God’s interested.” … But, to quote Zero Mahlowe, “Whatever was going on, Eugene just did…what Eugene always did.” … So it didn’t really matter if others wanted to construct a charity around the man really… Did it … I suppose?

      So, reading your text I was happy to see you deviated from this rule by delving deeper into the subject matter for yourself. Good for you

      I have the sneaking suspicion that he was well aware that this was inevitable… once you get started … and I really like that!

      Best Regards,
Alex

      And best regard to you, Alex!
      Bob

    • Hi Alex,

      Bear in mind that “objective” or “mission statement” are more modern management terms or concepts and not something that would have been obvious to ISHVAL members at the time. This was an attempt at to get some structure in place, or method. More modern methodologies have been created for managing projects and knowledge etc but these have been built up over time, with learning and hindsight, and adaptation. Someone has to start somewhere, and build on it. Use what works, and refine what doesn’t. In many cases its not what was said and done at the time, it’s also what was done afterwards that is important (re Bob), and who learns from it, otherwise you just end up duplicating effort and learning the same mistakes. Like you I would have been too young to attend.

      Cheers Nick

   
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