consciousness

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

consciously II, 414
consciousness I, 76, 132 (“normal” consciousness)
II, 484; NC I, 31 (our religious centre is the only sphere of our consciousness in which we transcend time), 34 (naive consciousness of time)
NC II, 377 (concrete act of human consciousness), 479 (pre-theoretical cosmic self-consciousness), 537 (philosophic sense of the word is determined by the starting point of philosophy),“Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960), 97-150, at 137: time-transcending, central direction of consciousness.
cosmic consciousness I, 51
II, 414, 494

NC I, 431 (only cosmic consciousness grasps the deeper unity of the aspects, because the selfhood transcends all its modal functions).
II, 473, 474 (cosmically our own), 479 (pre-theoretical cosmic self-consciousness), 540 562, 594 (cosmic self-consciousness)

De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, in het licht eener Calvinistische kosmologie en kennistheorie (1931), 103 (systatic cosmic self-consciousness)

cosmological consciousness II. 408, 414

NC II, 371 (cosmological analysis), 473 (cosmological self-consciousness), 578 (cosmological self-consciousness), 540 (cosmological consiocusness is founded in cosmic consciousness), 578

self-consciousness NC II, 472 (In the root of self-consciousness, human experience transcends time itself).
unconscious Grenzen van het theoretisch denken (Baarn: Ambo, 1986).

Dooyeweerd speaks of consciousness in several senses:

1. The psychical aspect
2. Pre-experiential infantile animism
3. Pre-theoretical naive experience, or “cosmic consciousness” (NC II, 479)
4. Theoretical self-consciousness, or “cosmological consciousness” (NC II, 479, 578)
5. The unconscious
6. Supratemporal consciousness

Let us look at these different meanings of ‘consciousness’ in more detail:

(1) The psychical aspect

The psychical aspect is only one of many aspects of our modal horizon of experience. It is the aspect of feeling. Psychologism is the absolutization of this aspect. Psychologism views all of consciousness in terms of the psychical aspect. Dooyeweerd opposes, for example, Bergson’s functionalistic identification of cosmic time with the psychical duration of feeling. Dooyeweerd also says

A fortiori the human ego and its relation to other egos cannot be of a psychical character (“The Modal Viewpoint of Psychology,” in Folder ‘Miscellaneous Articles, 1940-50,’ archives, ICS)

However, to call the absolutization of the psychical aspect ‘psychologism’ may not be completely fair, since there are also psychologists who have a wider view of consciousness than feeling alone. I suppose it could be argued that they are then not practicing psychology per se, but attempting an integration of our selfhood that goes beyond disturbances to our functioning in the psychical aspect alone.

Dooyeweerd also has a view of consciousness that is not limited to the psychical. There is a self-consciousness that is operative in all our experience, in all aspects:

And if the human selfhood transcends cosmic time, not a single aspect of temporal reality can transcend the self-consciousness operative in all human experience. (NC II, 539)

Consciousness is our experience of functioning within all the aspects. This is because our acts proceed from out of our supratemporal selfhood, and are expressed within our body, which Dooyeweerd calls the temporal mantle of functions [functiemantel]. And our body functions within all the aspects. See the extensive discussion of issues relating to these terms in my article “Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006) [‘Imagination’], particularly in Part 2: Imagination is an Act. 

In my view, some of the psychological disturbances to our functioning in the psychical aspect relate to organic, family and genetic issues. But others involve an improper relationship of our central supratemporal selfhood to our temporal functions. The Dutch word ‘verstrooid’ or ‘scattered’ expresses one such way, where our consciousness is scattered within the temporal with no direction from the center. Sometimes people live too much in the past. These past-oriented people meet new situations with a heavy baggage of memories. They look backward to establish comparisons, to find their motivations, or to discover their norms for right or wrong. Memory, which is purely retrocipatory, can be a burden in conditions of severe guilt. In depression, psychical time is often experienced as moving very slowly, whereas in manic episodes, the opposite is the case. Pruyser refers to the psychological novels of Dostoevsky. His novels of guilt, like Crime and Punishment, seem to cover a very long time between the crime and the confession. But when we analyze the plot, the calendar time covered is shorter than it seemed.

This is consistent with depressions in which the stream of thought is filled with old materials from experience. These are not confined to the actual erstwhile events but comprise a whole complex of facts, repression, rationalizations, promises for betterment, distortions, anticipations of punishment, and all kinds of coping maneuvers. (Paul W. Pruyser: A Dynamic Psychology of Religion (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 248.

Pruyser also relates the story of a person who stole three stamps from his employer. The man suffered guilt for years, and sent back many times more stamps. This is like my own grandfather, who later tried to repay the railway company for not having paid full fare for some of his children. The railway officials concluded that he was ill. Pruyser comments that people like this are so perfectionist that they cannot accept God’s grace in their lives, and that this is partly due to the person’s private time perspective:

…feelings of guilt (of whatever origin) tie the person to his past, and make the past loom larger yet, because the memories are amplified by ruminations to such magnitude that the person can no longer put them behind him. The obsession is a dead-end thought process, which depletes the energies necessary for adaptation to the present. Therefore, the present becomes too poor in new experiences which could correct the mistakes of the past and help undo the sense of guilt. The path to the future is now blocked by the unfinished tasks of the past, and the person has too little energy and zest to give himself to the venture that every future implies. In fact, he is fearful of the future because he has learned to live without much hope and is wont to mistake forgiveness for punishment.

Pruyser also points out that sleep disturbances are common in people with mental illness. This disrupted relation to sleep, the great restorer of our temporal existence, also seems to be related to experience of time.

We need a proper relation to the future, and to be able to imagine by anticipation what is now only possible, a potential reality. And then we need to realize these anticipatory “figures” in actions and in individuality structures.

But some people have an improper relation to the future. They not only anticipate the future, they believe that they can prescribe how God will act in the future. Their overblown apocalyptic beliefs can also cause or be caused by illness.

Wrong religious beliefs can therefore cause a distorted relation to reality. As discussed below, Dooyeweerd sees this happening in religious beliefs that cause the resurgence of animism in adult life.

But religious beliefs that are dualistic can also cause psychological problems. And transitional problems can be caused by spiritual crises when we try to abandon our dualisms. Vollenhoven provides an example; he experienced a lengthy nervous breakdown when, under the influence of A. Janse, he gave up his belief in a body/soul dualism. In my opinion, Vollenhoven’s new view of the selfhood as entirely temporal is also defective. Dooyeweerd certainly rejected it (NC I, 31 fn1). Dooyeweerd describes the feeling of emptiness that is experienced when we fail to see the temporal as meaning, pointing to the supratemporal religious center of meaning and to the Origin:

Every Christian knows the emptiness of an experience of the temporal world which seems to be shut up in itself. But the Christian whose heart is opened to the Divine Word-revelation knows that in this apostate experiential attitude he does not experience temporal things and events as they really are, i.e. as meaning pointing beyond and above itself to the true religious centre of meaning and to the true Origin.” (NC III, 30)

Dooyeweerd emphasizes that without a correct understanding of the supratemporal selfhood and religious root, we cannot even understand the Christian Ground-motive of creation, fall and redemption. See my article ‘Imagination’, particularly Appendix D: Excerpts from Twilight.

All of these psychological issues need to be explored in greater detail, and more research is required.

Our consciousness can be infantile, pre-theoretical, theoretical, unconscious, or supratemporal.

(2) Pre-experiential infantile animism

Dooyeweerd says that an infant does not even have pre-theoretical experience. The infant’s experience is pre-experiential. The infant does not experience individuality structures in terms of the subject-object relation, and therefore he or she does not distinguish among things, plants, animals and people. The pure pattern of naive experience is formed by social praxis:

Naive experience is doubtless first formed by social praxis. It is, therefore, a fundamental error to seek the pure pattern of this experience in infants have not yet learned the practical function of things and events in social life. Experience in its proper sense presupposes a sufficient development of the typical act-structure of human existence and a practical acquaintance with the things of common life which is not acquired by animal instinct. (NC III, 32)

and

Animistic representations may belong to an infantile and consequently pre-experiential phase of human development. Such representations are due to a provisional inability to conceive subject-object relations (NC III, 33).

There are several important points to discuss here.

a) This infantile animism is only provisional, before infants develop an act-structure. Our act-structure is the most encompassing of the four enkaptically intertwined individuality structures that make up our body or mantle of functions. Dooyeweerd says that the temporal order of succession of the modal aspects (their before and after in cosmic time) correspond to how these functions appear in the development of a child. The modal order is the same time order in which these functions begin to operate in the life of a newborn baby (NC II, 112-13).

b) The pure pre-theoretical experience involves our ability to perceive temporal reality in terms of the subject-object relation of individuality structures (See discussion below). This is something that both depends on the development of an act-structure and also something that is “formed by social praxis.” What does Dooyeweerd mean? The social is one of the modal aspects, and so all our experience will include it. But Dooyeweerd is not suggesting that our ability to perceive in terms of the subject-object relation is determined by social conditions in a relativistic way, so that different people grow up to perceive the world differently. Dooyeweerd is quite clear that every [healthy] person grows up to perceive the world in terms of the subject-object relationship. This is made clear in the next point.

c) Although every person develops an act-structure, some people choose to view the temporal world animistically. This is due to a primitive religion of life or an animistic metaphysics. Dooyeweerd says that neither case of continued animism in adulthood is not to be confounded with infantile animism that we outgrow. An animistic metaphysics is not related to naive experience at all, since it is metaphysical and therefore theoretical. A primitive religion of life does affect naive experience. But

It does not prevent a sharp practical distinction between things, plants, animals and people in the common familiar sphere of social life. In general it does not even imply the ascription of mental and vital qualities to inanimate things. And where this is done, it is restricted to particular things. […] The truth is that primitive animism, just as the mana-belief, belongs to a mysterious social sphere of experience with which the primitive adolescent is not made acquainted before his initiation as a member of the tribe. It refers only to the mysterious causes of events which especially influence primitive life and whose supposed deeper sense transcends the common sphere of experience. (NC III, 33-34)

In other words, the animism of primitive societies is a learned experience superimposed on the normal experience of subject-object experience by a wrong belief system.

d) Because Dooyeweerd emphasizes that infantile animism is outgrown, his philosophy opposes any Romanticist ideas of a regression to childhood. The naive pre-theoretical attitude discussed below is not to be viewed as a “lost paradise” still inhabited only by children and primitive people. A person of modern culture still has a pre-theoretical attitude. . (NC III, 30-31). We should not romanticize the “Wild Child” as being more purely related to naive experience:

It is, therefore, a fundamental error to seek the pure pattern of this experience [naive experience] in infants who have not yet learned the practical function of things and events in social life. (NC III, 32).

The romanticist over-appreciation of the Wild Child can be seen in Rousseau’s philosophy, and in Werner Herzog’s beautiful movie “The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser,” and François Truffault’s movie “Wild Child.” But if naive experience is learned in social praxis, then the possibility exists of a retarded development. Similarly, if naive experience depends on the development of an act-structure, then the possibility exists for its lack of development in a seriously handicapped child. In Dooyeweerd’s view, neither of these situations is one that should evoke our admiration.

(3) Pre-theoretical naive experience, or cosmic consciousness

Dooyeweerd calls our pre-theoretical experience ‘naive experience.’ It is not to be confused with naive realism, or the copy theory of perception. See my article ‘Imagination’, particularly Part 3: Imagination and Perception. 

For Dooyeweerd, naive experience involves the subject-object relation. Again, this must not be confused with a relation between entities that exist totally disconnected from us. The subject-object relation is an intra-modal relation. I discuss it, and Dooyeweerd’s remarkable theory of perception, in Part 3: Imagination and Perception. 

We outgrow our infantile animism, and we perceive our reality in terms of individuality structures, which present themselves in terms of this subject-object relation.

Thus, as adult men who have outgrown animistic representations, we know perfectly well, that water itself does not live. Nevertheless, in the aspect of organic life, we ascribe to it the objection function of being a necessary means for life. (NC I, 42).

Our pre-theoretical experience is integral, and directed to our concrete experience of temporal reality. And this is experience of the subject-object relation as we perceive it in events and in individuality structures. The horizon of individuality structures plays the dominant role in naive experience. (WdW II, 488; NC II, 577). Note that this subject-object relation is not a relation between different entities, but an intra-modal subject-object relation, which can only be understood when the things of everyday life are understood as individuality structures. See my article Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism, where I discuss what Dooyeweerd means by individuality structures.

Our pre-theoretical experience is also an experience of enstasis, a state of equilibrium between our supratemporal selfhood and our experience of temporal functions, both of our body, and of individuality structures and events.

In the resting pre-theoretical intuition I, while thinking, experience the temporal reality as my own. In pre-theoretical intuition the transcendent root of our personality thinks inwardly [in-denken] en-statically in the cosmic temporal coherence of reality, and it consciously experiences the diversity of meaning, but without the articulated knowledge of the aspects. In contrast to theoretical self-consciousness we can speak here of a pre-theoretical cosmic self-consciousness. (II, 414; NC II, 479)

See my 2011 article, “Enstasy, Ecstasy and Religious Self-reflection:A history of Dooyeweerd’s Ideas of pre-theoretical experience.”

Thus, in naive experience we do not experience our temporal aspects as differentiated. Dooyeweerd calls it a ‘cosmic consciousness.’ What does he mean? Cosmic consciousness is an awareness of temporal reality being related to our supratemporal selfhood:

In this cosmic self-consciousness we know that the temporal cosmic reality is related to the structure of the human selfhood qua talis [as such]. This temporal reality, in its conformity to laws of universal validity, is essentially a religious structure of relations in which individuality is fitted [gevoegd]. (II, 494; NC II, 562)

So this idea of cosmic consciousness only makes sense when we accept Dooyeweerd’s distinction between a supratemporal selfhood and a temporal body in which our selfhood expresses itself, and whose functions must be made our own. It is the consciousness of the relation between my supratemporal selfhood and my temporal functions as “fitted into” temporal reality. We see our temporal functions as “our own.” We experience the relation of our selfhood to temporal diversity in the coherence of cosmic time.

But although our pre-theoretical consciousness is a cosmic consciousness, it is also “naive.” It is an experience in the foundational direction of time, as opposed to the transcendental direction of time in philosophic theoretical thought. We can have naive concepts in our pre-theoretical experience, but they are restricted to retrocipatory moments of our experience.

Naive experience needs to be deepened by our theoretical knowledge. As long as we conceive things in concrete structures without theoretical reflection, our attitude towards them is naive (NC III, 31). Dooyeweerd contrasts the special sciences with “the attitude of thought of being merely enstatically placed in reality” (de zich bloot in de werkelijkheid instellende denkhouding der naieve ervaring.” (WdW I, 49). Elsewhere, Dooyeweerd speaks about a bare [bloot] “falling back” into the naive attitude, the experience that accepts things as given in their indivisible unity of creation without an explicated distinguishing of their aspects.(WdW I, 60; Cf NC II, 482). ). That would be a return to naive experience without deepening.

Before we look at theoretical, or cosmological self-consciousness, let’s examine the idea of cosmic consciousness in more detail. What does Dooyeweerd mean by ‘cosmic consciousness?’ The term is often used to describe mystical ecstatic experience. An early example is given by Richard Maurice Bucke in his book Cosmic Consciousness(New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1923, first published 1901).

Bucke was a Canadian doctor. In the spring of 1872 he had been reading some poetry, especially the poetry of Whitman, with some friends in London. He left the friends after midnight in a calm mood, and took a long drive in his carriage. While riding, he had an experience of what he called illumination, or cosmic consciousness. It was described in the Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada:

All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around, as it were, by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant he thought of fire–some sudden conflagration in the great city. The next (instant) he knew that the light was within himself.
Directly after there came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which ever since lightened his life. Upon his heart fell one drop of the Brahmic bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of Heaven. Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of every one is in the long run absolutely certain. (Cosmic Consciousness, p. 10).

The experience that Bucke reports is visionary and ecstatic. It uses Hindu terminology, relating the experience to Brahman. It is intensely experiential. Bucke says that cosmic consciousness carries with it the conviction of immortality. It is a consciousness not that a personal shall have eternal life but that it is possessed already.

Bucke’s experience was frequently referred to by later philosophers of mysticism. William James refers to Bucke in his Varieties of Religious Experience (p. 398). We know that Dooyeweerd had read William James as early as 1915, when Dooyeweerd refers to James in his student article about van Eeden (Verburg 21). Dooyeweerd was still reading James in 1940 when he writes about James’s idea of the “specious present (“Het Tijdsprobleem in de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee”).

Wilhelm Wundt (whom Dooyeweerd also read) refers to the idea of cosmic consciousness in his Principles of Physiological Psychology:

We may say, then, that the mechanistic explanation of the movements of the lower animals is not the outcome of impartial and unprejudiced observation. But the rival theory, which ascribes mind and consciousness to the plant-world, is in no better case. Fechner, the chief representative of this theory, himself expressly declares that be derived it from considerations of general philosophy: he further attributes consciousness to the earth and the other heavenly bodies, making this cosmic consciousness the whole, of which the individual forms of consciousness in plant and animal are parts.

Wundt’s reference is to Gustav Fechner’s Zend-avesta oder über die Dinge des Himmels und des Jenseits. Dooyeweerd makes express reference to that book, so we know he read it (WdW III, 554ft ; NC III, 631 ft).

Fechner was a major influence on Frederik van Eeden. In van Eeden’s Johannes Viator, which has the subtitle “The book of love,” van Eeden writes of Johannes who tries to become conscious of cosmic love which holds all of creation in existence and also holds it together, and which will bring redemption to the contrariety in the world. In this book, van Eeden puts forward a worldview in which self and the world are brought together in a cosmic coherence. As my notes on van Eeden indicate, there are many other similarities with Dooyeweerd’s thought. Dooyeweerd certainly rejected Fechner’s hylozoism–the view that regards every movement, even the fall of a stone, as a part of a living organism. But other ideas are very much related to van Eeden, who was so strongly influenced by Fechner.

Dooyeweerd may also have obtained the phrase ‘cosmic consciousness’ from E. von Hartmann’s Philosophy of the Unconscious [Das religiöse Bewusstsein der Menschheit] (1869). It is clear that he read this, too (NC II, 315). Hartmann there expresses Schopenhauer’s philosophy (itself derived from the Upanishads and Buddhism); von Hartmann refers to a cosmic consciousness that underlies the individual consciousness. He says that in most people this cosmic consciousness is unconscious.

Why would Dooyeweerd use a term like ‘cosmic consciousness’ when it has these associations? My own conclusion is that whatever reservations Dooyeweerd may have had about the term ‘cosmic consciousness,’ he used it because he wanted to emphasize the experiential basis for his philosophy, an experience that is based on the supratemporal self and its relation to the temporal cosmos. He says however,

In this cosmic self-consciousness we know that the temporal cosmic reality is related to the structure of the human selfhood qua talis [as such]. This temporal reality, in its conformity to laws of universal validity, is essentially a religious structure of relations in which individuality is fitted [gevoegd]. (II, 494; NC II, 562)
All theoretical pushing away of the human selfhood from this central position in experience rests on a lack of philosophic self-reflection (WdW II, 494)

Thus cosmic self-consciousness is an awareness that the temporal reality is related to our human selfhood, which is supratemporal. It is this relation that constitutes cosmic consciousness. In naive experience, we do not have an explicated knowledge of the aspects. But after theory has deepened our experience, we have a conscious awareness of the diversity of aspects related to our supratemporal selfhood.

Dooyeweerd says that only man has this cosmic consciousness because only man has a religious root that transcends time, grounded in a selfhood. By this selfhood we can, using our intuition of time, think within [in-denken] the cosmos and theoretically understand its modal aspects of meaning in dis-stasis [uiteen-vatten) and synthesis (te-zamen vatten). (WdW II, 415).

But does Bucke’s ecstatic and visionary experience of cosmic consciousness fit with Dooyeweerd’s use of the term? Can we regard cosmic consciousness as an “illumination?” Dooyeweerd himself speaks of our opened naive experience as an “illumination” of our temporal world:

In the Biblical attitude of naïve experience the transcendent, religious dimension of its horizon is opened. The light of eternity radiates perspectively through all the temporal dimensions of this horizon and even illuminates seemingly trivial things and events in our sinful world.

In this attitude the experiencing I-ness is necessarily in the I-we relation of the Christian community and in the we-Thou-relation with God, Who has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus. (NC III, 29)

I have compared Dooyeweerd’s words here to Baader’s idea of the ‘Silberblick.’

Dooyeweerd’s idea of cosmic consciousness should not be interpreted as a kind of “pure consciousness.” The idea of pure consciousness usually means that some part of our consciousness is “impure” and needs to be eliminated. Frequently, pure consciousness is seen as an overcoming of the logical side of our experience. According to this view, pure consciousness is a level of consciousness where there are no logical distinctions, and no longer any distinction between subject and object. Apart from their questionable use of the terms ‘subject’ and ‘object’, these advocates of pure consciousness frequently advocate a state of trance in which there is no consciousness of anything at all. Forman correctly points out that this kind of loss of consciousness may achieve the overcoming of a subject-object distinction, but in a tautological way (The Problem of Pure Consciousness). If there is no consciousness of anything at all, then of course there is no distinction between ‘subject’ and ‘object.’ Forman says that this is the least interesting in this view of consciousness.

Dooyeweerd’s ‘cosmic consciousness’ should not be interpreted as a nirvikalpa samadhi, where there is no awareness of subject or object. It may perhaps be similar to sahaja samadhi, although further research needs to be done on this point. See my book on Abhishiktananda.

Nor should our cosmic consciousness be seen as somehow separated from our logical aspect. Cosmic consciousness is the relation between center and periphery. In the periphery, it is not that there is no logic, but that it “coincides” in a fullness of meaning with the other aspects. It may be that in the central transcendent experience we move beyond logic. Dooyeweerd certainly says that our concepts cannot grasp the supratemporal; concepts are restricted to our temporal experience, and even the retrocipatory direction of experience. Cosmic consciousness does not involve a splitting of our logical side. It is the fullness of all our experience. And Dooyeweerd is opposed to any ascetic spiritualizing away of our temporal functions. Dooyeweerd also rejects any viewpoint that seeks a static reality. That is a metaphysical-Greek idea of supra-temporality,

(4). Theoretical or cosmological self-consciousness

I discuss this in more detail in my article ‘Imagination’, particularly Part 6: Imagination and Theoretical Thought. 

Dooyeweerd contrasts cosmic consciousness to a consciousness that is meaning-synthetic (WdW II, 494; NC II, 562). Only by the transcendental Idea of consciousness (as opposed to a concept) can our selfhood become cosmologically conscious of itself in its intuitive reflection:

In the transcendental temporal direction of theoretical intuition, our selfhood becomes cosmologically conscious of itself in the temporal coherence and diversity of all its modal functions (NC II, 479, italics Dooyeweerd’s).

Cosmological consciousness is subjective insight into theoretical truth:

…theoretical truth is meaningless without its relation to our cosmological self-consciousness. (NC II, 578)

But cosmological knowledge is always grounded in cosmic self-consciousness (NC II, 594). Our theoretical experience does not destroy our pre-theoretical experience.

Theoretical thought breaks apart the coherence of our experience in the dis-stasis. Meaning-synthetic consciousness is a theoretical consciousness that seeks to then put back together again the experience that has been taken apart in our analysis. In synthesis, we approximate the coherence of cosmic time and the selfhood, both of which have been “refrained from” in theory by the epoché of theoretical thought.

It is important then for us to relate our theoretical knowledge back to our selfhood, and to the [non-abstracted] coherence of cosmic time. We can do this because of our intuition, which relates the theoretical Gegenstand to our selfhood.

There is a temptation to remain within the analytical, and to not re-integrate our theory with our selfhood. this can then impair our everyday naive experience.

To be cosmologically conscious of oneself in the temporal coherence and diversity is not the same as pre-theoretical cosmic consciousness. What is the difference? I believe that it is in the fact that after theory we are aware of the differentiated aspect, we have taken them apart in the theoretical act of dis-stasis, and we have obtained anticipatory figures of what the temporal world may become. The pre-theoretical cosmic consciousness is unconscious in that we have not explicated the differentiated functions. We now explicitly relate them to our selfhood.

Cosmic self-consciousness does not rest in a theoretical meaning-synthesis (II, 494). That is a strange statement, because “rest” is associated not with the theoretical meaning-synthesis, but with the naive enstasis. But here Dooyeweerd says we do not rest with the theoretical. He means that there is a return again to naive experience, but in a deepened way.

When the epoché of theoretical thought is cancelled, we fall back into the enstatic intuitive attitude of naïve experience (NC II, 482). By “falling back” he also means that we return to the foundational direction:

Theoretical intuition, actualized in synthetical thought, is no more detached from pre-theoretical intuition, operative in enstatic thought, than the transcendental direction in the cosmic order of time is detached from the foundational direction. In the inter-modal synthesis and analytical disjunction of the modal aspects of experience our theoretical intuition is actualized in synthetical thought as insight. It can only be understood as a deepening of pre-theoretical intuition, to which it must always refer in the foundational direction of time. (NC II, 479; Cf. II, 414).

Note: The NC translation speaks of an “inter-modal synthesis of meaning.” This is confusing, and may have led to Strauss’s error. The original Dutch only speaks of a meaning synthesis [zin-synthesis]. The theoretical synthesis is between our actual thought [an act from out of our selfhood] and the Gegenstand of abstracted aspects, which is not actual or ontical, but only intentional. See synthesis.

But from this quotation, we can see that theory is in the transcendental direction of time, and that naive experience is in the foundational direction. After the synthesis, theory must refer “in the foundational direction” to pre-theoretical intuition, which is “operative in enstatic thought.” And enstatic thought occurs only in naive experience. Dooyeweerd says that cosmic self-consciousness is enstatic, not meaning-synthetic. Thus, there is a return to enstasis. There is first a movement in the transcendental direction in theory and then we fall back into the foundational direction. But the return is a deepened naive experience. There is a kind of spiraling back and forth, an ever-deepening. A good phrase to describe this is Abhishiktananda’s phrase, “Ascent to the depths of the heart.”

What is the difference between this deepened state and that of the pre-theoretical cosmic consciousness? Pre-theoretical consciousness is not aware of the differentiated modes (I, 60). It can therefore be said to “unconscious” of this diversity. In theory, we have some awareness of the modal functions.

In this [theoretical] intuition I implicitly relate the intermodal meaning-synthesis to the transcendent identity of the modal functions I experience in the religious root of my existence.
But it is only in a transcendental reflection, led by our transcendental basic Idea, that this implicit relation can be made explicit to theoretical thought. (WdW II, 413; NC II, 479)

Dooyeweerd says that only by the transcendental Idea can our selfhood become cosmologically conscious of itself in its intuitive reflection. There is therefore an increasing consciousness, from bare enstatic naive experience to theory to explicit recognition of the relation of the meaning-synthesis to my experience in the religious root of my existence.

We need to look further at this Idea of the unconscious nature of bare naive experience.

(5) The unconscious

I discuss this in more detail in my article ‘Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy’, particularly Part 3: Imagination and Perception. 

Dooyeweerd also refers to the unconscious and to depth psychology. In Grenzen van het theoretisch denken (Baarn: Ambo, 1986), Dooyeweerd refers to two layers of the act-life, as shown by depth psychology (Freud and his school). He says that there is an unconscious underlayer and a conscious layer above [bovenlaag]. He says that the act-structure is the temporal expression of the selfhood. If the unconscious is one layer of our act-life, then the unconscious is something that is also expressed in the temporal. I shall argue that it is the undisclosed, as yet unopened part of our temporal reality.

As an example of unconscious knowledge he refers to our remembering a name. He says that consciousness is not limited to the psychical and the later aspects:

Het bewustzijn is niet, zoals men vroeger meende, beperkt tot het psychische aspect en de na-psychische aspecten van het menselijke bestaan, waarbij men alle voor-psychische aspecten tot het onbewuste rekende. Bewust-zijn en onbewust-zijn zijn veeleer twee openbaringswijzen van een en dezelfde werkelijkheid, die in alle aspecten zonder onderscheid fungeren. Het menselijk bewustzijn omvat, juist omdat het geconcentreerd is in een zelfbewistzijn, alle aspecten van de werkelijkheid; anders zou de vraag hoe deze aspecten in het menselijke bewustzijn zouden kunnen komen, onoplosbaar zijn. Maar ook het onbewuste fungeert in alle aspecten zonder onderscheid. Zo is vastgesteld, dat het menselijk act-leven zijn eigenlijke continuiteit dankt aan het onbewuste. (Grenzen, 81).

[Consciousness is not, as was earlier supposed, limited to the psychical and post-psychical aspects of human existence, by which all pre-psychical aspects were considered as the unconscious. Being conscious and being unconscious are rather two modes of revelation of one and the same reality, which functions in all aspects without distinction. Human consciousness comprehends all aspects of reality, just because it is concentrated in a self-consciousness. Otherwise the question of how these aspects could come to human consciousness would not arise, and would be insoluble. But also the unconscious functions in all aspects without distinction. So it is established that the human life of acts owes its continuity to the unconscious].

To say that the conscious and the unconscious are two modes of revelation of one and the same reality suggests that “cosmic consciousness” is not a different level of reality that we have to attain; it is a given [gegeven] (II, 405). We just have to see reality differently. Baader says something similar: The same object is perceived by the inner and the outer senses, but in a different way (Ekst. Werke 4, 3.26 Inn. Sinn Werke 4,95 She v. Prev Werke 4, 143).

Dooyeweerd says that the unconscious functions in all aspects. It is that part of temporal reality that is still undisclosed, unopened. He gives examples of the workings of the unconscious: remembering a name, past impressions and post-hypnotic suggestion. In normal circumstances our unconscious is subordinated to consciousness; there is a harmonic working together of the different modal functions and a central relation to the I-ness. But in some cases the unconscious breaks through into consciousness (p. 83). These are all ideas that are very similar to Jung’s view of the unconscious.

Elsewhere Dooyeweerd says that the personality ideal of the Nature/Freedom Ground-Motive “received a death blow” from the findings of depth psychology (NC I, 214; not in WdW). In another passage he refers to the “subconscious” in relation to the unopened psychical aspect:

I have argued that the act-structure of inner human experience is founded in a lower structure qualified by feeling-drives in which the psychical aspect has not yet opened its anticipatory spheres. In the so called ‘enkaptic structural whole’ of the human body this animal structure is bound by the higher act-structure of human experience. Nevertheless, it is continually present as a sub-conscious under-layer of the latter and it can freely manifest itself in certain limiting situations (Grenzsituationen) in which the controlling function of the higher act-life has become inactive. Depth-psychology has laid this bare. (NC II, 114 ft.)

This is a more restricted view of the unconscious than what he says in Grenzen. Perhaps this is why he calls it the sub-conscious. In relating it to the individual animal structure, this seems more like what Jung would describe as the “personal unconscious.”

A more collective view of the unconscious is given by Dooyeweerd in respect to cognition:

My individual cognitive activity, both in a theoretical and in a pre-theoretical sense, is borne by an immensely more comprehensive and specialized subjective knowledge on the part of human society. This knowledge has been acquired by the successive generations of mankind. It is in the possession of human society and is not equal to the sum of actual knowledge of all individuals together in the present and the past. Nor does it cancel all personal individuality and genius in cognitive activity. The theoretical knowledge of mankind has for the greater part been objectified in a structure that makes it independent of the momentary actual individual insight of individual human beings. (NC II, 594; Cf. WdW II, 529).

Furthermore, Dooyeweerd seems to have an idea corresponding to Jung’s Idea of individuation. We become more and more individual as we bring more of the unconscious to consciousness. We experience our individuality in the various structures of temporal societal relationships,

And within the temporal horizon man’s self-consciousness does not from the outset have a static individuality. Rather it becomes more and more individual. This takes place in a process of development which is also historically determined (NC II, 594).

By ‘determined,’ Dooyeweerd does not mean any causal determinism, but the fact that our indivuation also takes place in the historical modality. What is important here is that our consciousness becomes more and more individual within time. The original Dutch is even stronger:

En binnen den tijdhorizon wint het zelfbewustzijn eerst in een (ook historisch bepaald) ontwikkelingsproces aan individualiteit. (WdW II, 529)

[And within the horizon of time, self-consciousness first attains to individuality within a development process (that is also historically determined)]

The development of our consciousness is a rediscovery “in abysmal depths” of our true selfhood and of God, brought about by the working of God’s Spirit. Dooyeweerd says,

Slechts Gods Geest kan ons de radicale zin van de Woord-openbaring onthullen, die ons in afgrondelijke diepten tegelijk de waarachtige God en ons zelven ontdekt. Gods Woord leert ons wanneer het in reddened zin werkt. En waar het in reddened zin werkt, brengt het onafwendbaar de radicale omwentelling in de wortel van ons van God afgevallen bestaan.” (Vernieuwing en Bezinning 11)

[Only God’s Spirit can disclose to us the radical meaning of the Word revelation, which in abysmal depths discloses to us simultaneously the true God and our selves. God’s Word teaches us whenever it works in a redemptive sense. And where it works in this redemptive sense, it inevitably brings the radical revolutionin the root of our existence which had fallen away from God.] (my translation; the translation in Roots 12 obscures the meaning).

Baader also has an idea of the unconscious (and even of the shadow) long before Jung. Baader refers to the shadow and the unconscious in the same passage.

The conscious being cannot exist save for the unconscious; light cannot exist except by the shadows; we do not serve the flame well if we remove the black carbon, or the plant if we take out its subterranean roots (Werke I, 66)

Sauer comments that the movement from the self to the Gegenstand breaks the homogeneous but unconscious unity in which the subject finds himself; it is an emancipation from the Quasi-Totality of the factical, unquestioned and unconscious; instead, the Gegenstand is ordered in a conceptual world [Begriffswelt]. Separated nature is mute and dark [stumm und finster] and lacks fulfilment and grounding. Zeit p. 40 ft 21 Sauer also emphasizes that in making the Gegenstand, we are becoming more conscious of the Other, the Not-I. But this other is our other (Sauer, 25-26). Now that seems similar to what Dooyeweerd says about naive experience being unconscious as to the aspects in their differentiation. Baader says that the supernaturalists see the coherence between Nature and spirit (Geist) as contingent. They want to separate the will from its unconscious drives (Begründung, 34). Baader is using ‘spirit’ here in the sense of the undifferentiated supratemporal center. Spirit is conscious and nature is unconscious. thus, the unconscousness is in that part of temporal reality that remains undisclosed. It is temporal nature that is still separated from the Center.

Baader also speaks of fulfilling potential within time. Temporal beings fulfill potentiality as they move further from Central Unity. But temporal life alone leads to death (Zeit 28).

Van Eeden preferred to speak of “discontinuity of memory” instead of the unconscious. This is because van Eeden believed we can have lucid dreams. (“A Study of Dreams”).

Some notion of the unconscious is evident in Kuyper, who says,

As mere entities we share our life with plants and animals. Unconscious life we share with the children, and with the sleeping man, and even with the man who has lost his reason. That which distinguishes us, as higher beings, and as wide awake men, is our full self-consciousness, and therefore, if religion, as the highest vital function, is to operate also in that highest sphere of self-consciousness, it must follow that soteriological religion, next to the necessitas of inward palingenesis, demands also the necessitas of an assistant light, of revelation to be kindled in our twilight. And this assistant light coming from God Himself, but handed to us by human agency, beams upon us in His holy Word.(“Calvinism and Religion,” 58).

We know that Vollenhoven disagreed with many of Dooyeweerd’s basic ideas. In the “Divergentierapport” Vollenhoven expresses the fear that people might compare Dooyeweerd to Jung. I am not aware of any Dooyeweerd scholars who have made this comparison. But Dooyeweerd’s Idea of the supratemporal selfhood, its distinction from our ego, the process of individuation, and the Idea of the unconscious certainly have many similarities to Jung. There are also important differences, too. A full comparison must be left to a later article.

(6) Supratemporal experience

I discuss this in more detail in my article ‘Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy’, particularly Appendix C: Corbin’s Idea of the mesocosm. Dooyeweerd says that our experience is not limited to our what we learn by theoretical analysis. We also have a knowledge in our heart that exceeds temporal experience.

If the critical and positivistic epistemology were correct that our experience were limited to our cosmic functions, or rather to an abstractum from out of our temporal complex of cosmic functions, then we could not truly know God, nor our self, nor the cosmos.(II, 494)

Bujt our experience of the heart is not an experience that is totally separate from its expression and embodiemnt in the temporal. The two are interrelated. At death, our supratemporal selfhood and our body are separated, and Dooyeweerd does not speculate on the nature of our consciousness at that time. In my view, his philosophy indicates that there will be a continued consciousness, by means of another fulfilled nature in which we express ourselves supratemporally. See afterlife.

In addition to this spectacular refracted experience of the eternal, we also have, even before death, a supratemporal experience of our selfhood, which we know by religious self-reflection. And Dooyeweerd in several places refers to our supratemporal experience. For example, he refers to our experience of the ‘identity’ of the temporal modal functions:

In this intuition I implicitly relate the intermodal meaning-synthesis to the transcendent identity of the modal functions I experience in the religious root of my existence (NC II, 478-79).

For in the supratemporal root, the meaning of all temporal functions coincides.

And without our supratemporal selfhood, we would not be able to form Ideas of the ontical conditions that transcend the temporal, and that make possible any kind of thought whatsoever. In fact, all of our experience depends on our transcendent unity of self-consciousness:

All human experience both in the pre-theoretical and in the theoretical attitudes, is rooted in the structure of the transcendent unity of self-consciousness. The latter partakes in the religious root of the creation directed to God, or, in the case of apostasy, directed away from God. This religious horizon is the transcendent horizon of the selfhood, and encompasses the cosmic temporal horizon in which we experience the insoluble coherence and the modal and typical refraction of meaning. The temporal horizon encompasses and determines the modal horizon both in its theoretical (analytical and synthetical) distinction and in its pre-theoretical systasis.

The temporal horizon encompasses and determines also the plastic horizon of the structures of individuality, which in its turn implies the modal horizon. (NCII, 560).

On the same page, Dooyeweerd says that true knowledge of the cosmos is bound to true self-knowledge, and the latter to the true knowledge of God.

This view has been explained in an unsurpassable and pregnant way in the first chapter of the first book of Calvin’s Institutio. It is the only purely Biblical view and the alpha and omega of any truly Christian epistemology. Theoretical truth, limited and relativized by the temporal horizon, is in every respect dependent on the full super-temporal Truth….

So although Dooyeweerd is similar to Calvin (and to Christian theosophy), in emphasizing that our imagination and theory are to be centered on God’s Wisdom as it is reflected and refracted in time, we must not deny the pre-theoretical and immediate knowledge of the supratemporal heart, which places us in a more immediate relation to God’s Wisdom. For it is in our supratemporal heart that we are addressed by God’s Word and Holy Spirit.
How do we reconcile Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on this supratemporal knowledge, and his insistence on restricting our theoretical knowledge to the way that God’s Wisdom has been refracted within time? I think that the following quotation is helpful:

Every spiritualistic view which wasn’t to separate self-knowledge and the knowledge of God from all that is temporal, runs counter to the Divine order of the creation….In this horizon we become aware of the transcendent fulness of the meaning of this life only in the light of the Divine revelation refracted through the prism of time. (NC II, 561).

In other words, what Dooyeweerd is objecting to is a purported knowledge of the supratemporal that is separated from the temporal. The knowledge that we have in our hearts, or the unity and coincidence of the aspects, is not separate from the temporal world. It is the root, which is unfolded temporally. We have knowledge of both. And so we can also have knowledge of God’s Word as it speaks to us in the central sense, as well as God’s Word as it is refracted and revealed within time. Dooyeweerd only objects to a spiritualizing flight away from the world. And this emphasis on the incarnational reality of Wisdom is what is common to Dooyeweerd, Calvin and Christian theosophy.

Revised Dec 9/08
Ju14/11 Added reference to 2011 article; Dec 23/16

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