From modernity to After-Modernity (30)

Part 3. Divination
Introduction (continued. 3)

About divination

This “Book 3” is about getting a feel of what the future has in store for humanity and more broadly what the future has in store for life on earth. The future is perceived as being unknown so it is imperative for those who want to talk about it to clarify the methodology of their approach. This is what I propose to do here after.
This “Book 3” is about getting a feel of what the future has in store for humanity and more broadly what the future has in store for life on earth. The future is perceived as being unknown so it is imperative for those who want to talk about it to clarify the methodology of their approach. This is what I propose to do here after.For me writing is about putting my thinking in words and as I wrote here above “thinking is the conscious expression of ideas and feelings that are contained in the conscious mind”. That being said my thoughts and actions are being put in motion by letting my creativity free to run wild and unhindered by will or want which I find to be paralyzing the individual’s spontaneity. Spontaneity is suggesting freedom but more than that spontaneity brings about lightness, naturalness, in other words it infuses life in the creation which gives an organic quality to its form. Letting the subconscious initiate actions and thoughts is a conscious decision. I want the form of my thought, actions, and work to have the same organic feel as life itself and experience shows that the only way to reach that particular kind of quality is by putting the subconscious in charge of the initiation of thought and creation...

What I mean by this is that I engage, in my thinking as well as in my writing and painting and more broadly in my life, by letting my subconscious initiate the action. But the subconscious intervention is only phase one of the action which corresponds to the injection of subconscious spontaneity that is followed immediately by my conscious mind tempering the subconscious visions in a following phase two. This tempering is like a confrontation of the unconscious production of visions resulting from phase one with the lucid observation of the conscious mind. Phase two appears then like:
-  a clean-up of all the non-sensical elements traced by the subconscious in its visions
-  the completion of the tracing of any impressions left by the subconscious act that I find are sensical but not necessarily finished.
Such a process, first described by Leonardo Da Vinci in his notebooks1, adds a surprisingly lively touch to a work’s formal rendering which suggests lightness and a natural growth of meaning out of the organic form. The finishing of a work, or its phase three, is then the polishing of form and content, in auto-pilot mode, while the conscious mind slowly integrates the meaning. The whole process is like a deep meditation dreaming while being awake.

My personal approach to creation and to life is thus similar to the approach of knowledge that I described earlier. I want indeed all of my creations, knowledge – writing – painting – life, to be directly useful for my conscious mind. Such a project is a life project which means that someone pursuing such a project devotes his entire life to increasing her/his consciousness. And to succeed in such an endeavor I feel that I have no other choice but to let my subconscious take the lead. The confrontation of its productions leads to their integration in the conscious mind as creations that make sense and so they participate in increasing one’s knowledge and also the consciousness of what this knowledge pertains to.

As I stated earlier I became a thinking painter by sheer necessity. I was confronted with what can only be described as the utter confusion that is overwhelming the artworld in Late-Modernity” and so my personal research naturally started as an inquiry into ‘what is art’ “. In “Book 2. Volume 5. About the arts” I proposed that philosophic rationalism and science definitively separated the trinity that substantiated the traditional focus on wisdom through the interconnection of – knowledge, – worldviews, – arts and as a result knowledge, worldviews and the arts lost the traditional function that was assigned to them since the emergence of tribal societies. In other words this trinity has been in play since the origin of tribal societies somewhere between 150,000 years and 70,000 years ago and the start of high-Modernity sometimes in the 2nd part of the 18th century.

The fact is that the separation, of – knowledge, – worldviews, – arts, has thus been in place for a very short time on the span of societal evolution. But its impact on societies at large has been devastating. Societies lost their men of knowledge and the supply of the worldview that earlier was shared by all citizens. In the art world that separation cut the artists from the supply of the meaning that they had been in charge of illustrating since the time of the societal mutation of bands into tribes. In the meantime capital holders sized upon philosophic rationalism to target new profit sources by investing in science and technology.

That separation, of – knowledge, – worldviews, – arts, then combined with the investments in science and technology by capital holders and that combination unleashed a revolution in the Zeitgeist or spirit of the time. Perceptions were changing so rapidly that past ideas and practices suddenly appeared rigid and dogmatic. Scientists were discovering deeper layers of meaning to reality and artists wanted to emulate them in giving visual signs of these deeper layers of meaning.

It is in this Zeitgeist that Modernism arose around 1900. In short Modernism was the abandonment of past ways while the artists took upon themselves the challenge to give visual signs of reality that penetrate further than the first dimension of what the eyes can see. Unfortunately they were not equipped to narrate a new worldview and their effort rapidly ended in total confusion. This is when the traditional function of the arts has been recuperated and transformed by capital holders.

Since the end of the 2nd world war the arts have been made the vehicles of mind manipulation in order:
–  to justify the exercise of power by the political decision makers

–  to increase the demand of goods and services
–  to exclude
“the other”
which in this case was the socialist and communist movance.
But in this process the traditional function of visual arts morphed into
– design
to dress new goods,
– graphism to manipulate people’s minds,
– the use of new “moving pictures” technologies to visually entertain the citizens while also manipulating their minds.

As a matter of fact k
nowledge, worldviews, and art got separated in the fog generated by the level playing field of the market for ideas:

  • science took the traditional place of knowledge and the men of knowledge, as well as the scientists, were now left to peddle their knowledge and knowings on the level playing field of the market for ideas where they encountered the competition of all kinds of charlatans. The resulting brouhaha acted as a deep fog – hiding the financing of science by capital holders, – hiding the substitution of the traditional man of knowledge by the scientist.
  • with the disappearance of the man of knowledge the maintenance of worldviews and their sharing with the citizenry suddenly vanished replaced by science. But science is not a worldview. It is not supplying a readilly available narrative about what reality is all about. It is merely a method of communication between scientists meant to ensure that new hypotheses are replicable and so can eventually be confirmed or infirmed.
  • the vanishing of the maintenance and sharing of worldviews immediately handicapped the artist. He had traditionally given visual signs of the meaning of the supplied worldview and to counter its loss the artist now was suddenly obliged to invent the meaning of his own narrative. Not equipped to do so the arts soon broke down and society at large got the victim of a loss of societal and existential meaning. In the name of spurring creativity the individuals were then encouraged to invent their own meaning about what reality is all about but as a result societies atomized and are now dieing...

My ambition as a thinking painter was to make sense of what had happened. I deeply felt that painters had lost touch with sensical content and I was betting on thinking to show me the path to a painting content that would result in a meaning that makes sense in our present context. What I try to describe here is the process of thinking and painting that I developed along the last 40 years as an answer to my quest for visual sense... Over the years this process engulfed my entire being.

As my subconscious visions are confronting my conscious mind I have to force myself, in my work as well as in my life, to reason both approaches so that they can eventually reconcile. This is my personal way to avoid being dragged in the absurd by subconscious visions that have not been digested by the conscious mind which, let’s not forget this, was the trap that vanquished surrealism2. We should never forget that the failure, to reconcile subconscious visions with the certainties of the conscious mind, is also recognized in psychology and in psychiatry as being one of the main causes of mental disorder. Unfortunately, over the last century, such a disconnect was the norm. No wonder that it also was the source for much of the non-sense that has been peddled as art or as knowledge. All this has always made me feel rather uncomfortable and it is this discomfort that pushed me to try to understand what was really going on.

As I see it producing, non-sense for the sake of non-sense or the irrational for the sake of the irrational, from an individual’s perspective is not worth the bother and from a societal perspective it is something that confuses societies which eventually puts the species at risk3.

Very deeply inside my self I feel that nothing is random and that everything has a reason. It is that reason that makes us think and do the things we think and do. What we call “randomness is not really random at all. It is only an illusion that appears in our minds as a reflection of our ignorance about what we observe. Observation, over long time-spans, shows that what we think to be random starts eventually to lose its random character after we gain some further knowledge about its context. In other words knowledge and consciousness about context erase randomness from its midst and this explains why randomness is merely an illusion projected in our mind by our ignorance.

Confronting my subconscious to my conscious mind is also a way, for me, to synthesize my understanding. Writing is a technique that imposes the need for synthesis and it imposes also clarity in the synthesis. Writing thus helps me attaining a written presentation that is reasoned and accessible to all. I feel that in writing the minimum obligation of a creator is first and foremost to respect oneself and such a respect takes necessarily the form of a text that is clear, accessible, and sensical. By extension such a basic honesty with oneself gives a text that is also profoundly respectful toward the eventual reader.

In painting things are a little different. I do indeed never intent for the content of a painting to be directly accessible. I use an organic form as a bait to attract the eye of the observer and once the eye is attracted, by the beauty reflected in the organic life of the material and colors on the canvas, the mind will naturally order it to penetrate the deeper levels of meaning of what it sees. In this sense the meaning in a painting can be given in successive layers like the different skins of an onion that form so many pages of a story. But to catch the meaning the observer has to be attentive and needs to focus on the work. The only way I know of to make this happen is the bait of form through beauty. By first baiting the eye of the observer with a beautiful and attractive form you instantly catch his attention and once caught his attention will be curious about what it is that attracts it and this is how the different pages of the narrative eventually open in his mind...

The choice of title for this book 3, kind of naturally, narrowed down to “Divination”. But Modernity has unfortunately attached many connotations of non-rationality to the word divination which puts it on shaky ground in the minds of any rational being. I have to add that in Late-Modernity the word has also attracted the attention of a multitude of charlatans. The fact is that the future is being cloaked under a raft of uncertainties which are giving rise to anxiety in citizens’ minds. And these charlatans use such an anxiety as an opportunity to empty the pockets of innocent sufferers by peddling them the promise of a cure to anxiety and the attainment of happiness. In return for people’s adherence to their sects, that often refer to ancestral schools of wisdom, they charge their followers for promising them future good health and happiness. Such gratuitous promises are what they call divination. This kind of “New Age” charlatanism has unfortunately disfigured and degraded the true meaning conveyed by ancestral schools of wisdom like Animism, Taoism, or the Vedas.

Present and future uncertainties have always been observed to result in peoples’ levels of anxiety shooting through the roof which concludes with the spread of loneliness as is being evidenced in Western Late-Modernity. And... as a result people naturally feel a strong desire to quieten their suffering minds. Since the dawn of time the men of knowledge have been observing that the sharing with others, of common views and beliefs about reality, is the most successful remedy to cure anxiety and thus escape loneliness. This is why the sharing of a common worldview was established as the cardinal principle of societal organization since the emergence of tribal societies. This also explains, to the extreme surprise of fundamentalist rationalists and to the chagrin of Postmodernists, why worldviews such as religions have always played such a fundamental role in stabilizing societies during times of crises, uncertainties, and the unknown. And the fact of the matter is that worldviews not only reduce the anxiety of the people they also strengthen the cohesion of their societies which is the keystone of the reproduction and perpetuation of our species into the future.

I hope that this clarification about my methodology wipes, from the reader’s mind, the irrational connotations associated with the word divination. To avoid any confusion I could have decided on another title all together but the word divination alludes to a character of the future that I find to contain a very profound twist that no other word of my knowing renders so well. The word divination contains indeed a fragrance of mystery that reflects the true nature of the future, as not being substantiated yet, but being nevertheless already in formation in the present. The future is indeed not a given. It is better understood as the probabilistic outcome of a selection process between a series of alternatives, that gain their substance in the presently forming context, and then compete to be retained and replicated as the substantiation of what, now in the present, we call the future.

Being the core mechanism of knowledge formation the trio “confrontation-reconciliation-integration” is necessarily at the core of divination. It was considered in the tribal worldview of animism that spirits are supplying the minds with the answers to their questions and that idea is still shared by many today. But in reality we have to treat the communication between mind and spirits as being an integral part of the domain of subconscious visions. How these subconscious visions operate is anyone’s guess. Those who have such visions just know they have them. To this day nobody has come up with a credible explanation about how such visions come about and how they operate. But this should not discourage us to access them; as Leonardo wrote they are indeed a “way of enhancing and arousing the mind to various inventions”.

The men of knowledge have always known that all subconscious visions, including these communications with spirits, have to be scrutinized and confronted to the certainties of the conscious mind in order to possibly be reconciled in the mind. It is indeed the product of this reconciliation that will finally be integrated as a supplement of knowledge. Subconscious visions that are not confronted with the conscious mind have indeed a nagging tendency to be irrational and as such they are not readily integrate-able in the conscious mind and so they end up being of no other use than entertainment but with the real possibility of eventually pushing us into trouble. As I mentioned before what counts in knowledge formation is not the conversation with spirits per se for, if this was the case, such a conversation would be no more than entertainment with no possible gain for the mind. For sure the irrational does not limit the possibilities of entertainment but it surely adds nothing significant to our knowledge. This is why it is a waste of time.

The only thing that counts, I mean in term of knowledge formation, is the reconciliation of the conversation with spirits with our conscious certainties so that the product of this reconciliation can be integrated eventually in the conscious mind and increase by as much our level of knowledge or our consciousness of what such knowledge pertains to. That’s why we have always to process our unconscious visions, or conversations with spirits, to extract that supplement of knowledge we yearn for.


“Leonardo on Painting” Edited by Martin Kemp. Translated by Martin Kemp and Margaret Walker. Yale Nota Bene. Yale University Press. See “Part V. The painter’s practice” and more particularly the chapter “The invention and composition of narratives”.

2  See “Peindre est une gageure” by AndrĂ© Masson in Cahiers du Sud n#233 of March 1941 and “Une crise de l’imaginaire” in Fontaine n#35 published in Agiers in 1944. Masson insurges himself against the production of meaningless non-sensical surrealist works whose authors are made famous by the market and he rightly predicts that in the end this phenomenon will crush surrealism. Masson nevertheless does not go so far as to suggest that the market specifically selects such kinds of works for their absence of ideation which is the thesis that I personally defend. The market is indeed in search of the maximum exposure for the products it handles and in atomized societies ideas appear divisive and risky which for many people is like a door that they do not want to cross... This is what the market dreads most..

3  See “Book 2. Volume 4. Governance and societal evolution” where I develop the idea that societies and the individuals are the polarities of species with societies acting as the guardians of the species preservation.

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