Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
The Art of the Transpersonal Self Transformation as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice A Dissertation Submitted to the Division of Media and Communications of the European Graduate School in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy By Norbert Koppen
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

Saving this for later? Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime – even offline.
Text the download link to your phone
Standard text messaging rates apply

The Art of the Transpersonal Self Transformation as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice A Dissertation Submitted to the Division of Media and Communications of the European Graduate School in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy By Norbert Koppen


Published on

The Art of the Transpersonal Self …

The Art of the Transpersonal Self
Transformation as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice
A Dissertation Submitted to the
Division of Media and Communications
of the European Graduate School
in Candidacy for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Norbert Koppensteiner

Published in: Spiritual, Technology

1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total Views
On Slideshare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

No notes for slide


  • 1. The Art of the Transpersonal SelfTransformation as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice A Dissertation Submitted to the Division of Media and Communications of the European Graduate School in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy By Norbert Koppensteiner December 2007
  • 2. AcknowledgmentsOne guiding thread of this dissertation is the relationality of human existence. The becomingof this dissertation – just like the continued becoming of myself – is a plurality, it is theflowing together of different threads that form the nexus that is this dissertation, that form theever shifting nexus that I call my “self”.My appreciation and profound thanks go to my supervisor, Prof. Wolfgang Schirmacher forthe guidance he has given, a guidance which has made me grow, made me reach, or - indifferent words – fostered my becoming.Prof. Martina Kaller and Prof. Wolfgang Dietrich both read the first draft of this dissertation.They have provided valuable critical feedback but my gratefulness runs much deeper thanthat. For years of inspiration I thank them both and Wolfgang Dietrich for providing so manyof the key tunings for the following pages. The song may be mine but the tuning fork towhich the music is set has been provided by him.This work finally would never have seen the light of day without Josefina. Your criticalreading, your support and love have provided the beacon on which to chart my course throughthis adventure, this challenge. Te quiero mucho.
  • 3. Table of ContentsWhy write?.................................................................................................................................. 5State of the Art and Definition of Terms.................................................................................... 7 (Post)modernity.......................................................................................................................8 Verwindung (twisting, distortion, fading) and Weak Thinking ...........................................13 Rationality, Transrationality................................................................................................. 15 The Transpersonal.................................................................................................................16 Homo Generator....................................................................................................................18Objective................................................................................................................................... 22Methodological Considerations................................................................................................ 241. Apollo and Dionysius............................................................................................................32 1.1. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Birth of Greek Tragedy .................................................... 33 1.2. The Apollonian Hegemony............................................................................................ 39 1.3. Conclusion..................................................................................................................... 492. Philosophy and Spirituality................................................................................................... 51 2.1. Placing the Hermeneutics of the Subject....................................................................... 53 2.2. Philosophy and Spirituality - Knowledge of the Self and Care of the Self................... 57 2.3. Truth, Knowledge, Practices and Transformation......................................................... 61 2.4. The Hellenistic/Spiritual, the Platonic and the Christian Models.................................. 67 2.5. Beyond the Greek Example........................................................................................... 74 2.6. Subjectivity and Self...................................................................................................... 77 2.7. Conclusion..................................................................................................................... 80 3.1. Science and Art.............................................................................................................. 83 3.2. The Object of Art........................................................................................................... 90 3.3. A Life in Transformation............................................................................................... 93 3.4. Conclusion................................................................................................................... 1014. Energizing Foucault............................................................................................................ 104 4.1. Approaching Power......................................................................................................105 4.2. The Conventional Interpretation of Foucault’s Power.................................................106 4.3. Power Re-visited.......................................................................................................... 111 4.4. An Energetic Power .................................................................................................... 115 4.5. The Relational Self.......................................................................................................118 4.6. An Affirmative Practice............................................................................................... 123 4.7. Conclusion................................................................................................................... 1285. Ethics as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice ........................................................................ 130 5.1. Placing Foucauldian Ethics.......................................................................................... 131 5.2. The Four Domains of the Relationship to Oneself...................................................... 136 5.3. Ethics and Aesthetics................................................................................................... 142 5.3.1. Beyond Morality................................................................................................... 143 5.3.2. Two Understandings of the Aesthetic................................................................... 145 5.4. Ethics as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice.................................................................. 150 5.5. Conclusion................................................................................................................... 1546. Practices of the Self ............................................................................................................156 6.1. Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed..........................................................158 6.1.1. Theoretical Premises............................................................................................ 160 6.1.2. Spectator, what an Insult!......................................................................................163 6.1.3. Relational Becoming in Severality....................................................................... 166 6.2. Systemic Constellation Work.......................................................................................169 6.3. Holotropic Breathwork................................................................................................ 175 6.3.1. The Self as Form – Emptiness and Fullness......................................................... 185
  • 4. 6.4. Conclusion................................................................................................................... 1887. An Impersonal God – Where Theory Fades....................................................................... 192 7.1. An Impersonal God...................................................................................................... 193 7.2. Affirming Life as Prerequisite for Experiencing the Divine........................................198 7.3. A Weak Transcendence .............................................................................................. 201 7.4. A Parting of Ways........................................................................................................203 7.5. Spaces for Encounters.................................................................................................. 206 7.6. Conclusion................................................................................................................... 2108. Beyond the Apollonian Hegemony.....................................................................................212Bibliography............................................................................................................................216
  • 5. Why write?The question that needs to be asked at the beginning of every written work, and indeed evenmore so at the beginning of a work of the size of a dissertation is: why write? Closelyfollowed by why write this particular piece of work, with these means towards these ends? The answer, if there is to be one, can only be a personal answer as the reasons forpicking up a particular topic at a particular time in life are always personal and distinct. Adissertation and any kind of written work furthermore always remains a snapshot, a take of amoment bound in pages, a picture or at best a painting of what actually is a flow of life, a flowof thoughts and practices in an ever shifting field of becoming with possibly much lesscoherence and cohesion than this image of a bound work, published under the name of anauthor, would suggest. This flow of life, this continuous transformation is, I believe, also quite unavoidable,quite unstoppable and thus quite human. From one moment to the next, with each breath wetake we cease to be identical to ourselves and, in some perhaps infinitesimally small way, webecome other than who we are. Sometimes those changes are not or only barely perceptible, itis only rarely that some event of great proportions causes us to change in fast forward,speeding up the process. And yet we change. Given those observations, one possible answer to the first question could be: the workof a dissertation can be seen as part of a work of the self on the self, part of a consciousattempt at a work of transformation. Not to escape what we are at the moment. Not from somefearful rejection of what is towards some perceived perfection or paradise of what might be,
  • 6. but in order to give this perpetual process of becoming a certain, temporary shape, try tofashion it in a certain style and direction which always remain contingent. The movement that might occur perhaps could be perceived, by oneself, as a steptowards the subjectively better. This subjectively better would simultaneously be the onlystandard of measurement in a world without fetters, without a grand book of levers and nooverall system of coordinates in which this movement could be inscribed and measured for itsprogress or direction. However, in a certain Deleuzian sense, we might still become thecartographers of our own space – the cartographers of a twisted path on a map that is aconstant work in progress and will need to be partially redrawn time and again (Deleuze andGuattari, 1987). I would thus like to answer these first two questions, not quite coincidentally with aquote from Michel Foucault – a quote which has haunted me and to which I have returnedagain and again ever since I came across it in the fall of 2004: “I am not interested in theacademic status of what I am doing, because my problem is my own transformation [...]. Whyshould a painter work if he is not transformed by his own painting?” (Foucault, 1997a: 131) Writing can so be perceived as part of a practice of the self, a transformation oneeffects on oneself and the conditions of possibility for both this transformation and also thisvery “I” which has been cast here upon paper with such a seemingly easy stroke will be thetopic of this dissertation. If there is something like freedom then I would propose that it mightbe found within a certain awareness of the self and of its possibilities of becoming, thetransrational and transpersonal conditions of which it will be the work of this dissertation tosketch. 6
  • 7. In the end this is also the task of theory in my opinion: to contribute to atransformation of the self, by showing how things could also be different instead of, as MichelFoucault (1990b: 9) says, “legitimating what is already known”. The good life will not berealized in theory, in discourse alone we will not be saved, transformed or reconciled. Yetinsofar as the continuous practice of becoming necessitates effecting a shift in the self, achange of perspective, a certain work performed on oneself, finding out to what extent it ispossible to think differently for me is a crucial step towards a transformative practice andtowards opening a door to a different perception - even if it consists in the recognition of thepoint in this process at which we have to let go of rational cognition. In a personal vein my purpose thus is the following: to think until that curious momentat which knowledge has to give way to intuition and understanding, and so to also thinkingly,but not purely thinkingly, trace the path towards that transrational moment in which, througha rebound effect of a certain constellation of knowledge and practice, a transformation of theself can occur. State of the Art and Definition of TermsBefore any discussion of the contents can commence, some terms which will be usedfrequently need clarification as to their meaning in the framework of this study. Since severalof those terms also have been the topic of frequent, and often heated, debates in differentacademic arenas it furthermore needs to be asserted at which point we shall enter thediscussion. Some of those notions introduced in the following will be reassessed during thecourse of this work, will be interpreted differently, evolved further, changed or altered. 7
  • 8. However, in order to do so a provisional starting point and location within the state of the artneeds to be established. (Post)modernityFollowing Wolfgang Dietrich I shall use the term modernity as designating “the societalproject characterized by Newtonian physics, Cartesian reductionism, the nation state ofThomas Hobbes, and the capitalist world system” (Dietrich and Sützl, 2006: 283).Philosophically, I take this project to be grounded in the tradition deriving from the AncientMediterranean area and in its origins to be associated with, although not exclusively, thethoughts of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Special focus in this dissertation will be placed onthe thinking of Plato, namely on the concept of the truth and the division into a real and anapparent world, as it is derived from his Republic1. This venture, however, has to be readagainst the background of an already existing long tradition of critical encounters withPlatonic thought; a small part of which will be further elaborated in the following. At the beginning of a line of skeptical thinking towards modernity, as it is of relevancefor this dissertation, there stands the work of Friedrich Nietzsche in the second half of thenineteenth century. It has been pointed out that already Nietzsche’s very first book, The Birthof Greek Tragedy (1967), is simultaneously a critique of the culture of his time as well as ofits ancient foundations: The Birth of Tragedy is at once a re-interpretation of ancient Greece, a philosophical and aesthetic revolution, a critique of contemporary culture, and a programme to revitalize it. (Vattimo, 2002: 13)1 The most famous description of this division between the apparent world of our senses and the real world ofconcepts (ideas) is of course the Platonic cave allegory as portrayed in the Republic (page 240ff. in thetranslation of Waterfield, 1993). 8
  • 9. Far from challenging only the philosophical assumptions of Platonic/Socratic thought,Nietzsche’s critiques also concern the long tradition deriving thereof which ultimately leadsinto modernity. The division between real and apparent world, truth, objectivity (scientificity),the self-grounded autonomous subject (Descartes’ cogito) as well as notions of civilizationalprogress or the humanistic ideal of enlightenment so become the target of Nietzsche’s vitriolicand dissolving attacks. In the twentieth century this critical line of investigation has been followed up,amongst others, by thinkers such as Martin Heidegger (1993), Wolfgang Schirmacher (1983),Gianni Vattimo (1988; 1997), Jean-François Lyotard (1984; 1988), Jacques Derrida (1978),Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1984; 1987), Michel Foucault (1972; 1988b) and JeanBaudrillard (1993; 1994). This list is by no means exclusive or exhaustive but points to acertain strand of critical thinking of importance for this dissertation. The field of criticalengagements with modernity is far from unified but reaches out in manifold strands, rangingfrom the different version of Postcolonialism to various waves of feminist critiques and queerand gender studies and Peace research. This debate often has circled around a criticism or deconstruction of the metaphysical(or metanarrative) foundations of modernity. Metaphysics here can be understood as any kindof thinking that is grounded in ultimate foundations or first principles; those principles fromwhich all other thinking can derive and which themselves remain beyond questioning. Jean-François Lyotard (1984: 27ff.) renders those first principles as metanarratives, from whichlegitimation for further (scientific) knowledge originates, but which themselves are not opento proof of rational argument. Lyotard shows how this concern with legitimation via firstprinciples arises with Plato and his cave allegory and continually resurfaces – as for examplein Aristotle or in Descartes’ Discourse on Method (1984: 29). With Descartes’ Cogito the 9
  • 10. thinking subject is posited as an autonomous and self grounded “I,” and so is supposed toprovide the stable foundation from which all further argumentation can derive. Lyotard callsthis foundation the “story of the mind” (1984: 29). It is a story, or (meta)narrative, because onits own premises it can neither be proven nor refuted. This critique called postmodern so concerns itself with making visible and contestingthe exclusionary tendencies inherent to metaphysics. Such metaphysical or, in the words ofGianni Vattimo (2006) also strong thinking, is seen as ultimately leading to violence. Toillustrate this point about violence, Michel Foucault (1988b) sets out to show how thehistorical establishment of reason is not the result of an ever more inclusive historicaladvance of progress, but that reason is, on the contrary, built on the constitution andsubsequent exclusion of unreason as madness. With the same author the Platonic relation between truth, power and knowledge isinverted (Foucault, 2000g). In the Platonic understanding, Foucault asserts, truth andknowledge could be opposed to (political) power and therefore could work as its corrective.While it thus remained possible for Plato to pit a “powerless truth against a truthless power,”(Foucault, 2000g: 33) Foucault inverts this relation by pointing out that in fact, knowledgeand power advance together and that truth is only ever the result of a specific strategicconstellation between them (2000g). In the wake of the postmodern critique, concepts like the truth, the autonomous andself grounded subject, progress, civilization, solvability of conflicts and even peace, havetherefore become sites of contestation and debate. Neither of those terms can today be takenfor granted any more and many pertinent questions from different directions have been raisedabout what has been excluded through the tradition of thought which builds on them or uses 10
  • 11. them as if they were pre-given and would remain the ever same, unwavering and unchangingthrough the times. We can thus grasp the postmodern, in the words of Jean-François Lyotard, as“incredulity towards metanarratives” (Lyotard, 1984: xxiv) - a definition from whichWolfgang Dietrich derives the following: Postmodernity should not be misunderstood as the historical epoch that follows modernity, although the prefix “post” might suggest this. However, “post” also refers to a reflection of something, in this case, of modernity. Therefore, “post” indicates that the social value system of the time span that it circumscribes refers to a condition which, although preceding it, still has effects and remains relevant at a particular point in time. If this were not the case, the prefix “post” would be redundant. Postmodernity, then, describes the state of mind of one or several generations that have had to painfully disassociate themselves from the great truths of the previous epoch, without having found for themselves a new unitary system of reference. This state could be described by the word dis-illusionment. (Dietrich and Sützl 2006: 283)However, regarding the critique of these first principles, it is also becoming increasinglyobvious that what has started with Nietzsche’s scathing analyses has up until now remainedlargely a critique that, contesting rationality and pointing out its limits and lacunaes, itself stilladvanced by rational means2. The critique of rationality by rational methods in the end seemsto have come full circle, in the recent realization of an increasing dis-illusionment about dis-illusionment, or as Gianni Vattimo refers to it, disenchantment about disenchantment [w]e are all by now used to the fact that disenchantment has also produced a radical disenchantment with the idea of disenchantment itself; or in other words, that2 See also Dietrich, 2006b: 26 11
  • 12. demythification has finally turned against itself, recognizing that even the ideal of the elimination of myth is a myth. (Vattimo, 1999: 29)At its limit point there today arises the question of whether the postmodern rejection ofmetaphysics and subsequent dis-illusionment has proven to be tenable and indeed livable.Frederic Jameson (1984: xii) seems to arrive at a very similar question when asking whetherthe great master-narratives, which Jean-François Lyotard deemed to be unsustainable, have infact disappeared or might not, much rather, merely have gone “underground,” towards a“continuing but now unconscious effectivity as a way of “thinking about” and acting in ourcurrent situation”. What in consequence can be seen emerging in current discussions – having taken noteof the necessary shortcomings of a critique of rationality itself carried out by rational means –are questions revolving around transrationality and transpersonality. This dissertation and thetopics dealt with therein have to be seen as part of this emerging debate which, while stillanchored with one foot in postmodern grounds, is already reaching out with the other,wondering whether it will dare to put its foot down and where it might land. This step,wherever it finally will land, should in any case not be interpreted as a step forward, a stepbeyond or one that perhaps overcomes an obstacle, but much rather as a twisting movement (aVerwindung). The current work therefore begins from a postmodern vantage point, taking toheart the incredulity towards metanarratives. However, by the very token of this incredulitypostmodernity has largely remained a venture of critique. The current work, while heeding theimportance of a postmodern critique, wants to twist postmodernity towards a practice that isno longer (purely) critical and rational but much rather affirmative and transrational. 12
  • 13. Verwindung (twisting, distortion, fading) and Weak ThinkingThe term Verwindung derives from the thinking of Martin Heidegger (1973) and it is hereused in Gianni Vattimo’s (1994, 1997, 2006) interpretation of Heidegger’s thoughts. Whilebeing highly critical of the metaphysical tradition and the violence that is inherent to it,Vattimo points out that this tradition still forms part of the historical horizon from whichcontemporary thinking arises. Vattimo sees the rejection of metaphysics in the light of a truer,more adequate description of reality as impossible, because such thinking - by the very sametoken of a categorical rejection - would fall back into the metaphysical categories it tries tocriticize (1997). The relation that one can establish with metaphysics is thus not one ofovercoming – as the perpetual movement of higher unifications which increasingly becomemore true - but on the contrary, one that “cannot do otherwise than establish a relation ofVerwindung: one of resigned acceptance of continuation, of distortion” (Vattimo, 1997: 53). Vattimo so contrasts the notion of overcoming (überwinden) with the HeideggerianVerwindung (1997: 53, 54). While the former carries the connotation of a step towards anincreasingly accurate correspondence to the objective truth, the former, while giving up on thenotion of an objectively discernable true world, still accepts metaphysics as part of its heritageto which it resigns itself, but from which it also heals itself and thus, while giving thismetaphysical heritage a certain space, simultaneously twists and “distorts” (1997, 53) it into anew place: But since it is not a case of correcting the errors of metaphysics with a more objectively true vision of how things stand, the way out of metaphysics is shown to be more complicated. We do not have before us any objectivity that, once discovered in what really is, could provide a criterion by which to change our thoughts, as though metaphysics might be set aside as an error or a discarded and worn-out piece of clothing. [...] This term [Verwindung], preserving also a literal connection with 13
  • 14. überwinden, to overcome, means, however, in practice: to recover from an illness while still bearing its traces, to resign oneself to something. (Vattimo, 1997: 118)Similarly, Heidegger’s English translator Joan Stambaugh (in Heidegger, 1973: 84) points outthat Martin Heidegger’s Verwindung is not identical to overcoming in the sense of somethingthat is “defeated” and “left behind” or that one has gotten “rid off”. Verwinden, she asserts,also has the connotation of “incorporating,” however without the notion of being elevated bysuch incorporations into new and progressively higher unities. Verwindung, especially in theconnotation given to it by Vattimo so operates in conceptual proximity to the idea of aworking-through modernity (durcharbeiten) as Jean-Francois Lyotard (1994) has coined it. From such an understanding of Verwindung Gianni Vattimo develops his own conceptof weak thinking (2006). Weak is a form of thinking which is aware of its own situatednessand contingency, takes into account the historical background against which and within whichit is formed (owing to what Heidegger calls the “thrownness” of being3) and thus, perdefinition “cannot occur according to a logic of verification and of rigorous demonstration,but only by means of that old, eminently aesthetic instrument called intuition” (2006: 237).Weak thinking is impure (2006: 228) for it still contains parts of the (strong) metaphysicaltradition. However, instead of rejecting this tradition, weak thinking embraces, declines anddistorts strong metaphysics. Against the background of the magnificent metaphysical truth Vattimo so states theweakness of the own thought from the very beginning and thus refrains from building anothergrand narrative with an even better, and more perfected overarching truth (Echavarría andKoppensteiner, 2006: 169). Going beyond Vattimo this approach enables a positive re-engagement with metaphysics, bewaring its violent tendencies but integrating and3 See also Thiele, 2003: 214. 14
  • 15. acknowledging it as part of our past and (in a twisted form) possibly also future. Both theconcepts of weak thinking and Verwindung will recur frequently in this study and especiallythe former will be developed further in the following chapters, in particular as in light of theconcepts of transrationality and transpersonality. Rationality, TransrationalityAs regards the question of rationality and transrationality I take the former to be one of thehallmarks of the project of modernity. I understand rationality as the method of proceeding byreason. The term transrational has first been coined by Ken Wilber (1999, 2000a, 2000b,2001). The prefix trans- derives from Latin and signifies across, beyond, through (Walch,2002: 120). The transrational thus describes a process which, while also acknowledgingreason, transcends it. In a Post-Hegelian interpretation this might result in the including and sublatingtranscendence of rationality itself within transrationality (Aufhebung) - towards a higher unity.In a non-dialectical, weak interpretation, instead of elevating and unifying, the rational istwisted away from the purity of its form (the rational so no longer serves as the proverbialultima ratio) towards the acknowledgment of fields of experience beyond rationality. Themanner in which the Apollonian and Dionysian will be related in the course of thisdissertation thus gives rise to a transrationality which does not contain them both in a higherunity, but is the always precarious and always different relation of two weak principles whichare not dialectical but are mutually part of each other and therefore contingent and co-determining. 15
  • 16. The TranspersonalThe term transpersonal is also frequently used in this study. It shares with the transrational notjust the prefix trans-, but also its origin in transpersonal psychology: It derives from the fieldof transpersonal psychology and has been introduced by Abraham Maslow (Battista, 1996:52). For use within the psychological field it has been defined in the following way: Transpersonal, meaning beyond the personal, refers to development beyond conventional, personal or individual levels. More specifically, transpersonal refers to development beyond the average, although such higher functioning turns out to be more common than previously was thought. Transpersonal development is part of a continuum of human functioning or consciousness, ranging from the prepersonal (before the formation of a separate ego), to the personal (with a functioning ego) to the transpersonal (in which an ego remains available but is superseded by more inclusive frames of reference). (Scotton, 1996a: 3) In differentiation to such a psychological understanding of transpersonality I will beusing the term in a more philosophical connotation. What is thus of interest here is not somuch a model of the development of the self as it is proposed for example by developmentalpsychology or Ken Wilber’s (1996, 2000a) concept of an expansive and including model of anevolutionary self which goes through successive phases becoming ever more holistic – moreencompassing, integrated and comprehensive. What Wilber (1996) outlines might also be termed an Art of the Self, however hedescribes the hierarchical version of such an Art, striving for ever higher forms of realizationand implying a developmental telos inherent to all of humanity. For Wilber, development ofthe self implies an unfolding through pre-given and describable stages, until the self reaches 16
  • 17. first its mature egoic form (the centaur) and subsequently transcends this form into higherstages of being (subtle and causal). On each level the self materializes as an individual form(surface structure, the personal and concrete expression) which is shaped and determined bythe pre-given, unconscious structural “potentials and limitations” (Wilber, 1996: 46) specificto that level (deep structures). While my project thus shares many common spaces with the work of Wilber (asindeed the very terms transpersonal and transrational also signify), one crucial differenceregards the question of those developmental hierarchies. In comparison, my Art of the Self isset against a more open horizon, whose transformations are intuited by the experiencingperson and whose necessities are co-derived from the concrete surroundings without,however, embedding those transformations into an overall frame of universal reference. Insimple terms it might be stated that what will be proposed here is more the (relational,situational) outside perspective rather than Wilber’s view which turns the gaze inside the selfto find the pre-existing potentialities which for him always already slumber inside us4. In the present dissertation the transpersonal will be understood much rather inconnection with certain theories of subjectivity (and subjectivation) which problematize theidea of a single, coherent and stable individual subjectivity (the Cartesian cogito) and dissolvethe understanding of an I-you dichotomy, however without directly recurring to theprepersonal-personal-transpersonal evolutionary model. The question that is thus opened isnot so much the psychological question of the evolution and superseding of the ego, but thephilosophical and ethical question of an understanding of the self beyond individuality and thedistinctive way of life that might ensue from such a conception; as well as in general terms of4 This is not the space to critically appraise the works of Ken Wilber in detail. Suffice therefore to say that inregards to Wilber’s developmental model I hold the criticism that Gustavo Esteva (2006) raised against theconcept of development and Gianni Vattimo’s (2006) skepticism towards strong thinking to be pertinent. 17
  • 18. the questions of being and becoming. In summary, it can be concluded that the present workis an Art of the transpersonal Self because it (1) acknowledge the individual person as oneform of experienced existence, yet also (2) intuits larger frames of reference as for examplethe notion of an aesthetic-energetic sphere which will be developed throughout thisdissertation. Homo GeneratorOf special importance for this dissertation is the ground that has already been covered byWolfgang Schirmacher (1989, 1991, 1994a, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007a, 2007c)with his concepts of homo generator and artificial life. Both concepts raise the question ofpost-metaphysical living and ask how a good life can still remain possible for humanity at thedawn of the twenty first century. Moving from a Heideggerian being-in-the-world to aDeleuzian being-for-the-world (Schirmacher, 1996: 6) homo generator focuses on the activeself-generative powers of the human being. Schirmacher (2007c: 4) here recurs to HannahArendt’s concept of natality, as “the explosive ability in politics and private life to start a newlife at any moment.”5 Humans, Schirmacher (2007c) asserts, have always been a self-generating beings butit is only with homo generator that this feature – characterized in the context of thisdissertation as the art of giving one’s life a certain, distinct, form – comes to the forefront. Ashuman beings we are therefore “artificial by nature” as it is within human nature to becomedifferently, to use the technologies at our disposal in order to turn ourselves into somebody or(in the Age of New Media, of Internet and Second Life) something else. This sets in motion aprocess of becoming which is never finished:5 Translation from the German original by Daniel Theisen at, lastaccessed 30/07/2007. 18
  • 19. With openness as our existential taste and co-evolutionary power as our design, Homo Generator favors eternal revisions and safeguards the freedom of creation. (Schirmacher, 2000: 2)Homo generator also acknowledges that what is necessary for a gelingendes Leben (a life ofaccomplishment) is a certain forgetfulness. The good life, the successful life, indeed, cannever be grasped theoretically; it remains cognitively elusive, rationally ungraspable. Whatdoes remain possible is to attain glimpses of this good life of which we so can become“vaguely aware”, but always on the condition that we “need to forget at once” what we haveglimpsed (Schirmacher, 2000: 4). And yet, we all live this good life, every day, without beingaware of it and, in fact, also on the condition of not being (rationally) aware of it. Theoretically, the gelingendes Leben remains unattainable, it is impossible to pre-design it according to some master-plan, but practically we live it every day. It occurs, asSchirmacher says “behind our backs”6. What he so proposes is an affirmative practice ofliving. It is a practice because it wants to be lived instead of just being theoreticallydetermined and it is affirmative for it acknowledges and embraces all facets of life. It is this double move of simultaneously turning away from (strong) metaphysics whilealso sidestepping the traps of rationalism which characterize an important element for thisdissertation. Homo generator provides a conceptual model for what is at stake here: thequestion of how an art of living can concretely be envisioned; an art of living which makesuse of different methods and techniques of a transformation of the self and takes to heartFriedrich Nietzsche’s (1974: 232) premonition that “what is needful”, is to “give style” to6 Quote from personal notes taken during Wolfgang Schirmacher’s lectures at the European Graduate School(EGS) during the summer of 2006. 19
  • 20. one’s existence, without, by this very same token, believing that the good life could beplanned. In this undertaking of using the technologies available for generating the own lifeWolfgang Schirmacher and Michel Foucault agree when the former concludes that “everyoneis capable of developing an “aesthetic self”” (Schirmacher, 1989: 5). The very artificiality ofhuman life, in fact, makes the stylization of such an aesthetic self part of human nature. “Theself”, Schirmacher (2007c: 7) concludes, “exists in no other way than as engaged in form-giving”7. As regards those technologies of existence Wolfgang Schirmacher places a strongemphasis on the creative potential of the New Media while the focus in this dissertation willbe placed more on those technologies of the self which can be derived from the realm oftranspersonal psychology and theater practices. The ethic which Schirmacher proposes in light of this inability to plan a gelingendesLeben is an ethics characterized by several features: Gelingen zeigt sich allein im nachhinein, vollzieht eine Ordnung, deren Merkmale Unberechenbarkeit, Leichtigkeit und Gelassenheit sind. (Schirmacher, 1995: 5)8Unpredictability, lightness and, most importantly Gelassenheit are three of the characteristicsdetermining for a Gelingensethik – the ethics concomitant to the accomplished life. Thisethics is completed with a commitment to compassion (Schirmacher, 1989). This compassionhas to be understood not as an abstract compassion towards an other that is known only at oneremove, but as a concrete practice which is embodied in a “physically conveyed empathy”7 Translation by Daniel Theisen at, last accessed 30/07/2007.8 “Accomplishment [Gelingen] shows itself only after the fact, and brings about an order whose characteristicsare unpredictability, lightness and releasement [Gelassenheit].” Translation by Daniel Theisen at, last accessed 30/07/2007. 20
  • 21. (Schirmacher, 1989: 5). Recognizing one’s own face in the suffering of others givescompassion an understanding of a basic connectivity of life which goes beyond mereindividuality. Drawing on both the Western philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and the IndianUpanishads, Schirmacher asserts: Das Gaukelbild, das uns vormacht wir seien vom Leiden aller Kreatur durch Individualität geschützt, zerbricht, und Opfer und Täter erkennen sich als dieselben. TAT TVAM ASI – das bist du. Die Mitleidshandlung ist ethisch bedeutsam, gerade weil sie nicht auf die einzelne Situation zielt, sondern mit dem „ganzen Dasein der Welt und dem Lose der Menschheit“ verbunden ist. (Schirmacher, 1994b: 7)9With that Schirmacher asserts the ethical dimension which is inextricably linked to theconcept of homo generator. The generative function of the natality inherent to homogenerator is thus not to be understood as a facile anything goes but on the contrary alwayscomes together with the task of facing up to one’s life. A gelingendes Leben is one for whichalso responsibility needs to be claimed and affirmed, but without, however, for this reasonfalling into a culture of guilt. Just like her/his failures belong to homo generator in a similarmanner as the own successes, homo generator also rejects the blame “for everything you havenot started yourself” (Schirmacher, 2007b: 4). Both failures and successes are but two sides of the same coin if they are approachedwith the ethical fourfold of compassion, Gelassenheit, lightness and trust that theunpredictability inherent to life will lead towards the gelingendes Leben without our planning.9 “The mirage which leads us to believe that by our individuality we are protected from the suffering of allcreature shatters, and victim and perpetrator recognize themselves as the same: TAT TVAM ASI – that is you.The act of compassion is ethically significant exactly because it does not aim at the single situation but connectsto “the whole being-there of the world and to the fate of humanity”.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner 21
  • 22. ObjectiveThe question which drives this dissertation is the ages-old question of how is one to live? Ifwe understand postmodernity, like it was defined above, as incredulity towards metanarrativesand if we therefore assume that the tenets of a strong truth which in former times could serveto ground a way of living – like the believes in progress, enlightenment, civilization,development, but also in religions like Christianity – have in postmodernity been cast undersuspicion and are examined for their potential for violence, then the question of how live, howto still give the own life a certain shape, style or form looms large. It is thus exactly in thepostmodern times of the twenty first century that this question has gained renewed relevanceand is now more crucial than ever. While postmodernity has its merit and importance as practice and virtue of critique, itleaves open the burning question of how one can, while heeding this postmodern critique, stillengage in affirmative practices to give shape to the own life. Taking heed of the postmoderncritique implies that this process of giving shape can no longer be moral, yet postmodernityleaves open the question whether it can still be guided by an ethics and affirmative practices? In this work, which will be undertaken in conclusion of my doctoral studies at theEuropean Graduate School, I will so venture to re-think some of those categories holdingsway in (post)modernity in order to approximate a possible understanding of how atransrationality and transpersonality could concretely be lived. I will thus sketch the outlinesof a possible art of living for a subjectivity that is perceived as constantly emergent and intransformation, a subjectivity that dares to embrace conflict as part of its perpetual trans-personal relational becoming and that emerges beyond the hegemony of the categories of thetruth and morals through a transformation of the self which is understood as an aesthetic 22
  • 23. (Apollonian) and energetic (Dionysian) practice. I will thus, approximate an Art of theTranspersonal Self. From the ethical question of how is one to live? Ultimately a double objective derives:First to sketch a transpersonal art of living and a fashioning of the self beyond morals and,secondly, to show how such an undertaking also takes us with postmodern philosophy out ofpostmodernity and re-opens the plane of transcendence towards a transrationality. In order to achieve this objective, I will first re-take some critical moments of Westernphilosophy, interpreting with Friedrich Nietzsche and Wolfgang Dietrich the current situationas Apollonian Hegemony. Secondly, I will show the specific effects of this hegemony on theforms of subjectivation, and establish with Michel Foucault that a subjectivity, which is opento transformation, necessarily has to be thought without recurring to either morals or thestrong category of the Truth. Thirdly, in counterpoint to the Apollonian hegemony, I will develop a concept of artand establish how, through relating the Apollonian once more with the Dionysian, an Art ofTransformation becomes possible, which is perceived in relationality and aims for a(verwindende) transfiguration of the subject through putting into dynamic play bothDionysian (energetic) and Apollonian (aesthetic) elements. Fourthly, this ApollonianDionysian interplay shall be linked to a radicalized version of the Foucauldian understandingof power towards an energetic power. A transpersonal idea of subjectivity will be developed,perceiving subjectivation as perpetual process within an aesthetic-energetic sphere ofbecoming in severality. 23
  • 24. Fifthly, I will complement this Art of the Trans-personal Self with an ethics that doesnot derive its validity from a formal code of behavior and which is thus not a moral ethics, buton the contrary an aesthetic and energetic one; and will, sixthly, draw out several concretepractices of the self, as they are applicable and usable in the technological age of the twentyfirst century. I will finally show how such a trans-rational practice ultimately takes us beyond thefield of theory back into a realm of experiential understanding beyond postmodernity, a weaktranscendent realm where (scientific, rational) knowing has to give way to the intuition ofunderstanding. Methodological ConsiderationsThe main methodological problem posed by this dissertation is reflected in the question ofhow one can thinkingly and theoretically approach something which eludes theorizing? Howis it possible to approximate theoretically something which is beyond rational description?The main method proposed in this dissertation starts from an analysis, recombination andinterpretation of certain practices, certain works which, following Foucault, the self performson itself. From here I will trace a connection from these practices to a type of experience whichis linked to a certain understanding of the self leading further to an art of living. This method,however, at first sight might be seen to hit a barrier exactly at the very moment when anargument for a limitation of the reach of theory in favor of the practice of living is put forth.At this point recourse to empirical methods might perhaps appear logical. 24
  • 25. However, in light of the implicit critique of empiricism that is also inherent in thiswork, any empirical research leading to scientific knowledge will consciously be avoidedwhen encountering this point of theoretical rupture in favor of an argument for experientialunderstanding (and so an understanding that is non-empirical in the scientific sense) beforewhich theorizing ceases. This is a necessary restriction advocated and not a shortcoming. As itwill be argued that a certain experiential field of life invariably falls out of the reach of bothrational theorizing and empirical research, any attempt to bring it back into either of thosefields can only be through an act of reduction and renewed rationalization. The methodchosen thus consists in leading the theoretical argument up to that moment of transformationwhile acknowledging that it is only through this critical restraint and a cognitive (theoretical)letting go that the field of the transrational can be opened at all. The authors chosen here are mainly drawn from the realm of philosophy. Although itwould of course also have been possible to approach the topic via the field of psychology, Ihave chosen to lay more emphasis on the philosophical side. If the question is in how far it ispossible to go with certain postmodern philosophers beyond postmodernity, then this slanttowards philosophy to me only appears consequent. Still it needs to be mentioned that someof the most interesting and cutting edge concepts and practices are currently found in the fieldof transpersonal psychology, recurring to the works of, amongst others, C.G. Jung, WilhelmReich, Stanislav Grof, Roberto Assagioli, Abraham Maslow, Ervin Laszlo and Ken Wilber10.It is my aim to propose meeting points for those two fields, spaces of connectivity where,beyond the narrow categories of disciplines, a new field of research might open up.10 See also Dietrich, 2006b 39ff. 25
  • 26. The term philosophy and philosopher for the purposes of this work are therefore takenin the broader sense of the word, including as my main sources the works of Michel Foucaultand Friedrich Nietzsche. My affiliation with philosophy ends whenever it is stipulated that inorder to philosophize one needs to have a system – which is something I do not claim formyself. It is in this respect that I follow Michel Foucault, who defines philosophy not by acertain system or syntax but via its content: philosophy for Foucault is the (critical)preoccupation with questions of truth and freedom11. It is, he asserts, an activity or movement: The movement by which, not without uncertainty, dreams and illusions, one detaches oneself from what is accepted as true and seeks other rules – that is philosophy. The displacement and transformation of frameworks of thinking, the changing of received values and all the work that has been done to think otherwise, to do something else, to become other than what one is – that too, is philosophy. (Foucault, 1997l: 327)This movement which, according to Foucault, makes a venture philosophical is also themovement of becoming differently. This activity of detaching oneself from what has beenheld as true is simultaneously a movement of freedom. On my own trajectory - which I understand as philosophical in this sense - I so remain,without chagrin or regret, an assembler who takes what he needs but also has no qualms to cutand continue with something else, if what previously has been found no longer fits hispurposes12. It is in this sense that I intend to take serious Foucault’s famous statement that hewishes his books to be read “like a kind of tool-box, which others can rummage through tofind a tool which they can use however they wish in their own area” (Foucault, 1974).11 See also Schmid, 2000: 269.12 I owe a debt of thanks to Prof. Dr. Martina Kaller for reminding me of the strings that come attached if onetakes up the mantle of the academic discipline of philosophy. Since I have no intention of letting this work bepulled by those strings I prefer to sever them right away and choose a path which, while perhaps more eclectic,hopefully is no less meaningful. 26
  • 27. Consequently, the method I employ could perhaps best be described as a circle oftranspositions following Rosi Braidotti (2006: 5), who defines a transposition as follows: It indicates an intertextual, cross-boundary or transversal transfer, in the sense of a leap from one code, field or axis into another, not merely in the quantitative mode of plural multiplications, but rather in the qualitative sense of complex multiplicities. It is not just a matter of weaving together different strands, variations on a theme (textual or musical), but rather of playing the positivity of difference as a specific theme of its own. As a term in music, transposition indicates variations and shifts of scale in a discontinuous but harmonious pattern. It is thus created as an in-between space of zigzagging and of crossing, non-linear but not chaotic, nomadic, yet accountable and committed […].The term transposition, Braidotti elaborates, has a double history in genetics and music.Moves of transposition trace a path which appears to “proceed by leaps and bounds” but is not“deprived of logic and coherence” (2006: 5ff.). In the circular form of transposition used herein this dissertation, starting from a certain concept a circle is described through a series ofsubsequent approximations, couplings and partial fusions with and differentiations fromrelated concepts. In this case the starting point will be the concept of the Apollonian andDionysian by Friedrich Nietzsche and, through such a series of transpositions, we shallexamine how a path can be traced leading via a “careful dissociation of bonds that wouldnormally maintain cohesiveness” (Braidotti, 2006: 5ff.) from Friedrich Nietzsche intopostmodernity and back out again, thus achieving our objective of going beyondpostmodernity. In this movement I will simultaneously draw out the Art of the Transpersonal Self,thus also approximating the second goal. For this undertaking the works of Michel Foucaultand Friedrich Nietzsche have been chosen as guiding grid, also because they lend themselves 27
  • 28. to both a postmodern, immanent, interpretation but can also be used towards providingpathways for a re-opening of the plane of transcendence and an art of existence. Ultimatelythose Nietzschean and Foucauldian concepts are so transposed to a series of practices andtechniques of living derived from a different tradition and different cultures of origin, oncemore following Braidotti`s idea of transposable concepts as “‘nomadic notions’ that weave aweb connecting philosophy to social reality, theoretical speculation to concrete plans;concepts to imaginative figurations” (Braidotti, 2006: 7). As far as the use of sources goes, the main bulk of research so has undoubtedly beenconducted on the works of Michel Foucault and furthermore on Friedrich Nietzsche. Withthose two authors I have ventured to stick as closely as possible to their own texts, with twomain rules for exceptions. The first one consists in those authors who are of such animportance in their own right that it might be impossible not to familiarize oneself to someextent with their works. This goes for Gilles Deleuze in general and for his treatises onFoucault (Deleuze, 1988) and Nietzsche (Deleuze, 1983) in particular, as well as for GianniVattimo’s Nietzsche (2002). The second exception was made for literature drawing on thosetwo authors and of such relevance for the state of the art of the topic at hand that they cannotbe ignored: Wilhelm Schmid’s Auf der Suche nach einer neuen Lebenskunst (2000) would beone such example and in a similar vein I am indebted to the works of Bracha Ettinger on theMatrixial Sphere (2006), which have helped my conceptualization of the transpersonal. Falling in neither one of those two categories of exceptions is first Gianni Vattimo’sconcept of Weak Thought (2006), which has been used as a touchstone for this whole work.This dissertation is in many ways, indeed, a weak proposal. Special emphasis secondly has tobe placed on the influence of Wolfgang Schirmacher whose philosophy of Lebenstechniken(1983, 1989a, 1994a, 1994b, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007) has provided an inspiration for 28
  • 29. many of the ideas developed in this work. The third case fitting neither rule nor exception isthe work of Wolfgang Dietrich (1998, 2006a; 2006b, 2006c) and especially but notexclusively his interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Apollo and Dionysius. WolfgangDietrich’s influence on this study rightly belongs right next to Michel Foucault’s andFriedrich Nietzsche’s. While the mistakes I might have made of course are my own, itremains to be said that without his inspiration and guidance none of this would actually havebeen possible. The frequent and crucial reliance I make on especially the energeticunderstanding of the Dionysian is drawn from Wolfgang Dietrich’s work. A few further words on the use of the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and MichelFoucault are in order. Although the understanding that can be gleaned from FriedrichNietzsche’s Apollo and Dionysius (1967, 1968, 1974) are one of the guiding threads for thisdissertation, I originally had intended to predominantly draw from Nietzsche’s early period,making an exception only for the The Gay Science (1974) which truly is his lifestyle book.This, however, has proven to be impossible since the Apollonian and Dionysian surface atdifferent times throughout Nietzsche’s whole work and really can not be separated from manyother crucial concepts of his thought. In the end I think that this study has profited from notsticking to the original working plan in this case. The works of Michel Foucault have provided more of a difficulty to narrow downfrom the beginning, especially since his influence is so prevalent throughout this wholeresearch work. Ultimately I have decided to focus on his middle and late period of work, thereasons for which I think are fairly apparent. The middle period shows his pre-occupation with power, discourse and practices, andit will be an energetic re-interpretation of power around which a lot of the work of my 29
  • 30. dissertation hinges (Foucault, 1974, 1977a, 1977b, 1980a, 1990a, 2000c). The late period isidentified commonly with the Second and Third Volumes of the History of Sexuality(Foucault, 1988a; 1990b) and many of his later lectures at the Collège de France (2005) aswell as several crucial articles, interviews (1997b, 1999, 2001) and parts of his projectedfourth volume of the History of Sexuality13. These works mark the period in which MichelFoucault concerned himself with ethics, the self and the art of living, which for my re-castingof his ideas towards the Art of the Transpersonal Self simply are crucial. Foucault’s laterlectures at the Collège de France (Foucault, 2003, 2005) in this regard are seminal andbasically the whole chapter two has been dedicated to his masterpiece in this respect, namelyThe Hermeneutics of the Subject (Foucault, 2005). This focus on the middle and late phase of Foucault’s creative life should in no way beconsidered as a depreciation of the early phase, as indeed the middle and late phase only canbe understood if read in the light of his early work centering around discourse and the socalled death of the subject14. However, for the purpose of this work it is - to express it perhapsa bit flippantly - less important to know the details about why the subject has died but how theself can still, while taking this death into account, constitute itself in a positive manner andwhy and how that could lead us beyond postmodernity. This is really the net benefit that aradical reading of the late Foucault could bring us, provided one is ready to twist, decline anddistort his thought. Last but not least, it shall at this point also be explicitly stated that my academic andprofessional background is in Peace Studies. Insofar as any dissertation, and especially one13 This, at the time of Foucault’s death supposedly almost finished, fourth volume has never been published in itsentirety. Only a fragment has appeared under the title The Confession of the Flesh (1980b).14 If such a periodization is taken to be admissible, then the early period would span the time from the originalFrench publication of Madness and Civilization in 1954 until The Order of Things in 1971. The middle periodwould gyrate around two major publications: Discipline and Punish in 1975 and The Will to Knowledge in 1976;followed by the late period with the above mentioned Use of Pleasure and Care of the Self, both publishedshortly before Foucault’s death in 1984, as corner-pieces. 30
  • 31. dedicated to an Art of the Self, is always also and even primarily a personal undertaking thisobviously influences my thoughts and writings. In this light also the works of theorists likeWolfgang Sützl (2003), Francisco Muñoz (2006) and Johan Galtung (1996) can be found inthe following pages, providing an ethical background for this Art of the Transpersonal Self. Ihope it will become sufficiently clear in the course of this dissertation that ethical here by nomeans implies moral. 31
  • 32. 1. Apollo and Dionysius “He [man] is no longer an artist, he has become a work of art [...].” (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1967: 37)The work of Friedrich Nietzsche stands at the cradle for large parts of twentieth centuryphilosophy. The influence of his thought spans the bridge from such diverse thinkers such as,for example, Martin Heidegger, Sigmund Freud, and yes, Michel Foucault. Foucault himselfhas asserted this influence on his thought at several instances during his life – and readingNietzsche at a young age might have been the same revealing experience it has been for somany contemporary thinkers. What this chapter and the next one will focus on is to establish aconnection between these two thinkers, Friedrich Nietzsche and Michel Foucault, aconnection which will fully become apparent in the third chapter and which will lead ustowards the Art of the Transpersonal Self. To be more concise, the aim of this introductory chapter is to work out the first part ofan interpretive frame which shall serve as the theoretically guiding grid for the wholedissertation. The second part of this frame will be provided in the subsequent chapter, whenwe will be re-taking from a Foucauldian point of view some of the topics dealt with nowunder a Nietzschean light. Both together will constitute the frame from which one canapproach the main topic – the Art of the Transpersonal Self. This first chapter thus serves several purposes: First we will approximate a certainstyle of living as practiced by the ancient pre-Socratic Greeks. We will see how theirunderstanding of a distinct style of life is concretely derived from an interplay of two forces –the Apollonian and Dionysian. We will secondly establish how this interplay was to be fatally 32
  • 33. disrupted and thirdly approach some possible consequences of the subsequent Hegemony ofApollo and Suppression of the Dionysian. Ultimately it will become necessary to supersede this (like any) theoretical frame atthe point at which theory fades. However, in order to be able to twist (verwinden) ourtheoretical foundations, we need to first make explicit what they are – and this will be thetopic of chapter one and two. 1.1. Friedrich Nietzsche and the Birth of Greek TragedyWhen Friedrich Nietzsche published the Birth of Greek Tragedy (1967) as his first book in1872, there might have been a myriad of purposes on his mind. Some of them, indeed, arefairly obvious and have been much discussed – amongst those evident reasons one mightsafely rate his hopes for a rejuvenation of Europe through Germany (a hope which he wasvery soon to give up on) and another obvious motive in this book is to give expression to hisadmiration of Wagner, for which he would in the preface to a later edition also criticizehimself harshly. However, there are two things of interest for what is at stake here which uniteNietzsche’s first work with many of his later writings. The Birth of Greek Tragedy (1967) isfirst of all, like also his later Gay Science (1974) a life-style book. They are both life-stylebooks in the sense that they both deal with a certain style of living understood as a way ofconceiving oneself and of giving one’s life a distinct shape. However, while the Gay Scienceis a work of a more prospective kind and so deals with Nietzsche’s reflections on his own wayof living and with the ways of living he saw during his time or wished to see coming or bring 33
  • 34. about in the future, the Birth of Greek Tragedy deals with a way of living that at Nietzsche’stime was long dead and gone. In the latter Nietzsche (1967) analyses the cosmovisions of the ancient Greeks. And hechooses a rather peculiar approach at that, for he looks at Greek life-style through the lens andfocus of Greek tragedy – an art form. The time span for which Nietzsche takes the Greektragedy into view is no coincidence: It is the period of time in which something happens thatFoucault (1997e) probably would call a problematization: a practice which has hitherto beentaken for granted and accepted starts to lose its self-evidence, becomes problematized andthus appears in discourse as a question and problem. Nietzsche deals with the crucial time-span in Greek history in which in the realm of art the ancient tragedy withered to be replacedthrough the New Attic comedy. Simultaneously, this is also the period in which philosophystarted to appear on the scene in its modern form – with the advent of Socrates and Plato. What Nietzsche (1967) suggests is that this shift is more than a coincidentalsimultaneity between a change in the realm of arts (replacement of the tragedy by Atticcomedy) and in the realm of thought (a new system of thinking which arises with Plato). Hecontends that together with those two occurrences a whole way of living and perceiving theworld undergoes a fundamental change and break. This in turn brings us to the second interesting pre-occupation which already can befound in the Birth of Greek Tragedy and which would stay with Nietzsche for most of hiscreative life: the two principles of the Apollonian and Dionysian. And it is those twoprinciples, or to be more precise the change of relation between those two principles and thedifferent ways in which they are portrayed which, in Nietzsche, connects the question of 34
  • 35. (Socratic/Platonic) philosophy with the question of the Greek tragedy and ultimately the wayof living. At this point we need to take a closer look in order to discern how exactly one of thosethree elements (the shifting perception of the Dionyisan/Apollonian relation) traverses theother two elements – the life and death of tragedy in the realm of the arts and the onset ofSocratic/Platonic thought. With Wolfgang Dietrich (2006c) I will argue that what ultimatelyemerges from this shift is a changed cosmovision, a changed perception of self and universeand how those two relate to each other. Following the Birth of Greek Tragedy in the chronology of its account let us beginwith an approach to the realm of the arts. This immediately leads to the Greek world ofdivinities. In the form of Apollo and Dionysius the Ancient Greeks had the peculiar habit ofvenerating two gods of the arts and, as Wolfgang Dietrich (2006c: 37) puts it they “honoredboth gods in kind”. On the one hand, the deity of formal beauty, aesthetics and style or, as Dietrich rendersit, the God of form – Apollo. On the other hand, the wild revelries of the Cult of theDionysian, as God of the orgiastic, and, once more in the words of Dietrich, the god ofcontent. If the formalistic elements of the Apollonian reached its epitome in the clear andsublime Greek architecture, it was the “nonimaginistic art of Music” (Nietzsche, 1967: 33)and the energetic vibrations it produced that was deemed to be the expression of theDionysian. Manifested in those two gods, therefore, were two principles, two concepts. Thoseconcepts in turn were not so much perceived as opposed, but on the contrary as mutually 35
  • 36. conditioning each other in the form of a co-dependence and dynamic inter-relation. Contraryto appearances there is so no dialectics in the Apollonian and Dionysian but a reciprocal calland co-determining connection. For the Greeks Apollo could not exist without Dionysius andvice versa. What is hidden in those metaphors is a fundamental perception about life andabout how to live it. Life, human life, for the ancient Greeks in this pre-Socratic period only becomespossible in the interplay of those two, in the simultaneous acknowledgment of both Dionysianand Apollonian elements. This is indeed how the Apollonian/Dionysian connects the world ofthe arts to the concretely lived world of the Greeks – a world in which it was deemednecessary to give an individual life a certain shape. The image of a struggle between Apollo and Dionysius which arises on first sight inNietzsche’s account of this time points to the conflictive nature of this interplay and to theshifting relation between the two principles. Apollo and Dionysius were not always and ateach time evenly matched and equally balanced. The picture that so arises of Greek society isthus of a way of perceiving the world in which, first, the two principles of form (aesthetics)and content (energetics) are perceived as mutually conditioning each other. It is, secondly, aworldview which is inherently conflictive but which does not at all deny this potential forconflict but, on the contrary, celebrates it as source of creative energy. And it is thirdly acosmovision in which the ever shifting relation between both elements is perceived asabsolutely necessary for human life to remain meaningfully possible. The celebration and symbolic expression of this complex system in turn was Greektragedy. The ancient tragedy, far from being a mere form of amusement and far from beingfocused solely on its theatrical happenings in the foreground, was an affirmation of this 36
  • 37. certain way of perceiving life, a clearly defined expression on how to deal with the questionsof form and content – or aesthetics and energy. In the art of tragedy the aspects of both of those two gods surface in great detail: TheApollonian (formal) aspect gives the tragedy its structure, it serves to channel the Dionysianenergy. For what is at stake in an Art of the Transpersonal Self it is important to realize thatNietzsche furthermore renders this tragic Apollonian as the principle of individuationaccording to stylistic and aesthetic criteria. Through the Apollonian structure the subject canachieve individuality, separate form and distinctness. In Greek tragedy the Apollonian is thussymbolized through the single, individual figure – the tragic hero. Towards the end of hiscreative life, Nietzsche would come back to this figure and describe the Apollonian thefollowing way: The word “Apollonian” means: the urge to perfect self-sufficiency, to the typical “individual,” to all that simplifies, distinguishes, makes strong, clear, unambiguous, typical: freedom under the law. (Nietzsche, 1968: 539)The Apollonian so turns into the principle of individuation – the principium individuationis(Nietzsche, 1967: 36) – which makes for individual identity and stability. The Dionysian onthe contrary is expressed on stage through the dithyrambic chorus. The chorus as main sourceof tragic music pulls us into another direction: The chorus is a collective which in itself andthrough its music defies individuality and compels us towards a forgetting of ourselves,towards losing and dissolving individuality in the wild effects of the music. The Dionysianthus becomes the collective element in which all individuality is potentially dissolved in anenergetic flow: 37
  • 38. The word “Dionysian” means: an urge to unity, a reaching out beyond personality, the everyday society, reality, across the abyss of transitoriness: a passionate-painful overflowing into darker, fuller, more floating states; an ecstatic affirmation of the total character of life as that which remains the same just as powerful, just as blissful, through all change; the great pantheistic sharing of joy and sorrow that sanctifies and calls good even the most terrible and questionable qualities of life; the eternal will to procreation, to fruitfulness, to recurrence; the feeling of the necessary unity of creation and destruction.” (Nietzsche, 1968: 539)The Apollonian soothes, calms and heals, but also asserts and fortifies individuality andstructure, whereas the Dionysian is the perpetual call to let go and give in, to lose inhibitionsand move from the conscious level towards the emotional, towards that which is not knownbut felt vibrating through every pore and is thus experienced. Gilles Deleuze (1986: 11)provides us with an image of this intricate connection between the Apollonian form and theDionysian content: “Dionysius is like the background on which Apollo embroiders beautifulappearances, but beneath Apollo, Dionysius rumbles.” On the background of the Dionysiancontent the Apollonian forms of individuality become possible. Simultaneously, theDionysian pull towards dis-individuation is necessary for Apollonian individual being to giveway to a new becoming. For the Ancient Greeks life was this always precarious balancing act between the twoprinciples, it became a taking into account and respecting both elements of life as well as theirconflictiveness. In this balancing act Nietzsche situates Greece not just geographically at theborder between two places which show the extreme prevalence of either the Apollonian andDionysian - Rome and India: But from orgies a people can take one path only, the path to Indian Buddhism, and in order that this may be endurable at all with its yearning towards the nothing it requires 38
  • 39. the rare ecstatic states with their elevation above space, time and the individual. [...] Where the political drives are taken to be absolutely valid, it is just as necessary that a people should go to the path of the most extreme secularization whose most magnificent but also most terrifying expression may be found in the Roman imperium. [...] Placed between India and Rome, and pushed toward a seductive choice, the Greeks succeeded in inventing a third form. (Nietzsche, 1968: 124, 125)In the negotiation between those two principles, between the formalizing individuation of theApollonian and the energetic flow of the Dionysian, revelries the tragedy and the art of Greeklife took place. To sum it up: it is in this way that the Apollonian/Dionysian traverses the field oftragedy and gives it meaning within a larger context, as crucial corner stones in a distinctcosmovision characterized by a striving for an always precarious balance between theprinciples of form and content (or aesthetic and energetic) and the acknowledgment ofconflict as potentially creative, but in any case inevitable force in human life. We now havetaken a look at the relation between two of our three elements (the Dionysian/Apollonian andthe field of arts via tragedy). Before we can complete our first part of our theoretical grid anddraw the pertinent conclusions we will now need to take a look at the third element ofrelevance for us in The Birth of Greek Tragedy - the Socratic/Platonic moment. 1.2. The Apollonian HegemonyThis brings us to the point of rupture within the Greek cosmovision, the point when thebalance between the two principles was to be fatefully upset. With the appearance of Socratesand Plato the scales were tipped in one direction and ultimately proved to be beyond thepossibility of regaining a balance. Nietzsche in this instance focuses on Socrates, but it might 39
  • 40. be suggested that his disciple Plato here deserves our equal attention. With Nietzsche we willso take a look at the changes occurring in the fifth century B.C. around Socrates and Greektragedy, before approximating Plato and the Apollonian hegemony15. In the fifth century B.C. the art form of Greek tragedy dies away and is replaced by anew form of theatrical art – new Attic Comedy as conceived for the first time by Euripides.The protagonist and the structure of the story subsequently gain ever more importance intheater, while the chorus and the music are relegated to mere scaffolding. Theater increasinglystarts to follow a cognitive structure for which the energetic elements play an ever smallerrole. In the general realm of the arts Apollonian elements are focused and highlighted, whilethe Dionysian recede. Doric architecture, the clear and simple lines of this most Apollonianart form, also reach their maturity at this time. Nietzsche comments that there is a war beingwaged to push back the Dionysian elements: “For me, the Doric state and Doric art areexplicable only as a permanent military encampment of the Apollonian” (Nietzsche, 1967:47). For Nietzsche, Socrates (together with Euripides) is the first person to no longercomprehend tragedy, to no longer grasp its emotional and energetic Dionysian pull. Socrates,the “theoretical man” (Nietzsche, 1967: 18) approaches the arts from a rational (and thusApollonian) point of view:15 The latter necessarily has to remain a sketch. Important at this point is to draw out some of the lines of theApollonian hegemony and subsequent developments in order to approximate why a search for alternatives mightbe imperative. However, the focus of this dissertation after all is on an Art of the Self and not so much on thehistorical overview which a more complete picture of the history of the Apollonian/Dionysian elements up untilmodernity would necessitate. Such a comprehensive account of (European) history is neither possible norrequired here. We will thus subsequently work out the elements of the Apollonian and Dionysian essential for anunderstanding of the Art of the Self, but will follow the details of the historical overview only as far as strictlynecessary. 40
  • 41. [...] Socrates might be called the typical non-mystic, in whom, through a hypertrophy, the logical nature is developed as excessively as the instinctive nature is developed in the mystic. (Nietzsche, 1968: 88)For all his rational and intellectual capabilities which made him such a titan of his time, thisinstinctive or intuitive element necessary to feel the Dionysian seems to have remainedunderdeveloped in the Socratic worldview. Looking for structure, speech and aesthetics theDionysian element is thus downplayed. It is no coincidence that Socrates found that hehimself was unable to play a musical instrument and places so much importance onknowledge. Once more in the words of Nietzsche: “This is the new opposition: the Dionysianand the Socratic – and the art of Greek tragedy was wrecked on this” (Nietzsche, 1968: 82). But Greek tragedy had been, as we have just seen in the previous section, more thanjust a form of theatrical amusement, it had been the expression of a cosmovision throughwhich a whole way of living had been celebrated. The shift that occurred when tragedy startedto wither might have been imperceptible at first, but it would turn out, as we shall see, to be afundamental break in Western history. Nietzsche here in his account stays with Socrates, butfor the purposes of this work it is necessary to follow the turn of events for a little longer andalso take Socrates’ most famous disciple into account. For while it can be agreed withNietzsche that in Socrates’ theoretical man had found its origin, it was Plato who would beginto formalize this new way of life, which we will take a look at in the second chapter. The foremost principle for this new way of life and founding ground for a newcosmovision turned out to be a new category: the Truth. Truth, at that point in history did notconstitute a new phenomenon as such, however it would become Plato’s lasting influence tohave taken this concept and filled it with a hitherto unknown meaning. Only with Plato doestruth become what we perceive of it today – the Truth. 41
  • 42. In the Platonic understanding the truth is something that is derived from graspingthings as they really are: truth is the effect obtained through an approximation to the pureworld of ideas, a world which lies beyond the mere and deceiving appearances and constitutesa sphere where things reveal themselves in their essence. Foucault remarks on Plato that “hesearched for the authentic, the pure gold” (Foucault, 1998e: 344). And he did so by taking alook at the (impure) manifestations in the real world and then “looking from above thesemanifestations to a model, a model so pure that the actual purity of the “pure” resembles it,approximates it, and measures itself against it” (Foucault, 1998e: 345). Having the truth thus implies seeing things as they really are – in their ideal andabstract form which can be differentiated from the merely apparent world of everydayexistence. Gianni Vattimo sums up this Platonic invention of the truth: Plato’s stable and definitive world of ideas was supposed to guarantee the possibility of rigorous knowledge of the mobile and mutable things of everyday existence. (Vattimo, 1999: 29)However, with positing such a world of ideas, the truth itself becomes an abstract categorywhich in principle works the same and is valid everywhere and at all times. Through thehistory-making importance that is placed on the truth, the Apollonian elements of the formal,the abstract and universal are favored. The truth can now become an abstract and formaluniversalism – an entirely Apollonian concept. Wolfgang Dietrich re-casts the Nietzschean interpretation of the Apollonian/Dionysianonce more by associating these two principles more explicitly with two tendencies on how toorganize a society: the formal Apollonian becomes the moral worldview and the content of 42
  • 43. the Dionysian an energetic interpretation of the world. Moral in this sense implies theinterpretation of the world according to a formalized and universal code of conduct, anabsolute grid from which a division between good and evil can be derived and whichadvances hand in hand with the formation of institutions. The energetic worldview, on theother hand, strives towards harmony in the universe – the harmony of society, nature, andcosmos (Dietrich and Sützl, 2006). Harmony reigns when the relations in a concrete place andtime are in order and balanced. The energetic is thus primarily a quality of relationality, whereas morality is derivedfrom adherence to an externalized and abstract formal structure. Extrapolating this thought itfurthermore follows that the formal Apollonian worldview, as we have seen, also lends itselfeasily to universalization, whereas the Dionysian harmony has to remain local and contingent.With Plato and ever since in his wake Apollo is given precedence over Dionysius and with itthe category of the formal reigns within the Mediterranean and in the cultures that derive fromthis region: With the transition […] to the concept of the one and only final truth the Mediterranean turns away from all its neighbours, invents philosophy as an intellectual virtue and Europe as a cultural project. (Dietrich, 2006c: 28)With the Apollonian the logical - the rational, the formal and aesthetic - triumphed over theenergetic – and with it triumphed the political now understood as a formal andinstitutionalized category of societal organization. The first effects of this shift were so to beperceived exactly in the field of societal organization – with the institutional development ofthe city state of the Polis. The Dionysian fall from grace was fully corroborated later on withthe beginning of Christianity, when Dionysius – as Satan - “was relegated to the dark”(Dietrich, 2006c: 37). 43
  • 44. The reign of Apollo, the reign of the principle of form, came to its full force in theinstitutionalizations of Church, state and, later on, in the formalistic methods of science.Finally, this led from the Socratic “theoretical man” to what Wolfgang Dietrich’s Nietzschecalls “White Men’s Disease” as the effect of the negation of Dionysian energy (Dietrich,2006c: 37). The suppression of the energetic principle individually leads to blockages and, inits extreme forms, to anomy. The formalistic reign of Apollo leads to the attempt atcontrolling emotions via institutionalizations and, in its extreme forms, to the fossilization andpetrification experienced within the modern state system and its ideas of tracked diplomacyand conflict prevention. On the effects of this Apollonian hegemony on a larger scale Dietrich points out that itserved to make Europe “stubborn, self referential, strong and aggressive” (Dietrich, (2006a):2). On the outside this led to centuries of the European expansionist drive of conquest andcolonialism which always went hand in hand with the Christian missionizing zeal, and on theinside it meant the formalization and increasing aesthetizication of politics and social life. Unhinged from the Dionysian another element has since surfaced and the West - beingthusly influenced by Apollo Phobos – has become phobic in its striving for security, its manicfear of the Other and absolute quest for control. The Church and the State would more andmore become the guarantors of the Apollonian tyranny. Under the sign of institutionalizationand (at least in the case of the Church) absolute Truth a formalistic, abstract, and ultimatelyrational and universal worldview was aggressively spread all over the world. As Friedrich Nietzsche - and later Wolfgang Dietrich - already pointed out, Churchand morals also formally advance hand in hand, as morality is exactly derived from such a 44
  • 45. claim to the Truth. Morals can so be defined as an abstract code of conduct, exclusivelyregulating and setting down the universal precepts for the Good life. Through morals itbecomes possible to separate the Good from the Evil, the righteous from the sinners just asthrough the Good Book the believers can be separated from the pagans. Once the claim to ultimate truth and morals has been set down in principle, the Others,those who do not follow this code of conduct, can at best be tolerated, but most of the timethey at least have to be shown the right path (towards alternatively salvation of their souls, thetruth, development, progress, civilization or enlightenment). And, as history has shown timeand again, once the claim to the absolute truth is established, also this negative and emptytolerance is always endangered and can only too easily give way to that other practice of theChurch over centuries: Convert or die! In this rejection of Otherness another Apollonian element, the striving for purity,reaches its pinnacle. Those three figures - the claim to absolute truth, the rejection of theOther and the simultaneous striving for the own purity – be that of the self and the ownphysical body, the purity of one’s thoughts, of the social body or the race - are intricatelyconnected. Left unchecked, there so surfaces something extremely violent in this Apollonianstriving for purity. Everything indeterminate, uncertain, not following the rule laid down – bethat rule of the law, the formal code of conduct of morals, but also everything Other that canso also be classified as inferior - is constantly under the threat of aggression. It would take long centuries for this formalization and aesthetizication to be pushed toits extremes. At its culminating point there nevertheless stands the civilization break whoseshadows already led Walter Benjamin in the middle of the 1930s to his pre-sentient 45
  • 46. realization: “All efforts to aestheticize politics culminate in one point. That one point is war”(Benjamin, 2002: 121). In a re-interpretation of Benjamin’s statement one could agree that with Apollorampant and unchecked the Dionysian is ever more pushed to the margins. The completeformalization and aestheticization of the social and political sphere can ultimately only behostile to life and become inhuman – and can so lead to the complete rejection andannihilation of the energetic force of life. The Fascist regimes from this point of view are notthe accidents of modernity but the culmination of its Apollonian tendencies. But even if we do not push the argument until its logical conclusion in the Fascistextremes, there still is something deeply disconcerting about the modern nation states andtheir large scale statistical attempts at population management. The abstract and formalfigures of birth rates, life expectancies, crime rates, literacy and the subsequent measuresleading to hospitals per capita, literacy campaigns, sanitation projects, education policies,reforms in penal laws etc. – all those attempts to cull and optimize this abstract figure of apopulation according to predetermined statistical standards have been characterized byMichel Foucault (1990a and 2003) as biopower in which all modern states are engaged in oneway or the other and to some extent. Biopower is the power that does not need to kill the Other any more, that does nolonger regress to weapons and wars, but that just makes certain forms of Otherness disappear,through certain policies disallowing certain lives, certain ways of living and thus, in the end,certain people to exist. Behind the functioning of biopower there is in each case an abstract,formal, scientific or moral universalism, or in other words: an Apollonian form. 46
  • 47. Using the terms of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1987), the Apollonian principleis the one of the stratified - that which segments or territorializes and ties the subject to theprinciple of identity. Its expressions - discourse, structure, syntax - pull us in a certaindirection of individuation – in the famous words of Stuart Hall (1996: 6-10) they hail us into aparticular place and so induce the investment into pre-established identity categories. It isonly through this investment that those (abstract) categories are filled life. Letting oneself behailed like this has, one the one hand, a stabilizing effect on identity. On the other hand, it isalso petrifying and normalizing. Falling into the Apollonian trap, performing identities (Butler1999) in line with those categories implies a discursive normalization of the subject accordingto pre-given social standards. The fortified Apollonian principle so favors being, stability self-sameness and is hostile to becoming, transformation and, ultimately, change. But simultaneously also a door is opened when one realizes with Judith Butler (1999)that if identity is performed, this implies that it can also be performed differently. It can beperformed not only in accordance with social standards but also in a disobedient way,resignifying those identity categories to which we are being hailed. Performing identitydifferently implies refusing the standards of normality, like for example when queering theboundaries of the white, North-Atlantic, heterosexual ideal of gender identity. Michel Foucault (2000f: 336) points in a similar direction of resistance when statingthat “maybe the task today is not to discover what we are, but to refuse what we are”. Thosekinds of resistance, however, always run the danger of entirely remaining within Apolloniancategories, in so far as becoming “other” always implies becoming somebody else and thedanger of re-ensnarement is so never far off. In the seventies Foucault at first tried tocircumnavigate this danger with the gesture of a permanent, unceasing, refusal. Our task thenwould be the perpetual displacement of identity, the unceasing becoming other. 47
  • 48. This rejection is fueled by the very Foucauldian virtue of the critique16 of what hasmade us who we are in order to find out how we could yet be different.17 The body without organs as conceptualized by Deleuze and Guattari (1984) is yetanother kind of resistance along similar lines. Aimed against the normalizing discursivepractice par excellence – the talking cure of Freudian psychoanalysis - the body withoutorgans is pure resistance. A body devoid of organs, Deleuze and Guattari reason, is puresurface, refusing the interiority which would make it an organism, something that is organizedaccording to hierarchic, arborescent, principles. The body without organs so posits a barrieragainst the thrust of psychoanalysis which is aimed at the interior of the human being andlooks to decode the secrets that are hidden inside. In the schizophrenic rejection of thebounded stable ego, in the refusal of all interiority and in the rhizomatic exteriority of theThousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari aim to scramble and disrupt the organizing power ofthe talking cure. The line of thinking we will follow here, while drawing upon those approaches, isdifferent insofar as that what is aimed at is not so much a resistance to the Apollonian, but aVerwindung of its hegemony. Total rejection of the Apollonian would imply, if ever possible,an attempt to establish a new Truth and fall back into the violent suppression of the dynamicbalance between Apollonian and Dionysian elements. Balancing the aesthetic, systemic, Apollonian once more with the Dionysian couldimply twisting the principle of individuation with an energetic practice. Thereby a door could16 See also Butler, 2000.17 In his personal and professional life Foucault (1998d, 1997l) unceasingly practiced this virtue by trying toefface his identity and rejecting all labels ascribed to him and trying to pin him to his identity (Structuralist,Poststructuralist, Marxist, Anti-Psychiatrist). 48
  • 49. be opened to a positive becoming, that is, not one borne out of rejection. What might be theresult is a Verwindung of individuality in the sense of an integrating “letting go”. In the lastphase of his work Michel Foucault also seemed to arrive at a similar conclusion, when thepreoccupation with resistance in his writings was successively replaced by questions of apositive Art of the Self. It seems as if, at the end, the gesture of resisting who we are becamewed to the problematic of how to still positively fashion one’s life. For this Art of the SelfFoucault, like Nietzsche before him, recurred to the ancient Mediterranean area. 1.3. ConclusionWith this first Nietzschean chapter we have achieved several crucial insights for ourtheoretical grid. First we have worked out the details of the aspects of the Apollonian andDionysian, which were identified with form/aesthetic and content/energetic. FollowingWolfgang Dietrich we, in a first transposition, likened the Apollonian and Dionysian to twocosmovisions, the moral and energetic. In our first transposition we so started out with twodeities, two divinities of ancient Greece and then extrapolated certain principles. Secondly, we were able to gain an insight over how different forms of relating thosetwo principles play themselves out on the societal level; we have adopted the Macro-view -the societal view, leaving aside the details of how this cosmovision was concretely lived.Thirdly, we were already able to relate the Apollonian to a critical limitation of theorizing andwill so need to take up this thread again in the following chapters. Thereof derived, fourthly, arequirement for the next chapter: For the completion of our theoretical framework and beforewe approach the Art of the Transpersonal Self properly, it will now be necessary to re-takethose findings from an individual perspective to determine their exact relevance for an art of 49
  • 50. living. We will do so with Michel Foucault. After a step of clarification in the third chapterwe shall then, in the fourth chapter read him against the grain and relate his work differently. Fifthly, it has now become sufficiently clear what the immediate stakes for an Art ofthe Transpersonal Self are: Relating the Apollonian once more with the Dionysian cannot be arejection of the aesthetic component and neither can it be the attempt to overcome everythingthat has made us who we are in the Postmodern age. The Art of the Transpersonal Self thuscould only become possible as a form of acknowledging both the Apollonian and Dionysiancomponents and of putting them into an affirmative relation once more, towards an Art oftransforming ourselves. Here we so can, sixthly, formulate two overall qualifications for our attempt to createan Art of the Transpersonal Self: The outcome would (a) only be transpersonal if it wouldbecome possible to twist (verwinden) the clear-cut Apollonian individuation (which has led tothe autonomous, self-grounding subject of modernity) with a Dionysian energetic fading ofpersonal borders and an opening of the self - while perhaps still acknowledging and affirmingthe need for certain aesthetic, stylistic elements in our life. This Art of the Self (b) would betrans-rational if the Socratic, Platonic rationality and cognition could once more be related tothe energetic, emotional and artistic and the drive to know and rationally grasp could also belet fade away. The transrational could thus be found, to use the beautiful picture FriedrichNietzsche draws here for us in a “Socrates who practices music” (Nietzsche, 1968: 98). 50
  • 51. 2. Philosophy and Spirituality Spirituality postulates that the truth is never given to the subject by right (Michel Foucault, 2005: 15)In order to fully grasp the implications of the Dionysian and Apollonian for an Art of theTranspersonal Self we now will return once more to ancient Greece, this time with MichelFoucault. The main source here will be his seminal lecture at the Collège de France which haslater on been published as The Hermeneutics of the Subject (Foucault, 2005). A fewsimilarities are immediately apparent. Foucault chooses to start his analysis of ancient Greeceat the very point Nietzsche breaks off - which is the moment of rupture occurring with Platoand Socrates. What, however, is of even greater importance for our purposes is that Foucaultfocuses on what properly can be called an art of living; his perspective is the Micro-perspective which makes his approach so suited for our theoretical grid. With this chapter we will approach and analyze certain technologies of the self, whichare the result of a distinctive perception of oneself and which, I will argue, can be re-interpreted along the lines of the relationality of the Apollonian and Dionysian. At the end ofthis chapter it will be possible to draw the findings from the first theoretical part of this worktogether. Yet during this chapter it will also be necessary to gain an insight into how an Art ofLiving has already been practiced, concretely, in the history of the West. The objective herebyis not to revive a Greek or Antique way of living - which might in any case be neither possiblenor desirable. We are no Ancient Greeks and live no longer in Antiquity. And yet, our currentliving and all possible forms of individuation and subjectivation available at any given 51
  • 52. moment in time are, to a certain extent, also influenced and co-determined through the wayour historical horizon has been constructed. In this sense, shedding a different light on the past, unearthing different traditions andhighlighting blocked or abandoned developments can also give some pointers as to the presentstate of being. If there is validity to the Foucauldian claim that will be advanced here in thischapter, namely that between the Platonic and the Christian Model of subjectivation a thirdmodel - the Hellenistic Art of the Self has been buried - then this might also give some furtherinsights into the Hegemony of Apollo established in the last chapter. If the task and experiment for this dissertation, furthermore, is the re-linking of theApollonian/Dionysian towards an Art of the Transpersonal Self, then taking a close look at thehistorical precedents which have co-determined us might well be crucial. Not to resuscitatepre-Socratic Greece, but to find out what such an Art of Living can still mean for us, livingtoday as we are in our own local, contingent, but also increasingly impure and thus to acertain degree open horizon. The reasoning behind this chapter is so threefold: Foucault’s approach has beenchosen as complementing the macro-view of Nietzsche with a micro-view focusing directlyon subjectivation, and the two objectives are to gain an insight into the Greek Art of the Selfand this way to complete the first theoretical frame. 52
  • 53. 2.1. Placing the Hermeneutics of the SubjectThe course Michel Foucault taught at the Collège de France during the winter of 1981/82 wasnamed The Hermeneutics of the Subject. Transcribed into book format this course has onlyrecently appeared in English language (2005) and only slowly stands to take up a place inFoucault’s overall trajectory of thought. Despite such a slow reception this course is remarkable in several ways and probablydeserves a central place in Foucault’s thinking. First of all it provides a glimpse at the periodof Foucault’s long pensive silence which spanned from the publishing of The First Volume ofthe History of Sexuality in 1976 (Foucault, 1990a) to its succeeding Volumes Two and Three– The Use of Pleasure (Foucault, 1990b) and the Care of the Self in 1984 (Foucault, 1988a).During those years of reflection, Foucault’s thought shifted direction, moving away from thepreoccupation with power towards the question of ethics and the possibility of an art of living.In other words, during those years Foucauldian thought turns from what is commonly termedthe middle phase to the late, and final phase. Didier Eribon, one of Foucault’s biographers, remarks that this long period of silenceled to any number of rumors and comments: “Foucault was finished, he had nothing more tosay, he was at an impasse...” (Eribon, 1991: 321). In hindsight it is easy to defuse thoserumors with a reference to the many vibrant and extraordinary lectures which Foucault gaveduring this time - of which the ones at the Collège de France just form a part. Those lecturesshow that, far from being finished, Foucault had expanded his studies into new realms. Similarly, rather than seeing this move from the “middle” to the “late” phase ofFoucault’s work as a break with or even contradiction of earlier thought - as many of hiscritics are still quick to do - it might more accurately be termed a Verwindung. We can 53
  • 54. understand such a Verwindung in this context as a movement of thought by which earlierelements are twisted into a new position and thus re-evaluated and partially put into adifferent frame and redrawn without, however, just declaring them obsolete, withoutdiscarding or overcoming them in light of something that would be more true than that whichhad been thought previously. This can be exemplified by using Gilles Deleuze’s Foucault (1988) as example.Discussing the works of the later Foucault, Deleuze demonstrates how the concepts of earlierphases continue to inform Foucault also during the time of his focus on Ancient Greece. Yetthe focus has shifted and rather than positing a break, Deleuze traces how the questions ofrelations of force, resistance, and the Nietzschean idea of the historicity, contingency andfinitude of the human subject which have earlier on led Foucault to proclaim the death of manand to seek to analyze constellations of power, now continue to inspire his work, although in adifferent fashion. It is on this background that the problem of how it still might be possible tolead a life of active subjectivation, of co-creating the own subjectivity and attaining anunderstanding of ethics that is not guided by a Christian morality gains relevance. The Hermeneutics of the Subject (2005) also marks the period of time in whichFoucault more and more approaches philosophy. Had he earlier, in a Nietzschean gesture,rejected any claims to academic philosophy, this course is a step towards a critical re-engagement with this discipline. What is evident in this course is that Foucault, while stillcriticizing the idea of philosophy as single means of accessing the truth, also comes toespouse the idea of philosophy as something that can lead to a practice and thereby changethe subject in its very being. Philosophy can wrest the subject away from what it has taken forgranted and inspire a move towards as of yet uncharted becomings. This understanding of 54
  • 55. philosophy is risky, as it opens and demands the possibility for the philosopher to lether/himself be transformed by its practice: This is a form of philosophy which demands that the individual, to borrow Nietzsche’s phrase, ‘risks himself constantly’. [...] it involves more than the search for objective knowledge which has no implication for the subject’s mode of existence. (O’Leary, 2002: 144)Therefore, Foucault couples the idea of philosophy with the concept of spirituality. The latterstresses and accentuates the active part of a practice and signifies a move into an experientialfield beyond the realm of pure knowledge (of the self). During the time of this course at the Collège de France Foucault was working on theyet unpublished Volume two and three of his History of Sexuality (Foucault, 1990b; 1988a).The figure of the Care of the Self - which gave the title to the Third Volume of this History -appears extensively in this course. The main difference is that in the Care of the Self Foucault(1988a) approaches the figure of care with an ethical question in mind. He is interested in theethical stance that inspires this practice of the care in ancient Greece. In the Hermeneutics ofthe Subject (2005) he approaches the self from the point of view of practices, trying to discernthe inner workings and composition of this distinctive Greek art of living. If the Hermeneutics of the Subject deserve a special place in this undertaking it is,firstly, because it shows, clearer than any of Foucault’s other works, this practical side ofFoucault’s project. Already as regards the title Wilhelm Schmid (2000: 64) remarks that the“Hermeneutics” should be understood as referring to technologies and concrete practices ofthe self. What Foucault so aims to isolate in this course is the practices, the techniques andmethods which over the period of antiquity were used to actively work on the self. During this 55
  • 56. course Foucault explores, in great clarity and detail the practical aspects of an aesthetics ofexistence as it had already been lived about two thousand years ago. In the Foucauldiantoolbox we here find models for a “how to…” which can serve as guiding threads for thinkingabout concrete practices for a twenty first century Art of the Transpersonal Self. Secondly, this course not only highlights the tradition which Foucault tries to rescuefrom oblivion (what he terms the Hellenistic Model) but also gives us an insight into what hewants to set himself apart from. It shows us what he rejects as much as what he proposes. It isin this respect that commentators like Michael Ure (2007) point to the critical distinctionwhich Foucault places between his project and the Christian Model against which he sets out. It is this Christian Model which, according to Foucault, was partially responsible forthe obliteration of those practices which had previously enabled an active and positivepreoccupation with the self. In the morally inspired hostility of the early Church Fathers, intheir condemnation and vilification of the care of the self what has been eradicated “from ourphilosophical and ethical heritage [is] a fertile tradition that offers us alternativeimages, techniques, ideas and practices for theorizing the self’s relationship to itself”(Ure, 2007: 31). This Christian condemnation of the care of the self as immoral andnarcissistic served to eventually smother a vibrant tradition which hitherto had linked ethicsand aesthetics towards an art of existence. The other Model from which Foucault seeks to dissociate his project is what he termsthe Platonic Model. The Platonic Model, in Foucault’s rendering, overly favors what wouldlater be termed the ratio, the rational form of cognition leading first to philosophy as theprinciple of knowledge and later on the scientific method as exclusive road to accessing theTruth. In the Cartesian Cogito both this rationality and the idea of the autonomous, self 56
  • 57. grounded subject of Enlightenment and modernity are enshrined, and it is in distinction tothose principles that Foucault’s Hermeneutics of the Subject looks to a Hellenistic Model toprovide an alternative. In the interpretation of Timothy O’Leary (2002: 35f.) the title – Heremeneutics of theSubject – so could be misleading for it actually defines what Foucault sets out against: it isthis hermeneutics which aim at deciphering the Truth of the soul, at interpreting (andconfessing) every movement of thought from which Foucault wants to separate the HellenisticModel’s practices of the active transformation of the self. On the road to an Art of the Transpersonal Self this course at the Collège de Francethus provides a crucial stepping stone, for it sheds a clearer light on certain practical aspectsand elements of late Foucauldian thought than any other of his texts, while providing abrilliantly lucid overview on what it sets itself apart from. In this latter respect it is alsouniquely suited for our purposes because it distinguishes the concept of “self” from themodern tradition of the Cartesian cogito on the one hand, without letting itself get ensnared inthe entanglements of the moral trap, on the other. Ultimately it is in critical distinction tothose two concepts that also the current study aims to establish itself. 2.2. Philosophy and Spirituality - Knowledge of the Self and Care of the SelfIn this lectures at the Collège de France in winter 1981/1982 Michel Foucault based hiscourse on the distinction between two principles in ancient Greece. The first principle, hecalls the principle of “philosophy,” and identifies it with the Delphic precept of “knowyourself” (gnothi seauton). The second one, he names the “spiritual” principle, the “care of 57
  • 58. the self” (epemeleia heautou). He defines the first one, the philosophical principle, as the onewhich is concerned with the conditions of possibility of knowledge and the formalizedmechanisms that regulate the access to truth: We will call, if you like, “philosophy” the form of thought that asks, not of course what is true and what is false, but what determines that there is and can be truth and falsehood and whether or not we can separate the true and the false. We will call philosophy the form of thought that asks what it is that enables the subject to have access to the truth and which attempts to determine the conditions and limits of the subject’s access to truth (Foucault 2005: 15).This first principle of know yourself, the philosophical principle, is so also the principle ofcognition which leads to knowledge. The second principle, the care of the self, Foucaultalternatively also identifies as the spiritual principle, which is related to a certain set ofpractices, like ascetics or meditations that the self performs. Like the knowledge of the selfalso this second principle is related to truth. Towards that end, Foucault characterizesspirituality as “being the form of practices which postulate that, such as he is, the subject isnot capable of truth, but that, such as it is, the truth can transfigure and save the subject”(Foucault 2005: 19). Access to truth, in this instant, is linked to an additional attribute that is not onlyderived from knowledge (philosophy). Accessing this curious understanding of truth is notpossible via just a form of cognition leaving the self unaltered in its being, but only throughthe combination of the knowledge of the self with a spiritual practice – care of the self. AsFoucault argues in the quote above, the subject, as it is, remains incapable of truth. Truth is sorelated to a practice of transformation of the self. Only in this interplay between knowledge ofthe self and care of the self does a form of truth arise – which is so understood as exactly this 58
  • 59. transfiguring moment of alteration and becoming. Through a certain practice combiningknowledge of the self (philosophy) and care of the self (spirituality) a transfiguring momentof becoming (of truth) is enabled in which the subject, via accessing this notion of truth ofitself, is transformed. We shall now look at this notion in more detail. In this spiritual practice there is an active element of care - epimeleiea - which isstressed. This care of oneself, however, is not to be mistaken with a narcissistic or egoisticlove of the self, but is on the contrary always related to some kind of work one performs ononeself: [...] the notion of epimeleia does not merely designate this general attitude or this form of attention turned on the self. The term epimeleia also always designates a number of actions exercised on the self by the self, actions by which one takes responsibility for oneself and by which one changes, purifies and transforms oneself. (Foucault, 2005: 11)This work of care is undertaken first for the spiritual and also physical well-being, butsecondly also for transformative purposes. It is important to point out that the care of the selfis not synonymous either to the modern idea of self-help. It is much rather the practice of anactive self and not intended as a cure for a supposed deficiency in normalcy. There is nooverall standard of normality to be reached but neither is there an abstract ideal of perfectenlightenment underlying this concept of the care of the self, nor a progressive path towardshigher illumination to be followed. Simultaneously, this understanding of spirituality should not be confused with areligion. Although Foucault himself does not state such a difference explicitly, it can beargued that the differentiation between spirituality and religiosity opened elsewhere by 59
  • 60. Christina and Stanislav Grof (Grof and Grof, 1990: 40ff) also applies in this case. Followingtheir distinction the main difference between spirituality and religiosity consists in the factthat the latter is tied to an institutional frame and formalized code of conduct, whereas theformer entails the search for personal transcendence without necessarily recurring to anabstract and universal frame of reference. While religion thus implies the moral categories ofan absolute truth and goes hand in hand with institutionalization, spirituality can also existwithout those formal superstructures. Such spirituality, as practiced in the Foucauldian rendering via the care of the self, ismuch more a life-long individual preoccupation, for which to begin with it is never too late.Different stages in life will need different practices and different forms of care, but a specialreason to start or continue them is not necessary. The necessary preconditions are none otherthan to first muster the required discipline to carry out those practices and secondly awillingness and openness to let oneself be transformed by them. Although those practices takeconflict into consideration this is achieved - as we shall see at a later point - through theunderstanding that conflict is also the source of creative energy and thus a possible instigatorand catalyst of transformation, instead of something to be prevented, avoided or weeded outof one’s existence. In summary, those spiritual practices are derived out of an affirmation of life and notout of a view on its deficiencies. The resulting practice of the self is neither identical to arational cognition, nor is it religious. It is much rather a spiritual transformation whichFoucault alternatively describes as a “transfiguration”, “conversion”, “transformation”, “beingsaved”, “enlightenment” (Foucault, 2005: 14 ff.). 60
  • 61. In the “rebound-effect” (Foucault, 2005: 18) of the truth onto the self, the subject is inturn transfigured and transformed. It is so a form of salvation that becomes possible throughthis spiritual practice. This salvation, however is not achieved in an eternal afterlife in the(Christian) heaven, but is on the contrary an individual transfiguration that consists in thepermanent work of the self on the self and is a salvation that so has to be understood as [...] an activity, the subject’s constant action on himself, which finds its reward in a certain relationship of the subject to himself. [...] One saves oneself for the self, one is saved by the self, one saves oneself in order to arrive at nothing other than oneself. (Foucault, 2005: 184, 185)In Greek thought up until Plato, Foucault (2005: 69) argues, philosophy and spirituality werenever separated but perceived as interrelated and mutually conditioning each other, they wereseen as dependent upon one another. In effect, he postulates, there existed a “dynamicentanglement” and “reciprocal call” between those two. Combining the two of them,philosophy and spirituality, the subject is able to effect a transformation of the self. Thisactive moment of change for Foucault is generated through an instant of truth, when the selfceases to be who he/she was and becomes somebody different – becomes transformed anddifferent. 2.3. Truth, Knowledge, Practices and TransformationThe distinctions of this understanding of truth to the Platonic truth already previouslydiscussed are readily apparent: unlike the historically later Platonic (and modern) Truth, thistruth cannot be an abstract outside principle. It is not to be found in some pure realm of ideas, 61
  • 62. but is on the contrary an effect of putting into play philosophical knowledge combined withspiritual practice. Alone, neither of those two components will suffice: In short, I think we can say that in and of itself an act of knowledge could never give access to the truth unless it was prepared, accompanied, doubled and completed by a certain transformation of the subject; not of the individual, but of the subject himself in his being as subject. [...] Schematically, let’s say that throughout the period we call Antiquity, and in quite different modalities, the question of “how to have access to the truth” and the practice of spirituality (or the necessary transformations in the very being of the subject which allow access to the truth), these two questions, these two themes, were never separate. (Foucault, 2005: 16, 17)Truth and personal transformation in this practice are intricately linked and in Foucault’swords it follows “that from this point of view there can be no truth without a conversion or atransformation of the self” (Foucault 2005: 15). The truth acquired is as radically differentfrom the modern truth as it is necessarily personal and local, contingent, and its concrete formwill always depend on the specific work performed by the self on itself, on the specificelements of philosophy and spirituality put into play. This truth thus always is relational in all directions and relative instead of absolute. Inthe understanding of Gianni Vattimo (2006) this would correspond partially to a weak truth,one which is aware of its own limitations, its contingency in time and space. The difference,however, consists in the circumstance that Vattimo’s (2006: 238) weak truth is of a rhetoricalnature and opened to a discursive process of confirmation against an always already pre-givenruling horizon. Whereas the truth that is meant here, while also arising against a pre-givenhorizon, is not only of a rhetoric nature but contains a practical element which cannotdiscursively be expressed (and thus confirmed) and so also cannot be known but onlyexperienced. 62
  • 63. What so follows from this rendering is that neither this ancient, pre-Platonic truth, northe transformation of the self can be grasped rationally. While it is possible to describe theconditions of knowledge necessary for the access to truth and so to arrive at an approximationof the concrete elements of the knowledge of the self and while it may be possible tofurthermore grasp the elements of practice in spirituality18, rationality ultimately has to fallsilent before the actual moment of transformation and the truth arising together with it. We have thus reached the - for the modern, western understanding paradoxical - pointof a truth that cannot be explained rationally and a transformation of the self that likewiseeludes rationality. Everything up until this moment of transformation is in principle open torational description and analysis, but if Foucault’s analysis is followed further, then it isexactly the twisting of knowledge about oneself through a spiritual practice that has made thistransfiguration of the self possible in ancient times. The peculiar point about spirituality is thatit cannot be cognitively willed although its foundations are (also) rational. The moment of transformation thus becomes transrational as it has rational elementsand a certain rational structure, but ultimately transcends rational explanations and cannot begrasped by those. Knowledge – philosophy - plays its crucial role but does not suffice as anexplanation and analysis has lost its prospective capacities and ability for predictions. Theoutcome of such a transformative practice can so no longer be rationally apprehended inadvance – and this makes such an art of transformation risky.18 These practices could be a certain posture while meditating; a specific way of organizing one’s thought, ofconcentrating or broadening the mind; a distinct way of breathing; but also regimens for dietetics, suggestions onhow to keep a journal, etc. All of those practical requirements can still be described by rational means. Foucaultfor example analyzes in great detail the Ancient practice of keeping journals – the hupomnēmata (Foucault,1997f) and dietetics (Foucault, 1990b). 63
  • 64. On the other hand, the position of imagined security, the flight into the purelyaesthetic, rational and formal makes the transformation of the self impossible. Only byembracing uncertainty and risk, by letting the rational mind fade to the background, can thetransformation of the self open up as a possibility. Ultimately, at its limit point, such atransformation can thus only be experienced as it cannot be argued. It is thus not the pull of awill to knowledge that is the driving force, but spirituality in dynamic interrelation with adeclined knowledge. Nietzsche was the first to argue in a very similar direction when he famously took thehammer to the idea that knowledge would be inherent to the human being. He so positsknowledge as an invention19 instead of it being natural. The striving for rational knowledge issomething that has been incited and, it follows, is not a natural urge. Foucault retakes thistopic and extensively discusses its relation to the modern, abstract Truth which owes its originto the Platonic world of ideal forms: Knowledge [says Nietzsche] was invented, then. To say it was invented is to say that it has no origin. More precisely, it is to say [...] that knowledge is absolutely not inscribed in human nature. Knowledge doesn’t constitute man’s oldest instinct, [...] there is no such thing as the seed of knowledge. (Foucault, 2000g: 7, 8)Knowledge, the philosophical principle, for Foucault is not a natural striving inherent to thehuman being but something that comes from a specific constellation of strategic powerrelations and thus is “always the historical and circumstantial result of conditions outside thedomain of knowledge” (Foucault, 2000g: 13).19 See aphorism 333 of the Gay Science (Nietzsche, 1974) on which both Foucault and Freud would pick up, butalso the introduction of On Truth and Lie in an Extra Moral Sense (Nietzsche, 1976b: 42) which reads in itsEnglish version: “In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems,there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge.” 64
  • 65. Taking this Foucauldian thought one step further, one could so assert that knowledge,taken as an abstract and formalized exterior quantity can thus not effect a transformation ofthe self. Only if it is to some degree personalized and if it is coupled with a spiritual practicecan it become a part of such a transformation. Only as local, contingent knowledge of the self,only if broken down to the gnothi seauton – know yourself - can it become one element in astylization of the self that enables transformation. And even that knowledge of the self at thecrucial moment needs to be let go off and twisted by the practice of spirituality. The same also applies to the concrete practices of the self Foucault analyzed in suchgreat detail throughout certain periods of Antiquity. What is to be found are practices andtechniques of the self that derive from always local circumstances, that are tailor-made for andby the subject in his/her concrete circumstances and that do not follow an abstract of conductor systematized set of rules. Both the (philosophical) knowledge and the (spiritual) practicesare so specific to time, place and person and do not follow a moral rule understood as“obedience to a system of laws or a codification of pleasures” (Foucault, 1990b: 57). Whatfascinates here is an Art of Living from which a spiritual/philosophical work on the self isderived which does not rely on morals or strong Truth. Foucault’s rendering of the spiritual practices of Demetrius, a Cynic philosopher of thefirst century A.D., could serve as a particular clear example of a knowledge that has alreadyturned local and contingent. This example furthermore is of specific interest if what weultimately want to approach is not just an Art of the Self, but an Art of the TranspersonalSelf. In his doubling of the spiritual practices, Foucault ascribes to Demetrius anunderstanding of knowledge that is not absolute and abstract, but is localized and so to speaktailor-made for the individual person: 65
  • 66. Well, I think we could call it, quite simply, a relational mode of knowledge, because when we now consider the gods, other men, the kosmos, the world, etcetera, this involves taking into account the relation between the gods, men, the world, and things of the world on the one hand, and ourselves on the other. (Foucault, 2005: 235)This is not to say that knowledge works like this in each instance when employed togetherwith spirituality, but that there is a certain precedence of relational knowledge in the spiritualpractices of ancient times which, indeed, fits very easily into the energetic cosmovision weestablished with Wolfgang Dietrich (2006a) in the last chapter. This energetic cosmovision, aswe recall, derives from the contemplation of nature, society and cosmos and one’s specificplace and role therein. From this moment onwards, in light of the points sketched on the functioning andcomposition of philosophy and spirituality in the practices of transformation, the relation ofthose principles to the Apollonian and Dionysian can now be established. One can so matchthe principle of philosophy to the Apollonian. In the beginning of this chapter we defined withMichel Foucault philosophy as a form of thought which asks about the possibility of theaccess to truth. Philosophy in this definition becomes a formal, an aesthetic and inherentlyApollonian element. And it is also no coincidence that the philosophic gnothi seauton was theprecept inscribed at the Delphic shrine – which was the sacred site of the High Cult of Apollo.This knowledge, furthermore, turns relational and local only when coupled or brought indynamic relation with spirituality which always remains a necessarily personal precept. For,just as the energetic Dionysian harmony has to be local, also in the practice of spirituality one“cannot take care of the self in the realm and form of the universal” (Foucault, 2005: 117). Spirituality, as that which aims for the transfiguration of the subject and yet cannotexist without the philosophical principle can so also be understood as a specific form of 66
  • 67. reckoning for the Dionysian, a way of taking the principle of content and the energetic intoaccount. The spiritual, energetic, or Dionysian, adds the counter-spin to the rationalApollonian (knowledge, philosophical) which gives their mutual spiraling dance atransrational twist. The theoretical advance we have gained here is that through Foucault’s rendering weare now beginning to approach an idea of a transformation of the self, an idea of how theAncients made this cosmovision built on the Dionysian/Apollonian concretely operable fortheir art of the self. Before we can progress any further, however, the details of this Ancientspiritual practice need to be established. In order to obtain a clearer picture it is especiallynecessary to trace its similarities and differences to the two other great figures of work on theself arising in the last centuries before and the first centuries after the turn of the Millennium.In short, this Art of Transformation needs to be differentiated from the Platonic method andthe Christian conversion. This analysis will be advanced, via looking on the one hand at thepractices that underlie these three technologies, but on the other hand especially by posing thequestion about which conception of subjectivity inspires them and which effects they thus aimfor. 2.4. The Hellenistic/Spiritual, the Platonic and the Christian ModelsFoucault analyzes the spiritual practices of Antiquity in great detail, in their different formsand manifestations, discerning two major formations of spiritual practices in the Westernworld: 67
  • 68. Eros and askesis are, I think, the two major forms in Western spirituality for conceptualizing the modalities by which the subject must be transformed in order to finally become capable of truth. (Foucault 2005: 16)We have already covered the question of the relation between this truth and transformation inthe Ancient Art of the Self. Looking at spiritual practices from the point of view ofsubjectivity, what is peculiar about these practices of eros, askesis - and many more as wellas all their variations - is that through them the subject actively constitutes itself. It is this aform of constitution to be found in the Hellenistic Model20 (Foucault, 2005: 254) of an art oftransformation which is, quite unlike the other forms of constitution of the self, practiced inthe West ever since. It remains the lasting achievement of Plato to have uncovered this Hellenistic Modelconsisting in the interplay between the care of the self and the knowledge of the self in hisAlcibiades (2004). However, Plato here plays a “double game” (Foucault, 2005: 77, 78). Onthe one hand, he uncovers and formulates those two principles of the previous GreekAntiquity but, at the same time, he covers the space so cleared once more by making one ofthose principles pre-dominant and downplaying the other. Plato famously places the stress on the knowledge of the self, and links this to thequest of finding out the truth about oneself. For finding out this truth the human being needsto look inside itself, towards its soul. Before birth, the soul lives in the world of essences butat birth it forgets what it has seen before. With Plato, knowing oneself thus has the meaning ofa cognitive recollection, an act of “memory”, in which the soul remembers the world ofessences and thus becomes aware of the Truth - which is also the Truth of itself in its very20 Foucault points out that he uses the term Hellenistic Model here merely for reasons of convenience todistinguish it from the Platonic and the Christian Model. He proceeds to analyze this Hellenistic Model in greatdetail, using, amongst others, sources from the Epicurean, Cynic and Stoic philosophers (Foucault, 2005). 68
  • 69. own “being” (Foucault, 2005: 460). In the dialogue between Socrates and Alcibiades, Platorecurs to the care of the self but absorbs the principle of spirituality into the philosophicprecept of knowing oneself as an act of recollection (Foucault, 2005: 77). However, while the spiritual practice still plays a certain role with Plato, already withthe Neo-Platonists knowledge becomes the sole principle for accessing the Truth. Theaccumulation of knowledge according to abstract and formal criteria is now all there is toTruth. With that we have entered the realm of the modern understanding of Truth: I think the modern age of the history of truth begins when knowledge itself and knowledge alone gives access to truth. [...] That is to say, it is when the philosopher (or scientist, or simply someone who seeks the truth) can recognize the truth and have access to it in himself and solely through his activity of knowing, without anything else being demanded of him and without having to change or alter his being as subject. (Foucault 2005: 17)The rebound effect of truth on the self and thus the transformation of the self become soimpossible. Truth in this instance becomes the Apollonian category as which we haveanalyzed it in the previous chapter and loses its relational, local and personal and mostimportantly transrational character. Much to the contrary, this absolute and universal Truth now turns into the epitome andcornerstone of a rational description of world and self. But there is a price to be paid, as thetransfiguration, salvation and transformation that was possible in the Hellenistic Model, hasbecome impossible. The modern relation between the Truth and the self have begun, Foucault(2005: 19) asserts, when “it is postulated that, such as he is, the subject is capable of truth, but 69
  • 70. that, such as it is, the truth cannot save the subject”. Following the rigid methodologies ofscience, Truth is accessible for all, but that Truth, quite simply can do nothing for us! From this “Cartesian moment” (Foucault 2005: 14) onwards the history of truth is ahistory of knowledge which leaves the subject untouched: Knowledge will simply open onto the indefinite dimensions of progress, the end of which is unknown and the advantage of which will only ever be realized in the course of history by the institutional accumulation of bodies of knowledge, or the psychological social benefits to be had from having discovered the truth after having taken such pains to do so. (Foucault 2005: 19)And so it follows that a crucial moment in Western history is reached when Descartessucceeds in “substituting a subject as founder of practices of knowledge for a subjectconstituted through practices of the self” (Foucault, 1997d: 279). The accumulation ofknowledge in this new world so has superseded the transformation of the self that waspracticed in the old one. Foucault (2005: 310) portrays Goethe’s Faust as being on the borderline between theold and the new world. Faust so represents a figure really belonging to neither one because helives in the new and scientific world, but still realizes what already has been lost with the oldspiritual one: After having studied the traditional disciplines - philosophy, medicine, theologyand law – after having painstakingly followed the formalistic requirements down to the lastdetail and after having acquired their knowledge, Faust demands transformation and wants tobe transfigured and saved. But trying to read the formal scientific texts in a spiritual way canonly fail, leaving him the now proverbial poor fool, no wiser than before and ultimatelydriving him into the pact with the devil as substitute for the spirituality to which he no longer 70
  • 71. has access. Only a few centuries later the West has for the most part also already forgottenwhat has been lost. Here we have - in an admittedly very abridged version - the history of the PlatonicModel, which should prove to become such an epoch-making venture in the West and movefrom the soul-searching for the truth to a fully externalized and abstracted Truth to be foundby applying the methods of rational science to an objective outside world. Returning oncemore to the original Platonic Model, we find that unlike the Hellenistic Model it applies amethod of an internal gaze in an act of recollection. Like the Hellenistic Model the original Platonic Model so still knows a truth that needsto be accessed positively, but while the Hellenistic Model works from an understanding of asubjectivity that is to be actively constituted (the self as a permanent and unfinished work inprogress) and thus knows no essence to which to return, the Platonic Model consists in thesearch for the innermost kernel of truth that is the essence of the human being in the soul.Most importantly, the Platonic Model also gives precedence to the knowledge of the self – thephilosophical or Apollonian elements – while confining the care of the self - the spiritual orDionysian - to the margins. Lastly, as we already have established, the figure of truth workscompletely different in both these Models: In Plato it is the pre-given absolute Truth which isto be found or remembered, in the Hellenistic Model it is the relative, local and personalizedtruth which cannot be expressed rationally. The third great and historically youngest Model, the Christian one, will take on someelements of both the Hellenistic and the Platonic Model, but will put them to new uses.Foucault (2005: 257ff.) describes this Christian Model alternatively as the Model of an“exegesis” of the self and as the “self-renunciatory” Model. Like in the Platonic Model, its 71
  • 72. understanding of Truth is an absolute one and also like the former it admonishes the subject toturn inwards. However, in the Christian Model this turn inwards serves to test all one’s ownthoughts and emotions in order to find out whether there is sin, evil or concupiscence lurkinginside oneself. Everything that comes from the inside has to be mistrusted, painstakinglyexamined and scrutinized to ascertain that it is not Satan whispering his insinuations throughour seemingly pure feelings and thoughts. Like the Hellenistic, the Christian Model also couples this knowledge of the self witha certain set of practices – a series of tests, exercises and purifications, the most famous ofwhich would be the confession21. Unlike both the Hellenistic and the Platonic Model,however, the ultimate aim of the Christian Model is neither recollecting the fullness of one’ssoul nor is it transformation, but on the contrary renunciation. The aim of knowledge of theself in the Christian Model is to decipher oneself (Foucault, 2005: 250 ff.); what is found is tobe confessed, renounced and purged: Each person has the duty to know who he is, that is, to try to know what is happening inside him, to acknowledge faults, to recognize temptations, to locate desires; and everyone is obliged to disclose these things either to God or to others in the community, and, hence, to bear public or private witness against oneself. (Foucault, 1997i: 242)The ultimate renunciation within the Christian Model would of course be the completerenunciation of the self and with it the rejection of everything mundane in favor of hasteningall the faster and purer along the road to the heavenly kingdom. Although they both share the21 The study of the Christian practice of confession, suggested to him by Ivan Illich (Carrette, 1999: 4),fascinated Foucault throughout his life. In an earlier period of his work he had described it as part of the vastcomplex of Christian technologies, forms of government, and management of people termed pastoral power andhad deemed this form of power one of the historical precursor to his concept of biopower. In this light, see forexample the essays Omnes et Singulatim (2000b), The Subject and Power (2000f), The Political Technology ofIndividuals (2000e) as well as the First Volume of the History of Sexuality (1990a). 72
  • 73. concept of a combination of knowledge and practice, the affirmation of the Hellenistic Modelis so contrasted with the renunciation of the Christian Model. This certain closeness in methods under diametrically opposed goals is shown byFoucault on the example of the practice of askesis (or ascesis in the Christian version). Thispractice of askesis/ascesis plays an important role in both traditions. In the Hellenistic Modelaskesis is used as a means of actively fashioning the self, as a way of “constituting oneself”and attaining “a full, perfect, and complete relationship of oneself to oneself” (Foucault, 2005:319, 320). The moments of austerity are so employed as a means to obtain a fuller and moreinclusive relation to oneself. The Christian use of ascesis, however, goes the exact opposite way and leads througha series of abstentions and renunciations (of the flesh) “to the essential renunciation, self-renunciation.” (Foucault, 2005: 319). The Christian ascesis ultimately does not lead to anaffirmation but to a negation of the self, of its body and its being constituted in the world. It isin this second meaning that the term ascesis has survived and which is used in moderncommon language – ascesis as renunciation and abstention - but which is quite different fromthe historically older Hellenistic understanding of askesis. It is also not coincidentally that the second major form of Antique practices – eros, thepractice and art of love - received a radical re-definition and was re-employed in the ChristianModel. Love is then stripped from all its physical - all its erotic - components as well as fromits relational focus on the world here and now. The actual bodily acts are suppressed in favorof a singular and burning love of God. The practice of this love so does not manifest in atransforming and transfiguring art of pleasure, but through the vows of celibacy in which the 73
  • 74. earthly is denied, the desires and pleasures of the self have to be renounced and rejected andturned into an exclusive focus on God22. 2.5. Beyond the Greek ExampleIn the course of history, through a series of conversions, changes, shifts and breaks, Foucaultasserts, the Hellenistic Model was buried and hidden beneath the other two Platonic andChristian Models - whose tradition goes up until modernity and whose influence lasts untiltoday. All three of them share some similarities, however there is just as much that separatesthem as there are commonalities. The Christian Model probably still is the clearest and easiestto single out even today, but the influence of the historic successors of the Platonic Model -Cartesian method, the sciences, law and, indeed, philosophy - are nowadays just as prevalentand powerful. And yet – or perhaps rather because of this - the question of a style of living, ofa certain aesthetics of existence which is not bound by the Apollonian universalisms ofscience and law, still looms large today: If you take, for example, Stirner, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, dandyism, Baudelaire, anarchy, anarchist thought, etcetera, then you have a series of attempts that are, of course, very different from each other, but which are all more or less obsessed with the question: Is it possible to constitute, or reconstitute, an aesthetics of the self? (Foucault, 2005: 251)Such an aesthetics, I will argue in what is to follow, might become possible if seen inconjunction with an energetic principle. Without taking into account the Dionysian, anyaesthetics of existence will invariably be thrown back on its pure Apollonian foundations. Butan inclusion of the Dionysian can only to a certain point be achieved by theoretical and22 See also Sexuality and Solitude (1997h) and The Battle for Chastity (1997j) where Foucault discusses theChristian practice of renunciation in regards to sexuality. 74
  • 75. cognitive means. Since theory and academia, as well as science in its broadest understanding,are themselves results of the rational Apollonian hegemony there is a limit to their use valueand a threshold for their explicative power. The direction we are headed towards - an Art ofthe Transpersonal Self - might serve to show exactly those limitations. Furthermore, if the Dionysian is to be respected, those limits have to be recognized -as any attempt to theorize the Dionysian would lead back to the rational field of theApollonian. The difficulty for anybody brought up in the West and schooled cognitively inthe (social) sciences consists in exactly resisting this urge to rationalize and theorize.Ultimately, converting the words of Wolfgang Schirmacher, theory is not life23, its time andmovements are not ours, in it we won’t be saved or transfigured. The good life finally remainselusive and not amenable to the means of theory. If the problem is still our own transformation, then this will not occur in and throughtheory. It might occur in the coupling of the Apollonian and the Dionysian. But also thesevery words and lines here are ultimately only the attaching of labels to - and thus reductionsof - the “X”: that which cannot be known, only understood and therefore has to be named ifone is to find any way of even a verbal approximation. And, just as this coupling cannot begrasped cognitively, it can so also not be willed. No matter how hard we try, no matter howmuch we learn and know, no matter how hard we push, we will not be able to force atransformation of ourselves. This, finally, is another meaning of the claim made before, that the transformation ofthe self can only occur via embracing uncertainty and risk. Only by an act of de-focusing ofour cognitive mind, of letting go that which we have willed so hard to manifest, might we23 Quote from personal notes taken during Wolfgang Schirmacher’s lectures at the European Graduate School(EGS) during the summer of 2006. 75
  • 76. finally become able to make that jump, or open that line of flight and de-territorialize towardsan as of yet unknown becoming. It is not enough to dare to know, for what is of even greaterimportance is to dare to let go of knowledge. Not from a position of ignorance but in order toopen a window of possibility towards that which our own knowledge has blocked us from.Basking in the radiance of the Apollonian sun also blinds us! With Nietzsche we can so point out the limits of knowledge in his assertion that whathe wants is “once and for all, not to know many things. Wisdom sets limits to knowledge too”(Nietzsche, 1976c: 467). No amount of deconstruction - necessary and valid as it may be –will by itself be able to make that one twisting (verwindenden) step further. Only by givingthose rational elements of critique their time and place, but finally distorting them in anexperiential field might this step finally occur. What emerges, going with Michel Foucaultand Friedrich Nietzsche beyond these authors, might be an Art of the Transpersonal Selfwhich is formed in the interplay of an aesthetic and energetic practice. From this follows already a necessity for our next chapters, because everything wehave sketched so far still could be interpreted along the lines of a clear cut individualsubjectivity; along the lines of an “I” that establishes itself in an aesthetic practice against an“Other”. Indeed, we have not yet clarified in how far our emergent practice of the self exactlywould be different from the “Man Makes History” of modernity – which in our renderingmight be misguidedly spelled out as “Man Makes Himself”. We will thus, in the next two steps, re-cast in greater detail that Dionysian figure of theenergetic and trace the interplay between aesthetic and energetic until the point whereindividuality blurs and transpersonality sets in. This transpersonal sphere, if such a sphere canbe conceptualized at all, will have to be charted time and again, redrawn, drafted and re- 76
  • 77. drafted, contain many familiar elements but in new and different places. This sphere oftranspersonality might so become a local and contingent space, containing shifting elements,boundings and openings as well as aesthetic/energetic lines in an ever shifting matrix beyondthe clear “self” and “other”. Before we reach this point, however, some further preliminarymoves towards an understanding of the elements involved here – especially art andtransformation – will be necessary. 2.6. Subjectivity and SelfBefore proceeding any further what remains to be done is disentangle and clarify the conceptsof self and subject in this Foucauldian rendering. In this respect the difference between thePlatonic and the Christian Models, on the one hand, and the Hellenistic Model, on the otherhand, is once more crucial. Foucault (2005) first distinguishes the Hellenistic self from essential accounts whichbuild subjectivity on top of a pre-given, unwavering self as soul as it corresponds to both thePlatonic Model and the Christian Model. In both of those, subjectivation is something thathappens on top of this pre-given, stable self as essence. In each of those instances the concretesubject in its outward appearances is built upon an inner self which forms its permanent andeternal truth. Foucault casts the Cartesian “I” to be of a similar mold: as the stable, essential,ground from which all further thinking and becoming can derive. Both the Christian and the Platonic Model so introduce a difference between atranscendent self and a concrete subject which is built upon it and forms its outwardappearance. Where those two Models differ is in the subsequent consequences and 77
  • 78. technologies of subjectivation. As stated previously, the defining feature of the PlatonicModel here is recollection (or memory) and the one of the Christian Model is renunciation. Historically, those two Models have become dominant. What Foucault attempts todistinguish from both those essentialist accounts is the Hellenistic Model which follows anutterly constructivist concept. Taking away the idea of a pre-given essence, the concepts ofsubjectivity and self are treated as synonymous in this Hellenistic Model which Foucaultultimately follows. The self and the subject are identical because the distinction between apre-given human essence (a transcendent soul or self) and something that is merelyconstructed afterwards (subjectivity and subjectivation) no longer exists. The history of the self as well as the history of the human subject for Foucault so onlybegins at the moment when the human being starts applying the technologies of relationalitynot just to the outside world and to its fellow humans, but to itself in order to fashion the ownsubjectivity – in order to become (different). Put in other words: in Foucault’s historicalrendering the human subject enters the scene once the human animal starts creating itself,starts creating it’s-self. What Gilles Deleuze’s masterful description of this Foucauldianprocess shows is that for Foucault the “Greeks invented the subject, but only as a derivative ora product of a ‘subjectivation’” (Deleuze, 1988: 101). In this understanding, subjectivation asthe art of creating oneself comes first and the subject/self is only the aftereffect of thatprocess. It is this a thought very similar to the one already put forth by Wolfgang Schirmacher(1990: 49) who asserts that the defining feature of humanity, what makes us human, istechnology as exemplified in the process of creating oneself through the tools we use. In his rendering Foucault inverts both the Platonic and the Christian Model which firstpose a transcendent self to which afterwards the merely mundane technologies of 78
  • 79. subjectivation could be applied. For Foucault, however, there is no transcendent self or stable“I” upon which to build subjectivity. The self and the subject are the same: a form shaped in anever-ending process. The very interiority or inside of the human being is therefore also nothing pre-givenbut needs to be created and derives from this process of subjectivation. Only by folding(Deleuze, 1988: 94ff.) the outside, by bending the relations with the external world back andby applying the technologies of relationality to the human animal does the self arise. Theinside so derives from the folding of the outside and only thus is the space created in whichthe self/subjectivity shall be built: It is as if the relations of the outside folded back to create a doubling, allow a relation to oneself to emerge, and constitute an inside which is hollowed out and develops its own unique dimension. […] What the Greeks did is not to reveal Being or unfold the Open in a world-historical gesture. According to Foucault they did a great deal less, or more. They bent the outside, through a series of practical exercises. The Greeks are the first at doubling. (Deleuze, 1988: 100)Subjectivation, Deleuze concludes, is “created by folding” (Deleuze, 1988: 104). This merelyadds a different aspect to the idea of the self as form which is created in relationality: theprocess of folding the outside creates the inside which gives the self its shape. The humansubject is that which is relational in all directions: (1) relating towards the non-humanenvironment (relating to nature or to the divine world), (2) relating towards fellow humanbeings and (3) relating to oneself. The subject thus arises as embedded in this triplerelationality. 79
  • 80. It is the last aspect of this triad, the relation to oneself, which, according to Foucault,was only completed in Ancient Greek times and which will be the focus of this study towardsan Art of the Self. Subjectivation can then also be understood as an active practice; as theprocess of becoming by which the subject/self “continues to create itself” in a perpetualmovement of “transforming itself and changing nature” (Deleuze, 1988: 104) Now, while one might debate whether placing the invention of technologies of self-creation with the Greeks is historically accurate24, what needs to be highlighted here is theconcept of a self that is not distinguished from the concept of subjectivity along atranscendent/immanent line but that uses both synonymously as something arising in aprocedural manner and open to (aesthetic/energetic) practices of transformation. 2.7. ConclusionWe have established several critical insights in this Foucauldian chapter. First we approached,in a second transposition how the Greeks concretely operationalized the interplay between theDionysian and Apollonian in the form of the Art of the Self rendered for us by MichelFoucault via the spiritual and philosophical principle. Taking our findings of the first chapterwe have so, through this transposition, related the Apollonian/Dionysian to the mutualconditioning of the knowledge of the self (philosophy) and care of the self (spirituality) andsimultaneously to the Art of the Self. We have so, secondly, complemented the macro-view ofthe first chapter with the micro-view in the second.24 Especially if the Greek technologies were to be cross-culturally compared to many practices of the selfcultivated for millennia in other parts of the world - like for example on the Indian subcontinent. 80
  • 81. We have thirdly established a necessity for the third and fourth chapters to deal with aconstructive concern. The question that therefore will need thought upon is: In how far doesthis Art of the Self we are striving for differ from the self-grounding, autonomous “I” ofmodernity? Fourthly, the (necessarily very cursory) historical overview is now largely completedand we have, again with Foucault, established once more how the Art of Living of theHellenistic Model was historically supplanted by the combination of the Platonic and theChristian Model. These explications echoed those of the first chapter, but served to further theunderstanding of what we are facing now in postmodern times and were, from this point ofview, indeed, absolutely necessary. Fifthly, the transrational was approached once more by pointing to the criticallimitations of (postmodern and ultimately any) theorizing. Here one encounters the limits ofrationality and of any critique of rationality by rational means and could so, with the findingsof the first chapter, assert the importance of an experiential field of understanding beyondknowing and knowledge. Sixthly, this led to the insight that any Art of the Self that wants to be more than eitherjust an imitation of Antiquity or yet again a reduction to the Apollonian aesthetics will have tofind different venues for a Verwindung of postmodernity, different practices to reckon for theenergetic which will also still need to be discussed. Here another crucial problem for the next chapters is encountered: what concrete practices can there be found, in our world today that might lend themselves to a new Art of the Self that is simultaneously transrational andtranspersonal? What approaches can be found that take the Dionysian into account and resist this pull of the rational mind that has become so hegemonic in the West? Because it is quite 81
  • 82. clear that we cannot turn back the time but neither might we want to forever live under the rays of this Apollonian sun, lest we get burnt to mere dry (formal, aesthetic) husks. 82
  • 83. 3. The Art of Transformation You see, that’s why I really work like a dog, and I worked like a dog all my life. I am not interested in the academic status of what I am doing because my problem is my own transformation. That’s the reason also why, when people say, “Well, you thought this a few years ago and now you say something else,” my answer is... [Laughs] “Well, do you think I have worked like that all those years to say the same thing and not be changed?” (Michel Foucault, 1997a: 131)With this chapter we will approach the main topic of this dissertation – the Art ofTransformation. Already from this title we can glean the crucial question that will need to beaddressed: Why is it an art of the self we are aiming for, and what might this concept of artlook like and entail? We will raise this concern, as an initial move, right at the very beginning.Secondly, the question of transformation will be approached here: What does it mean tospeak of subjectivity in transformation, which are possible precedents for such a view andhow does such a transformation figure in an Art of the Transpersonal Self? Those are theguiding questions for this chapter; we shall begin our venture by taking a look at the aspect ofart in our practice of the self. 3.1. Science and Art Since I grew tired of the chase And search I learned to find; And since the wind blows in my face, I sail with every wind25 (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1974: 40)The question that needs to be addressed at the beginning of the chapter is the question of art.So far we have, without further clarifying the point, spoken about the transformation of the25 Seit ich des Suchens müde ward,Erlernte ich das Finden.Seit mir der Wind hielt Widerpart,Segl’ ich mit allen WindenFriedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft 83
  • 84. self as a form of art and before we can make any further advances in our study, this problemof art so needs to be addressed. The guiding frame here will consist in the followingquestioning: firstly why and how is it that the work of the self on the self might beconceptualized as an art and, secondly, which understanding of art are we following in thisinstance? In order to clarify this point we will, thirdly, establish the relation of art to two otherfigures, science and handicraft (work), in order to re-take also a general point about theApollonian and Dionysian and distinguish our understanding of art from other possible waysof conceptualization. This will finally enable us to re-connect with some of the findings of theprevious chapters. In one of his major treatises on the questions of art - Aesthetic Theory (1997)published posthumously - Theodor Adorno keeps recurring to the enigmatic feature of art, theinexplicability of any work of art. This inexplicability, this elusiveness which sets in the verymoment one believes one has finally grasped a work of art and which makes it slip awayagain at this instant, leads Adorno to the conclusion - which is so vexing for the theoreticalmind - that a work of art can never be completely deciphered: “All artworks – all artaltogether – are enigmas; since antiquity this has been an irritation to the theory of art”(Adorno, 1997: 120). Indeed it is this enigmaticalness, which for Adorno makes a work a piece of art. Witha work of art, he asserts, one is never finished, as it presents different faces each time onebeholds it and never stays the same. Each understanding just gives way to a new questioning.Otherwise, without this enigmatic element one might presume, following Adorno, a workremains a handicraft (or at its worst kitsch). A piece of handicraft might be executedtechnically perfect; however without that additional enigmatic quality it will not become a 84
  • 85. work of art. In German there is a saying expressing exactly this point that just technicalperfection in itself does not make for a work of art: Kunst kommt nicht von können.26 Each work of art an artist creates in some way needs to reckon for this other andelusive element which makes a piece of work a work of art – sometimes even without theintention or knowing of the artist. The cognitive realization of what exactly he/she is doing isthus not in each case necessary for an artist to create a work of art – and may even hinder orblock the process. Now this does not imply that a certain element of work, knowing how tohandle one’s tools, the element of aesthetics and style in the work of art is not significant, forit is, indeed, very important and crucial. But style and distinction alone do not make a work ofart. Only by letting the aesthetic element fade at the crucial moment towards the possibility ofa transformation and creation of something different and unexpected, can a piece of artemerge. Each piece of art so has an aesthetic component, a component of style - but it is notpurely aesthetic. Art, I would suggest, in this sense cannot be cognitively willed. The work of an artist is so also a work; but it is not only a work. From this perspectiveit so does not follow that only the most strenuous exercise, the most rigid of practices andgreatest of complexities will lead to art. Art might just as well be found in the lightest andeasiest stroke of a brush or the most fleeting tone of music. To briefly summarize the two main points: there is something in art that speaks to us,but cannot be deciphered rationally and remains an enigma. Similarly, creating a work of artimplies making space for this element. An artist can use the aesthetic means at her/hisdisposal – style, technique or also knowledge (of schools, of currents or traditions) - tochannel this element, bring it to the forefront and so giving it the space it needs.26 This saying would, as we will establish in the following, for our purposes need to be qualified through adifferent emphasis: “art is not just a work; it is not just a craft”. It is, in the rendering proposed here, also a work. 85
  • 86. From the above rendering two insights can be gleaned: What follows first of all is thatthe aesthetic can give a certain shape to that other element – which I would once moreidentify as the energetic – and can give it a certain direction and form. Although the outcomewill always be determined at least as much by the energetic as it is by the aesthetic, there sostill is some space for a rational willing that enters into the process, even if it has to be let gooff and faded at the critical moment. This leads, secondly, to a conceptualization of art in its relation to science and crafts.And it is, indeed, at this point that we need to differentiate ourselves from Theodor Adorno,when he points out at that art always remains in “critical tension” (1997: 231) to science andthat the two categories should “not be fused” (1997: 232). Taking into account what has beenestablished about the relation between the rational/aesthetic (Apollonian) element and thatother element (the Dionysian, or energetic) within art it can so be asserted, in criticaldistinction from Adorno, that our conception of the relation of art and science is not adualism, but neither is it a dialectic. Contrary to a dialectic relationship between art andscience, the Art of the Self can only be a weak art. Following Gianni Vattimo’s (2006)dissolution of dialectics in a thinking of difference, such weak art so also contains traces andelements of the rational and aesthetic (of science and theory). It is furthermore not science or rationality as such that need to be rejected in an Art ofthe Self, but only rationality’s pull towards purity and the drive towards a pure Apollonianform that is to be resisted. It is through attempting to be only rational that science disengagesitself from art and its Dionysian qualities. If, however, the Apollonian is to be once morerelated to the Dionysian, then the rational element in art cannot be denied either. It ratherneeds to be included and given its own space. That space will of course be different from the 86
  • 87. position rationality occupied in the purely Apollonian striving for hegemony, but still theApollonian quality cannot be denied. The Art of the Self is thus, in parts, also a twistedscience! One could then subsequently, without contradiction, also turn this weak propositionaround and posit the Art of the Self not as an art containing elements of a science, but just aswell as a science - a science which is also an art. It is in this instance only a matter of wherethe greater stress is placed and which of the two elements is emphasized and highlighted in itsqualities. In a weak proposal both the Apollonian and the Dionysian are inherent to art andscience. And indeed, the image with which we closed the first chapter, the Nietzscheanpicture of a musical Socrates suggests exactly that: it provokes the idea of a scientific mindwhich is also, at the same time, an artist. With Friedrich Nietzsche we can so assert that the Art of the Self might also be thoughtof as a Gay Science, understood as a science which embraces its Dionysian element, takes intoaccount the qualities of an art of living, and therefore becomes a science which is not heavyand ponderous in its rational musing; a science which is beyond the purity of formalmoralities and which thus “sings and sizzles” with energy (Kaufmann in Nietzsche, 1974: 13).It is this life-affirming quality which - taking rationality into account but ultimately movingbeyond rationality - could turn the Art of the Self into a Gay Science of “light feet” which iscapable of perceiving thinking as dancing (Nietzsche 1976c: 512 ff). It is, furthermore, in this weak twisting together of art and science that the Art of theSelf becomes a transrational art. Indeed, in light of what we have just affirmed this Art of theSelf could not be anything other but weak and transrational because any strong thinking will,as we have established in the first chapter, always lead back to the purity of form. 87
  • 88. In this interplay between the rational/aesthetic and the energetic elements whichmakes for an Art of the Transpersonal Self it is, as we shall examine on some examples infurther chapters, entirely possible to stress more one or the other element, making this work oftransformation lean more towards a science or an art. The concrete shape this Art of the Selfwill take is thus always local and contingent and will in each instant take a different and newvenue, as it always depends on the current interplay of the Apollonian and Dionysian and thestrength and form of the aesthetic in its entanglement with the energetic27. The much vauntedseparation between art and science so turns into a difference of graduation and shades ratherthan a difference of principle - as the one is always already inherent in the other. Here a distinction can be made which has already been hinted at previously. In thefollowing knowing shall be called the result of rational cognition which is also open to theory.We shall, furthermore, identify as understanding that other form of perceiving, the one whichderives not from a rational grasping but from intuition and is thus not open to theorizing butcan ever only be realized in the form of an experiential encounter. The aim, owing to theconceptualization of the Art of the Transpersonal Self as a weak proposal, is a so weakunderstanding, one that does not completely disavow its rational counterpart but much moreacknowledges that for intuition and understanding, knowledge plays a certain role as well. Once more it is emphasized that it is not the Apollonian as such that needs to beresisted, but only its striving for pure forms. At the same time, it shall also not be hidden herewhat the use of understanding and intuition in this meaning implies:27 If, in this instance, I have chosen to name this study an Art of the Transpersonal Self then this is therefore anexpression of personal preference. It should furthermore serve to accentuate this crucial transrational element,for which, I believe, using the concept of science would not appear so evocative. It might also be argued that tostress the Dionysian quality might be more the necessity of today since the situation we are faced with at presentseems to be leaning strongly towards an Apollonian Hegemony and suppression of the Dionysian. Providing acounterweight to restore a balance might therefore carry some merit. Still, I would like to assert that the Art ofthe Self could just as well be conceptualized – though placing the stress differently - as a Gay Science. 88
  • 89. Intuition is strictly bound to the metaphysical concept of evidence, of bringing an inner illumination into the open, of gathering first principles. (Vattimo, 2006: 237)Even with this weak form of intuition, of understanding, but also with our use ofenigmaticalness and ultimately the transrational, the field of something very similar tometaphysics opens up again. The question whether it is indeed a new metaphysics that isapproached here will need to be addressed. At this point now we leave this question open, butwill return to it in chapter seven. Finally there is one further element which relates this figure of an art thusly sketchedto what is at stake here. Recalling for a moment Adorno’s concept of enigmaticalness - hisassertion that also as beholder one is never finished with a work of art and that a new questionpresents itself each time one understands it on one level - lends itself to the assumption thatsomething in the self changes as one continues to engage with art. It is this transformativequality of art which echoes the attempts to envision a transformative practice of the self.Michel Foucault explicitly asserts this transformative element in both the field of art and thework on the self: “Why should a painter work, if he is not transformed by his own painting”(Foucault, 1997a: 131). It is in this quality of the arts to affect a shift and thus to give the possibility ofbecoming other than who we are in which one also recognizes the work on the self asbelonging to that very same category. With such an understanding of art we can turn, throughthe continuous transformative aesthetic and energetic practice, also the own life into a work ofart. 89
  • 90. 3.2. The Object of ArtBefore progressing any further another distinction therefore needs to be introduced: thequestion of the object of art. In the colloquial use of the term a work of art is an object,something that is created by an artist. The material to be worked on is external. Even if thispiece of work is intricately connected to the artist her/himself, commonly an artist is stilldistinguished by the works of art she/he creates and not by whichever transformative effectsthe act of creating might have had on the person(s) engaged in the process. The object of art in this understanding can so be material (as for example in the case offilm, photograph, painting, sculpture) or immaterial (music), imaginistic or non-imaginistic.In all these cases, however, an “artist” remains defined by the objects she/he creates. The Artof the Self differs from this concept insofar as the material to be worked is the own life and theown self. Michel Foucault inaugurates this idea with the following question: What strikes me is the fact that, in our society, art has become something that is related only to objects and not to individuals or to life. That art is something which is specialized or done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everybody’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object but not our life?” (Foucault, 1997d: 261)Such understanding of art shifts the focus of what counts as a “work of art” and also of whocan be an “artist”. The material to be worked on is the own life, the own self, which is to begiven a certain form and style. An artist is consequently somebody who attempts to transformher/himself. This in turn has four consequences: first the practice of art no longer culminates in afinished piece of work, but is an ongoing, life-long preoccupation, something with which one 90
  • 91. never is finished. Secondly, it wrests the idea of art away from being the single preoccupationof the so-called gifted few or celebrated creative geniuses who supposedly have a specialtalent which sets them apart. The Art of the Self, quite simply, consists in a daily practice, inthe daily affirmation of life and in the possibility to become differently which arises from thisaffirmation. The Art of the Self can be practiced by anybody. Everybody can become such anartist of the self. Thirdly, as Foucault points out, this work of an Art of the Self usually doesnot have an audience; it is a work of the self on the self, by and for the self, it is: [...] an activity, the subject’s constant action on himself, which finds its reward in a certain relationship of the subject to himself. [...] One saves oneself for the self, one is saved by the self, one saves oneself in order to arrive at nothing other than oneself. (Foucault, 2005: 184, 185)The difference such an Art of the Self could make will matter only for oneself and theconcrete people around, those with whom one is in relationality. But, fourthly and conversely,with this understanding of art the stakes are also raised. An artist now is somebody who risksthe own transformation, who enters the creative process in order to change oneself, to changewhat one has been towards the indeterminate horizon of new becomings with uncertainoutcome and an open future. No results are guaranteed in this game. In this Foucauldian perception the actual creation of an object so takes a backseat andmost of the time will be completely absent. This does not imply that creating such an objectcan be part of a transformation of the self, but in this case the stress is placed differently. Theprocess of creation – the writing, painting, composing, etc. - then is deployed as a tool, as atechnology at the end of which one hopes to emerge transformed. The permanent process oftransformation becomes the goal and creating an external work of art turns into a possiblemean towards this end. 91
  • 92. We can so conclude and draw together the findings of this section in the followingway: We first conceptualized with Theodor Adorno enigmaticalness as an expression of theDionysian pull in any work of art. Raising the question of the relation of art to science andcrafts, secondly, a certain stylistic (rational) element of work inherent in any artisticexpression was discerned. However, this aesthetic element is always coupled with andtransfigured by an energetic component. In fact it is only this combination which lets a workof art appear in its interplay. Thirdly, it so became possible to distinguish theconceptualization of the relation between art and science from a dualistic or dialectic viewand to assert with Gianni Vattimo the understanding of art as weak – that is, simultaneously,containing elements of Apollonian rationality as well as elements of Dionysian energy. Fourthly, this led towards re-taking a topic from the first chapter. Via the Nietzscheanfigure of the musical Socrates we could so establish the possibility of conceptualizing this Artof the Self alternatively also as a Gay Science. The theoretical insight gained here was, fifthly,that the concrete manifestation of the Art of the Self might - depending on the specificinterplay of the Apollonian and Dionysian - at times lean more towards an art or moretowards a science. Sixthly, we were able to come to a closer differentiation betweenunderstanding and knowing, asserting a form of weak understanding as appropriate for an Artof the Transpersonal Self and thus opening the question of the metaphysical. Seventhly, thetransformative quality of art was linked to a similar characteristic of the practice of the self,thus completing the rendering of the aesthetic and energetic practice of the self as an Art ofthe Self. The aim of an Art of the Self was, finally, distinguished from the common modern useof art. The aim of the Art of the Self is not the creation of an outside object but the 92
  • 93. transformation of the self, through a risky process which does not culminate in a finishedpiece of work but continues perpetually throughout one’s life. 3.3. A Life in Transformation “We others, we immoralists, have, conversely, made room in our hearts for every kind of understanding, comprehending and approving. We do not easily negate; we make it a point of honor to be affirmers.” (Nietzsche, 1976c: 491)If what has been outlined in the past chapters is taken to hold merit, then there is a certain ideaof subjectivity or self that arises thereof. With Michel Foucault (2005) an assessment has beengiven of different forms of subjectivation in Ancient Greece. One main difference betweenthe Platonic Model and the Christian Model on the one hand, and the Hellenistic on the other,is that unlike the former two the latter does not pre-suppose an essence (soul, strong truth) ofthe self. The practice of the Self espoused by the Hellenistic Model is thus one of activelyfashioning a self; as opposed to unearthing the truth about oneself or remembering what thesoul has seen previously in the realm of ideal forms. If one follows further on this Hellenistic Model, then one consequence of such arendering is that subjectivity is not envisioned as a stable being, but, on the contrary, engagedin an unending flow of becoming: the form which the self takes does not remain the same.Heraclites was the first to conceptualize this understanding of the self as in transformation, byasserting that it would be impossible for the same person to step into the same river twice. Inthe second attempt of entering, after time has passed, one would no longer be the same personand also the waters of the river have changed making it different as well. Stepping into thatriver, one is thus neither the same person, nor is it the same river (Boal, 1979). 93
  • 94. Radicalizing this thought, Heraclites’ student Cratylus points out that it is also quiteimpossible to step into the same river once. Augusto Boal summarizes this view: His pupil, Cratylus, even more radical, would say to his teacher that nobody can go into a river even once, because upon going in, the waters of the river are already moving (which waters would he enter?) and the person who would attempt it would already be ageing (who would be entering, the older or the younger one?). (Boal, 1985: 3)Now, what this outline points to is the impossibility in this view of remaining the sameperson. Unlike portrayed in the Platonic rendering what is encountered here is not an essencewhich would need to be found in an act of remembrance. And it is neither a Christian versionof the truth about oneself that would need to be deciphered, but a constant flow of changes inwhich subjectivation takes place. This finding connects with the view ascribed to theHellenistic Model in the last chapter. For those ancient practitioners of that interplay of careof the self and knowledge of the self it was apparent that with each breath we take we becomeother than who we are: Whenever we breathe we give up a little of our pneuma and take in a little of another pneuma, so that the pneuma never is the same. And inasmuch as we have a pneuma we are never the same and consequently could not fix our identity in this. (Foucault, 2005: 303)As long as we breathe, as long as we take in the air from around us, let it spread in our bodyand then exhale it again, we will not remain the same. Indeed, at this very moment thequestion arises, where do we begin and end? With each breath we become porous and bluraround the edges: where does the pneuma exhaled stop being a part of us and at which pointin the respiratory process can the air inhaled no longer be separated from us and becomes a 94
  • 95. part of ourselves? Through this inhaling and exhaling a small, perhaps infinitesimally small -but still unavoidable - change takes place. Our breath transforms us.28 Life so turns into a perpetual becoming, in which a stable being from one moment tothe next is impossible. Nietzsche succinctly sums it up in the phrase that “whatever has beingdoes not become, whatever becomes does not have being” (Nietzsche, 1976c: 479). Life, inthis sense, implies becoming. Wolfgang Schirmacher (2007a: 5) in a similar vein asserts thatthe human condition always has implied a becoming, including a becoming human which canbe thought of as “open-ended, as never coming to a conclusion”29. Following MartinHeidegger, with Gianni Vattimo (2006) being becomes an act of remembrance: that whichreveals itself only in its absence. Being turns into something that always already is in the pastas something recalled and is therefore never fully established as a presence. Identity –understood as remaining self-identical from one moment to the next – might be a misnomer,for one always is in part not identical to and different from oneself. What has been said so far has three main consequences: In a perpetual stream ofbecoming, firstly a large part of what is happening to the self remains beyond its grasp andcertainly beyond its cognitive willing. Transformation, becoming, takes place in any case,whether willed or not, independent of conscious reflection. Nietzsche, taking this thought onestep further, points out the ultimate conclusion of this insight – namely that a cognitivewilling might not be necessary at all and dispensable for transformation and becoming to takeplace: “The will no longer moves anything, hence does not explain anything either – it merelyaccompanies events; it can also be absent” (Nietzsche, 1976c: 495). Unlike assumed in themodern idea of a rational, self grounding subjectivity, in this view becoming can happen28 In chapter six it will be explicated how this fact can be turned into a practice of the self.29 Translation from the German by Daniel Theisen at; last accessed on16/06/2007. 95
  • 96. independently of the consciously reflecting and willing “I”. The cogito is no longer ultimatefoundation of the self, but something merely added on. Secondly, it means that the self possibly might also have much less coherence than isusually attributed to it in the Cartesian tradition, formed as it is in the interplay of differentinfluences beyond our cognition. Instead of a coherent structure ordered by a rational mind,Nietzsche posits the interplay of drives struggling for supremacy. Two paths lead further onfrom this. One leads via Sigmund Freud’s theory of the drives into psychoanalysis and theconcept of the unconscious. The other one turns, via Michel Foucault, towards an Art of theSelf.30 For Foucault the history of the self begins with the first active attempts at becoming,with the first practices in which the subject attempts to transcend itself towards becomingsomething differently. Since the self, in Foucault’s rendering, is a historical phenomenon andnot pre-established in its essential being, this implies that the self has a beginning and can thushave an ending31, like for example when it transforms into something different. Thereof, thirdly, derives the conclusion that what one has already become is by nomeans an ending point. This insight brings Nietzsche and Foucault to the creative attempt toenvision what one might yet become. We will recur to this point in more detail in the sectionof the next chapter entitled An Affirmative Practice. With that we have reached the threshold to an understanding of the importance of anArt of the Self. If change is inevitable, if it is impossible to stay the same, if furthermore thischange occurs not through cognitive willing, but in a (transrational and transpersonal) processof which one is often quite unaware, then the question of the Art of the Self - how to still give30 What this common foundation suggests, is also that those different roads may not be as separated andincommensurable as commonly perceived.31 See also O’Leary, 2002. 96
  • 97. one’s life a certain shape, how to foster a change towards the subjectively better – becomespre-eminent. Transformation, change, becoming, all take place in any case. The question thenbecomes as to how one can influence our procedural becoming in its Apollonian-Dionysianentanglement? One of the main tasks of this study is to shed further light on this question. To resume our reflections it can so be assumed that both Nietzsche and Foucault positstruggle, or conflict as one of the main causes for transformation. This idea of what instigatestransformation is also echoed in Heraclites, in his famous polemic about “war as the father ofall things”. In a very similar vein, Nietzsche stipulates that “one has renounced the great lifewhen one renounces war” (Nietzsche, 1976c: 489). Foucault asserts, in an inversion ofClausewitz, that “politics if the continuation of war by other means” (Foucault, 2003: 15).Light can be shed on those statements, if they are read on the basis of the above assumptionthat struggle, conflict, is the basis for all affirmative transformation and becoming. By taking a closer look at those statements it so becomes possible to interpret thembeyond their seemingly belligerent attitude. On the example of Nietzsche’s statement it canfirst be asserted that to say that to renounce war means to renounce the great life begs at leasttwo interpretive questions – one asking about what the great life could possibly mean and thesecond raising the question of war. What then, might first the great life be, if Nietzsche is read in light of the above? Thegreat life, I would argue, is first the affirmative life. It is the life that celebrates existence andalso affirms itself. It is the life which, instead of just letting subjectivation happen, tries to(also) actively engage in a practice and fashioning of the self. This affirmative life so activelyundertakes the always risky venture of becoming other. 97
  • 98. Such an undertaking, however, has secondly a twisting moment for this affirming,active, element can no longer consist in the aggressive stance of a cognitive willing, but has tomake room for that other, energetic, element of subjectivation and also include at one point aletting go of everything that has been aspired to or already achieved. Such an art of the selfthus has to become transrational. It implies not to cling to the single elements in this constantflow of becoming but to let them stream away. This great life could thus be the always risky undertaking of a weak affirmation – anaffirmation that celebrates the active moment of becoming but also acknowledges theimperfection (Muñoz, 2006, Schirmacher, 2007c) of those moments and the necessity to let goof them at the crucial juncture. In the terminology of Wolfgang Schirmacher (2007c) such anaffirmation is what marks the crucial difference between homo generator and homocompensator. The latter strives for perfection and is constantly looking for flaws to purge inorder to overcome the own inadequacy: Der homo compensator will den Eigenmangel einzig erkennen, um ihn zu beseitigen: Daß der Mensch des Menschen Wolf sei, oft selbst sein eigener schlimmster Feind, daß Selbstunwertgefühle und Urmißtrauen sein Leben vergiften und Depressionen es überschatten, soll ebenso verschwinden wie körperliche Gebrechen und – die verstiegenste Forderung – der Tod. (Schirmacher, 2007c: 8)32The life of homo generator, however, like the Nietzschean great life, is one that ischaracterized by acknowledging also the own imperfections – not with dread and a fearfulfeeling of insufficiency – but, on the contrary with Gelassenheit (releasement) (Schirmacher,2007c: 8). From this vantage point the drive to perfection can be let go off, as our inherent32 “Homo compensator wants to recognize the own shortcomings for the sole purpose of eliminating them. Thatman is his own wolf, even at times his own worst enemy, that profound mistrust and feelings of inadequacypoison his life and depression overshadows it: these situations are supposed to disappear just as physical diseaseand--the most outrageous demand--death are supposed to be done away with.” Translation by Daniel Theisen at, last accessed 30/07/2007. 98
  • 99. imperfections are acknowledged and affirmed as well. This great life is so not the striving forcontrol and security, but on the contrary the letting go of control and embracing of insecuritythrough a weak assertion of one’s own existence. The great life is not mainly to be found in the striving for the extraordinary, the greaterachievement or more spectacular feat. It is neither a gesture of vanity understood as thatwhich tries to hold on to its moments of perceived greatness and is so unable to let go andrelinquish the striving for control. It is much rather to be found in the small daily gestures, ineveryday life and - so to speak - in each breathing in and breathing out. And this in turn brings us to the second part of Nietzsche’s statement, namely thatsuch a great life cannot renounce war. If this “war” Nietzsche insists upon is read, withWalter Kaufmann33, metaphorically and is understood as an expression of the conflictiveelement inherent in human life, then we can agree with Nietzsche that renouncing this warimplies exactly aspiring to security and control which in turn makes a transformation of theself impossible. Such a renunciation implies negating the conflictive element in life aspotential source for creative energy. This great life is not the impervious gesture that wardsoff all influences and neither is it the prevention nor negation of conflicts. It is much to thecontrary to be found in the acknowledgment of conflicts as positive and potentially creativeparts of human existence. This life therefore is also always risky, as opening oneself totransformation through conflict has no guaranteed outcome and always also means lettingoneself be transformed. Now, not to be mistaken, with this understanding the possibility of an individual ethicsthat rescinds war as violence can still be retained. It is, however, the expression of a position33 See also Mandel, 1988: xxix 99
  • 100. that first can no longer be universalized (towards a morality) and that secondly embraces this“war” if it is understood as “struggle” as (sometimes painful) “conflict” towards a chance oftransformation of oneself. Relating the topic of transformation to the Apollonian/Dionysian interplay FriedrichNietzsche explicitly associates the active moment of transformation and relationality with theDionysian element and sketches a Dionysian extreme: It is impossible for the Dionysian type not to understand any suggestion; he does not overlook any signs of affect; he possesses the instinct of understanding and guessing in the highest degree, just as he commands the art of communication in the highest degree. He enters into any skin, into any affect: he constantly transforms himself. (Nietzsche, 1976c: 520)The Dionysian can so be perceived as the art of dis-individuation and relational opening,experienced in a moment of transfiguration and indeterminacy. This Dionysian element canthus foster a liberating becoming, can open venues for change, but ultimately also needs to becoupled with the channeling effects of Apollonian bounding. A completely Dionysian lifeseems to be unlivable; but with that the question of how much bounding, how much Apolloone is willing to take in stride has not yet been answered. And indeed, at its limit point, thequestion arises if the transcendence or end of subjectivity might not be encountered in theDionysian experience. Might not a transcendence of subjectivation be thought as a series ofun-boundings, transcending individuality? It is clear that such this transcendence can not be achieved via the other extreme of anApollonian Hegemony which denies the life-affirming power of transformation. Inherent inthe Apollonian Hegemony there remains the striving for security and control as the attempt to 100
  • 101. create an absolute position, a position sine cura (without care, without preoccupation) whichultimately rejects the Dionysian aspect of the relational transformation of human existenceand is once more guided by the thinking of a strong truth. 3.4. ConclusionThis chapter is comprised of two main parts. In the first one, dealing with the question of apractice of the self as art, firstly, we were able to discern the Art of the Transpersonal Self asa weak art, deriving out of the interplay between the Apollonian and Dionysian. From thisrendering as weak art it followed, secondly, that the Art of the Transpersonal Self might justas well be perceived as a Gay (weak) Science. This rendering as art makes the practice of the self, thirdly, compatible with thefindings of both previous chapters. The practice of the self as art is compatible with both theDionysian/Apollonian (aesthetic/energetic) picture of the first and the double practice ofphilosophy/spirituality (knowledge of the self and care of the self) given in the secondchapter. The figure of art highlights the element of performing a work on oneself while, at thesame time, it also contains that transrational element which is so crucial for both theApollonian/Dionysian and philosophy/spirituality. Conceptualizing our transformative practices as art thus makes it possible to retain allthose different meanings and possible forms of expression. A specific practice, a concrete Artof the Self can so focus more on the Apollonian/aesthetic/philosophical or on theDionysian/energetic/spiritual aspect while still maintaining the entanglement, mutualconditioning and balancing of those two and, therefore, avoiding to fall back into a dualism or 101
  • 102. dialectic. A necessity that has yet not been tended to in this work so far is to make visiblewhat form such an Art of the Self could take. This will be the topic of chapter six. In the last pages, fourthly, the understanding of subjectivation has been furtherdifferentiated. At the base of this subjectivation an understanding of life in constanttransformation was discerned. This perpetual process of transformation, fifthly, implies a selfin permanent becoming which makes being possible only as absence, as act of remembranceof that which is never fully present. Sixthly, this led to a problematization of the concept ofthe self as a coherent, rationally willing agent. If becoming through transformation, seventhly,is an unavoidable feature of human life, then the question of how to actively shape thisbecoming poses itself with renewed urgency. Hence arises the necessity for an Art of the Self. With Friedrich Nietzsche we then established that this Art of the Self could realizeitself as great life in a life-affirming practice, which in the form of a weak affirmationcelebrates the active moments of becoming but is also able to let those active elements fade ata crucial moment of letting go. The transformation of the self, ninthly, always happens in andthrough conflict. Conflict is perceived as an unavoidable and possibly creative part of humanexistence. It is only through embracing conflict that the possibility for an activetransformation of the self opens up at all! The different features of relationality, permanent becoming, and subjectivity as formnow add up to a certain understanding of the self which needs to be further addressed in thenext chapter. The question that derives is the one about the meaning of transpersonality. Thisproblem already has clearly surfaced at the end of the second chapter and can now, after thoseintermediary moves, be addressed in the next. Why transpersonality, and what could thispossibly entail? In how far does the transpersonal self differ from the concept of a clear-cut 102
  • 103. singular subjectivity and what does this imply for the project of actively giving one’s life acertain style in an aesthetic and energetic practice? 103
  • 104. 4. Energizing Foucault “I know very well, and I think I knew it from the moment I was a child, that knowledge can do nothing for transforming the world. Maybe I am wrong. And I am sure I am wrong from a theoretical point of view, for I know very well that knowledge has transformed the world. But if I refer to my own personal experience, I have the feeling knowledge can’t do anything for us [...]. All this is not related to what I think theoretically (I know that’s wrong), but I speak from my personal experience.” Michel Foucault (1997a: 131)In this chapter the element of the energetic will be singled out, in an attempt to relate itdifferently. In the first chapter the energetic was approached with Wolfgang Dietrich’sinterpretation of the Dionysian in Friedrich Nietzsche. After subsequently establishing thelink between the energetic and a certain understanding of the spiritual in the second chapter,here this analysis will be furthered by taking into consideration also the concept of power.Using Foucault’s concept of power as starting point, but ultimately going beyond Foucault, anenergetic power will so be ascertained. From such an energetic account of power we will thenbe able to retake the notion of the self as it is formed in relational and transpersonalbecoming. Turning the attention towards the “X” that is the energetic and Dionysian element inthe Art of the Self - and in light of what we have outlined so far in the course of this study - itcan be assumed that this approximation to the Dionysian will not result in a theory, trying tocognitively grasp the Dionysian moment in all its facets. The task at hand consists muchrather in attempting a shift of perception which allows us to come to an understanding of theDionysian, without having to rationally know it. We will now begin to approximate thepossibility of such a shift in this chapter; however this topic in its different forms and facetswill follow us throughout the rest of this dissertation. 104
  • 105. 4.1. Approaching PowerOf all the works, all the studies which Michel Foucault conducted during his life, there is oneelement, one distinctive feature, that stands out and has received the most attention ever since.It has become the most debated, contested single part of his work, the most fruitful but alsoconsidered by many the most outrageous (Thiele, 2003: 222). After proclaiming the death ofthe (autonomous) subject with his two major works on science and discourse – The Order ofThings (1994) and the Archeology of Knowledge (1972) - Foucault changed track in hisinvestigations and started to focus on that curious interplay of forces that make the subjectwho she/he is. The focus of this epoch is not (yet) the pre-occupation with the active practicesof the self which would come later but, on the contrary, with how the subject is constituted,more or less, from the outside34. In the course of this undertaking Foucault famously argues the existence of a strangelyintangible force, a force which forms individuality but, unlike the Marxist or Freudianrenderings, is not repressive (Foucault, 1990a: 4ff.) but on the contrary productive. It is aforce which cannot be possessed or wielded by single individuals, not transferred indemocratic elections or through contract (Foucault, 2003: 14) as it is not something that is“acquired, seized or shared, something that one holds on to or allows to slip away” (Foucault,1990a: 95). It is not co-extensive either with the law as the force that “only says no”: If it were never anything but repressive, if it never did anything but to say no, do you really think one would be brought to obey it? (Foucault, 2000g: 120)34 On the nature of the different phases of Foucault’s work as regards the self and subjectivation see Schmid,2000. 105
  • 106. It is a force, “intentional but non-subjective” (Foucault, 1990a: 95), which flows in densenetworks of relationality, runs down into the most capillary parts of ourselves, which traversesus, flows through us, connecting us like “relays” ( Foucault, 2003: 29), suffuses us through itseffects; forms, moulds and transforms us. This force has the potential for great destruction butis not inherently destructive or violent. Foucault himself, of course, calls this force power. In the following section we will first take a look at the established wisdom aboutFoucauldian power, seeing how power has been interpreted immanently within thePoststructuralist rendering. In critical distinction to this immanent interpretation we will,secondly, establish an energetic rendering of power and will, thirdly, relate this energeticpower to the Art of Transpersonal Transformation. 4.2. The Conventional Interpretation of Foucault’s PowerLooking at the Foucauldian analysis of power through the lens of many interpreters ofFoucault’s work, what springs to mind is that the question of power seems to be posed alwaysas a question of the political35. Whenever the question of subjectivity arises as a problem inthose analyses it is always through a struggle over the extension of the sphere of the political.The argument that is advanced still follows the lines that also the personal - individuality,subjectivity - in the end, are political questions. Any critique put forth in this way so aims atan extension and enlargement of the political sphere, through the inclusion of that which wasformerly excluded. The question that this line of analysis boils down to is thus always thequestion of the inclusion in and exclusion from the sphere of the political.35 Such a reading seems to be inherent to the interpretations of, for example, Judith Butler (2004a, 2004b, 2005)and Giorgio Agamben (1998, 2000, 2005). 106
  • 107. In this conventional rendering power is first understood as the ability to (co-)determinethe point of closure in discourse and thus establish what has to be left unsaid and cannot beexpressed. Power thus always has a discursive component, which structures the expressible.Its terminal point also marks the end of a life’s intelligibility. It is in light of this discursivecomponent that Foucault focuses, for example, on the Lives of Infamous Men (2000d), thoseotherwise nameless, faceless and voiceless past existences, who remain legible for us only byvirtue of a few “brief and strident words” and whose life “comes down to exactly what wassaid about them” (2000d: 162). Furthermore, as example of how subjectivity is discursivelyshaped not just through exclusion but also in its inclusive moments, Foucault studies - inrespect to sexuality - the “incitement to discourse” in relation to one’s doctor, confessor ortherapist (Foucault, 1990a). In conjunction, power is secondly also equated with practices and how individuality isformed within certain practices. Practices, working in conjunction with discourse, can here beunderstood as actions which make other actions, or other forms of behavior, possible, easieror more difficult. Power, exercised via practices, so defines and structures subjectivation,enabling some forms of life, while disenabling others: It [power] operates on the field of possibilities in which the behavior of the active subject is able to inscribe itself. It is a set of actions on possible actions; it incites, it induces, it seduces, it makes easier or more difficult; it releases or contrives, makes more probable or less; in the extreme, it constrains or forbids absolutely, but it is always a way of acting upon one or more acting subjects by virtue of their acting or being capable of action. A set of actions upon other actions. (Foucault, 2000f: 341) 107
  • 108. Those two strands are commonly combined towards seeing power as the interplay ofdiscourses and practices. Power thirdly, always understood as relational, is exercised alwaysin concrete, and local networks: Power, in the substantive sense, ‘le’ pouvoir, doesn’t exist. The idea that there is either located at - or emanating from – a given point something which is ‘power’ seems to me to be based on a misguided analysis, one which at all events fails to account for a considerable number of phenomena. In reality, power means relations […]. (Foucault, 1980b: 198)Foucault was in a similar vein always adamant that what he had tried to accomplish is ananalysis of the concrete flow of power, tracing it in its workings as it traverses individualsthrough practices and discourses, but that this does not accumulate to a theory of power. Theanalysis of power furthermore always has to remain local and contingent, just like power onlyexists in its concrete flow: If one tries to erect a theory of power one will always be obliged to view it as emerging at a given place and time and hence to deduce it, to reconstruct its genesis. But if power is in reality an open, more or less coordinated (in the event, no doubt, ill- coordinated) cluster of relations, then the only problem is to provide oneself with a grid of analysis which makes possible an analytic of relation of power. (Foucault, 1980b: 199)Through its relational exertion in discourses and practices, through its flow in the dense, yetever shifting constellation of micro-forces, bodies are formed and subjectivation takes place.We will shortly highlight the functioning of this kind of interpretation of power on theexample of the work of Giorgio Agamben. 108
  • 109. In parts of his recent work Agamben (1998, 2005) problematizes the modern legalsystem upon which societies are built by re-taking the decisionistic legal theory of CarlSchmitt. Sovereign, according to Schmitt (1985), is he who decides upon the state ofexception – who decides when the rule does not apply and what (who) has to remain outsideof the legal sphere on which the political is built. Only on this fundamental exclusion is,according to Agamben, the fully political life (bios) in Western societies established. What has to remain outside is bare life (zoe), the life that does not count as politicaland, in extreme cases, does also not count as life and therefore can be killed without (legally)committing homicide. The only distinguishing feature of this bare life then becomes the factthat it is not (yet) dead (Agamben, 1998; 2005). The bare life remains outside of the realm ofpower and thus outside of the realm of subjectivation. In Agamben only upon thisfundamental exclusion is the sphere of power established in which life that counts as fullyhuman can take place. Foucault describes this sphere of power’s operation in the followingway: It seems to me that power must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization; as the process which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens, or reverses them; as the support which these force relations find in one another, thus forming a chain or system, or on the contrary, the disjunctions and contradictions which isolate them from one another; and lastly as the strategies in which they take effect. (Foucault, 1990a: 92)In Discipline and Punish (1977a) Foucault exemplified this strategic relationality of power onthe example of the prison system by showing how, in the strategic conglomerate and mutualinterplay of (prison) practices, discourses on criminality, legal, statistical, or generally 109
  • 110. scientific bodies of knowledge accumulated, a certain type of subjectivity is formed – that ofthe delinquent. What is important for the purposes of this study is that in this conventional accountpower equals concrete discourses and practices, without any remainder or residue. In this typeof interpretation, discourses and practices are all there is to power. Critique can be mountedby analyzing concrete practices and discourses and trying to determine what has beenexcluded in them – looking for their “blind spot,” discerning what is absent. Critique can alsoobject to certain forms of subjectivation, can protest against being constituted in a specificfashion, being constituted “like that, by that, in the name of these principles, in view of suchobjectives and by means of such methods and at this price and cost, not like that, not for that,not by them” (Foucault in O’Leary, 2002: 114). Not power as such is contested in those critiques but a specific relationality, thisconcrete constellation with those specific effects. It would thus be a mistake to construe fromthis an all out attack on power. The subject is always only constituted within the field ofpower; it is only within the interplay of this relationality, that subjectivation takes place. Theaim of critique is always the extension of the political sphere – that, which can be said,practiced and thus lived. The assumptions about power and its critique remain rational. Indeed, this line of interpretation of power conducted in a Foucauldian or Post-Foucauldian vein have a lot of merit and have provided a plethora of fruitful and deeplyinsightful analyses and critiques of constellations of power36. However, without wanting to36 In this respect the continued works of both Judith Butler and Giorgio Agamben stand out. Especially in light ofcurrent events of world politics, a back-to-back reading of Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and BareLife (1998) and Butler’s Precarious Live: The Power of Mourning and Violence (2004b) is compelling. 110
  • 111. take away from the feasibility and continued necessity and urgency of these analyses, what wehave in mind here for this chapter aims at something different. We will so try to disengage power from this immanent interpretation by asking thequestion about possible points of connection between the Foucauldian understanding of powerand the energetic. We will, for this undertaking, start with re-taking Foucault’s ownconceptualizations on power but establish an interpretation which he himself very likelymight have resisted. The outcome might so be an approximation which, while usingFoucault’s work as a starting ground, ultimately has to go with Foucault against the grain ofwhat is considered established Foucauldian scholarship which interprets power immanently.Having so far given more of an overview of how power works through institutional discoursesand practices, we will now in the next section focus on power in concrete human relationalityand subsequently approach an energetic power. 4.3. Power Re-visitedIn the introduction to this section, I have pointed towards several critical features ofFoucauldian power. The most important of those is probably power’s productivity. Power isnot the force which represses but which positively makes us who we are. Only within thesphere of power can any kind of subjectivation take place. Foucault so points out that if it isonly power - in its concrete flow and workings in and on us - that forms us, then theindividual human being is not all “power’s opposite number” but on the contrary “one ofpower’s first effects” (Foucault, 2003: 30). It is only upon the basis of this being-constitutedand on the premise of acknowledging this constitutedness through and within power that the 111
  • 112. possibility for an active practice of the self opens up. Subjectivation can only occur withinand on the basis of power relations. In the Foucauldian rendering an outside of power would therefore also not be theoriginary zone of freedom, but on the contrary, an outside of power is only thinkable as a zoneof anomy and violence. If power is what makes us who we are, if power is the active agent ofsubjectivation, stepping outside of power - or being brought outside of power - means beingdeprived of every possibility for individuation and subjectivation. The Other of power is sonot freedom but domination and violence. Jenny Edkins and Véronique Pin-Fat retake thiscrucial point on power as follows: A relationship of violence acts upon a body or upon things; it forces, it bends, it breaks, it destroys, or it closes off all possibilities. Its opposite pole can only be passivity, and if it comes up against any resistance it has no other option but to try to break it down. A power relationship, on the other hand, can only be articulated on the basis of two elements that are indispensable if it is really to be a power relationship: that the ‘other’ (the one over whom power is exercised) is recognised and maintained to the very end as a subject who acts; and that, faced with a relationship of power, a whole field of responses, reactions, results, and possible inventions may open up. (Edkins and Pin-Fat, 2004: 12)Power thus is not a figure that concerns only a single individual. Power in each instance isalways relational; it is something that flows between concrete individuals. Power also doesnot exist as an abstract, but only ever in its concrete manifestations, it is always local. Theimportance of this relational component in Michel Foucault is such that his whole work hasalso been classified as a “philosophy of relation” (Veyne, 1997a: 177). The self gains itsspecific shape by virtue of being located at a certain juncture within power’s net ofrelationality. Relationality is thus the feature that concretely determines the shape of the self. 112
  • 113. As long as relationality is set up in a way that allows for the possible reversion or atleast modification and change of those relations, power still flows, and freedom as well asactive subjectivation become a possibility. And here we encounter another facet of power.Just as subjects are formed through the exercise of power, they simultaneously always also areforming others with whom they are in relation. Power is the basic condition of human life and, ultimately, only through power alsothe possibility for the active self-formation of the subject opens up. An Art of the Self onlybecomes possible within power. This gives meaning to the famous Foucauldian phrase thatthere can be no power without freedom and that power is “exercised only over free subjectsand only insofar as they are free” (Foucault, 2000f: 342). Freedom opens up as a possibilityonly within power. To flip the above statement around: Wherever power ceases, subjectivation is also nolonger possible and one is neither constituted as a human being any more, nor does the optionremain available to constitute oneself as such. It is when the relations between people ossify,become inflexible, petrify and ultimately turn unchangeable and set in stone that power alsoceases and becomes something different, it turns into domination. Domination arises eachtime the relations between people are set in a way they are no longer reversible and anyattempt at change is prevented and blocked (Foucault, 1997k: 283). Individually this state ofbeing when power is blocked leads to anomy and violence whilst the continued individuationis disrupted and the subject in its being is thrown into complete disarray. From the above follows a further point of great importance: In this rendering thesubject is not a pre-given essence but, on the contrary, a form and one which “is not always or 113
  • 114. primarily identical to itself” (Foucault, 1997k: 290). The Subject is a form that receives itsconcrete shape and is imbued with a distinct life in the always relational flow of power. Indifferent relations to different people this subject will so take on a different form, presentitself differently and thus become differently. There is no essence to recur to which couldconstitute the true self and so would serve to establish the distinction to a mere mask.Alienation, like is posited in the Marxist analysis, so looses its point of reference becausethere is no longer the true self from which one could be alienated and no “imprisoned nature”waiting to be “liberated” (Foucault, 2000a: 275). We thus become partially different, when we are in a concrete situation a mother orfather, a teacher, a worker, a lover, etc. and it is in this sense that we are, as Foucault asserts,not identical to ourselves. To say that the subject is a form connects us to the idea oftransformation expounded in the third chapter. It is to imply that it is not a (pregiven)substance, but that the subject has a history and a future: [...] in the course of their history men have never stopped constructing themselves, that is to say continually displacing their subjectivity, constituting themselves in an infinite and multiple series of different subjectivities, which will never come to an end and will never bring us face to face with something which would be Man [...]. (Foucault, 2000a: 276)Having established these points we so become able to tackle the crux of the question of powerwhich still has eluded us so far: while the above lines have provided a general approximationtowards that phenomenon which is called power, the picture still remains incomplete in manyways. 114
  • 115. With the strategic play of discourses and practices, with their effect on subjectivationand with the question of what happens when the relations become unchangeable, onlyApollonian elements of subjectivation have been analyzed. And indeed, seen from this view itis also only logical that what happens when this Apollonian element purifies or becomeshegemonic is domination. However, what is still missing in this account is a way of reckoningfor the Dionysian. We will thus in the following try to complete the picture with approachingan energetic power. 4.4. An Energetic PowerLet us first focus on the concept of relationality in its connection to subjectivation. With ourview of the Dionysian/Apollonian in mind we could approach the concept of relationality inthe following way. Any relation, to begin with, always has two interrelated components. Onthe one hand the aesthetic component, which in this instance we could also term the formal orsystemic: Any relation we find ourselves engaged in always takes place in an already pre-given larger context which, to a certain degree, defines our subjectivity in that concreterelation. Whether we are engaged in the relation between mother and daughter, friend andfriend, teacher and pupil, or any other imaginable type of engagement, there always is acertain formal (or systemic) setting which in part determines the concrete shape of thisrelationality. What the connotations of being a “teacher,” “mother,” “friend,” “daughter,”“pupil”, etc. will carry might not be open to a universally valid description, will vary andchange with each context and societal setting. Still this Apollonian, systemic component isalways there and in principle amenable to a concrete analysis and can be described rationally. 115
  • 116. This is also, indeed, what Michel Foucault has done so masterfully in his analyses ofdiscourses and practices. Any relation so is in part determined by this systemic, aesthetic orApollonian quality. However, it is also true that almost no relation is determined completely by thiselement. No matter how exacting, rigid and detailed those systemic and formal elements andrules are, only in its extreme outer reaches is the relation totally determined by them. Foranything else there is always this other element which plays a part in any relation and willalso co-shape its concrete form, however without being open itself to rational analysis. Thiselement has been called many different names in different contexts – emotion (concretely asdesire in Deleuze or pleasure in Foucault); spirituality; the libidinal or sexuality; the drives;affection etc. and we have here identified it as the Dionysian. Any relation is thus always the concrete interplay of the Apollonian and Dionysianand both those elements together in their mutual conditioning will determine the distinctiveform this relation will take. Together with the different relationalities also our subjectivity isformed. To complete the Foucauldian rendering of power it would need to be energized. Wehave so far called this “X” that flows through the systemic and aesthetic element Dionysianenergy. An energetic account of power can build on the elements of the Foucauldian analysis –relationality, discourses and practices – but adds to this rational (Apollonian) description atransrational Dionysian twist. In an energetic power we so still assert that the subject isformed (and forms itself) in a concrete relationality involving discourses and practices. Butthe concrete form this relationality will take is not just determined by discourse and practicewithout residue. Through discourse and practices energy flows – shapes them and is in turn 116
  • 117. shaped by them. In an energetic power the relationality leading to subjectivation is not justdetermined rationally by Apollonian discourses and practices, but just as well by the energeticelement (like for example emotions) that is also carried through them and within them. Theemotion that is conveyed through an utterance is just as important as what is (rationally) saidand only their interplay determines the shape the concrete relationality will take. We can so make use of the many tools and concepts of the Foucauldian analysis ofpower, including his idea of the self as form, via enriching them with an energetic component.An energetic power thus is literally a force which flows in and through the individual person.An energetic power could so also be likened to the picture of electricity flowing throughelectrical networks. Pushing this metaphor one step further we could also take up theFoucauldian picture of the subject as “relay” (Foucault, 2003: 29) for power. In the concept ofan energetic power the subject might similarly be likened to a relay station which receives,transforms and transmits energy along aesthetic lines. Taking this analogy one step further the energetic power can be perceived as a flowingforce – the force of life. This force is not identical to discourse and practices but is transmittedalso through them. Discourse and practices may lead to a certain form of life, to a form ofself, to a mode of subjectivation. Equally they can be the expression of a distinct life – butthey are not identical to it. Discourse and practices are the visible expression of the force of life which flowsthrough them, but which itself is not rationally apprehensible. Discourse and practices are theco-determining aesthetic element which always goes together with an energetic force of life(energetic flow of power). Discourse and practices are open to rational description andanalysis, as Foucault has shown so masterfully. The energetic power is transrational and can 117
  • 118. only be experienced, not described. Together they are a different expression for theApollonian and Dionysian interplay. It so becomes possible to posit an aesthetic/energetic sphere. This sphere might beconceived as the space from which human subjectivation arises, as the relational sphere ofwhich the self is a part. It is this the sphere of energetic power within which (human) lifetakes place but which is simultaneously formed by this life and co-extensive to it. The selfthat emerges within this sphere is always relational and in this sense transpersonal. 4.5. The Relational SelfWorking with this concept of the aesthetic/energetic sphere it so becomes possible to sketch atranspersonal becoming: in both the active and passive moments of becoming, subjectivationis shaped in relationality - by that which (and those who) surround(s) us just as well as byourselves. One is thus constantly engaged in a process of polyvalent transmission alongaesthetic/energetic lines. In this process the self is shaped just as it shapes others in turn,embedded in a sphere of energetic power. Instead of being a clear-cut, separated and distinct shape, the form of the self couldthus better be described as a certain density and ever shifting constellation within thisaesthetic/energetic sphere. The self is not different from the aesthetic/energetic sphere, butforms part of it and also, in turn, co-forms this sphere from which it cannot be separated. In an initial sketch one could so see the self, firstly, as part of an aesthetic/energeticsphere in which, secondly, its form is emergent through relationality. Thirdly, this self can so 118
  • 119. not be separated from the sphere of which it forms part, but there is also no longer a clearseparation towards the others with whom this self is in relationality. Going one further step beyond Foucault one can draw here on a concept derived fromthe psychoanalysis to clarify this last point. Artist and psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger (2006)proposes to conceptualize the self as severality. The term severality implies that the self isalways co-formed and co-forming in a connecting and dis-connecting with those others whoare concretely around it. From them it is not completely distinct but engaged in a constantprocess of differentiation in togetherness. The self is thus not singular, but always plural. Unlike in an endlessly schizoid Deleuzian multiplicity (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987),in which the self is made up of an infinite amount of connecting parts (the famous thousandplateaus), Bracha Ettinger proposes that the self is not formed by endlessly differentinfluences and connecting points but by certain - specific yet shifting - constellations withpartial others who co-determine and influence its becoming. Griselda Pollock capturesEttinger’s concept of a subject as “plural” already “from inception”, as “at least several, butnot infinite” (Pollock, 2006: 13). Ettinger herself sees subjectivation as a process of“differentiation-in-co-emergence and co-fading”37. Relationality is thus the basic human condition. Not to be connected, not to form andbe formed in relationality becomes unthinkable. The self turns into a severality from which“Others” are never completely different, never “total” but always only partial others(Ettinger, 2006: 148) and what arises can so be termed a transsubjectivity (Ettinger, 2006:167).37 Transcripts from the author’s notes taken at the occasion of Bracha Ettinger’s lectures at the EuropeanGraduate School on June 05th 2006. On co-emergence see also Ettinger, 2006. 119
  • 120. What this interpretation serves to bring to the forefront is an element which has beeninherent in Foucault’s analysis, but which he never specified and which has been lacking inthis study so far: It is an account of how the self as form is not an individual form, but atranspersonal form, intricately connected to the lives of others. Foucault’s meticulous tracingsof power can help in sketching this aesthetic/energetic sphere as many of Foucault’svisualizations and tools of analysis can now be applied to an energized power. Allsubjectivation thus takes place within this sphere and only as part of it does the self as formtake shape. Moreover it can be asserted that within that sphere of mutually co-dependentbecoming, an Art of the Self is never a work just on the self as its effects will flow through thelines of connectivity towards the partial others and become part of the mutual co-determination. Also any blockage that occurs, any trauma or violence, consequently is alsonever just an individual occurrence but produces echoes throughout the sphere and with theco-determined others. This also opens the door to, for example, inter-generationaltransmissions as residual aesthetic/energetic traces may linger on and continue to exertinfluence even if the concrete lives have already faded away. The term individual at this point furthermore becomes misplaced. Already in chaptertwo identity has been found to be is a misnomer, for one does not remain identical to oneselffrom one moment to the next. Similar can be affirmed for the individual as individuum – theunit which cannot be divided. The subject in this rendering is no longer indivisible and neitheris it a single unit separable from its surroundings. The truth that can be constituted in practices of the self is the contingent andmomentary truth deriving from an instant of relational becoming and remaining tied to it. No 120
  • 121. overall truth of the self can hold sway any longer. What truth arises is actively formed,established and constituted and not a pregiven, objective fact or essence of the self whichcould be found and deciphered. This truth is established in transformation and is alwaysrelational and contingent. It does hold true for this emergent moment of becoming withwhich it arises – but without promise or guarantee of permanence. What merits and qualifiesthis truth is merely its potential for giving a new and different perspective, a new and differentknowledge of the self which can thus foster further transformations. However, having thuslyserved its purpose this weak truth may well fade again with new transformations. Opening the possibility for such an active transformation of the self in thetranspersonal energetic/aesthetic sphere it is possible to use different venues, differentpractices and approaches and also different stimuli to effect a transformation. Michel Foucaulthas pointed to the transfiguring experience of pleasure and Gilles Deleuze names it desire.Desire, with Deleuze, can open up a line of flight towards a de-territorializing becoming(Deleuze, 1997). Michel Foucault argues the Use of Pleasure (1990b) for a similar purpose.Pleasure, in Foucault’s understanding, has the potential to wrest us away from the boundingdiscourse on sexuality, which ties us to a sexualized and naturalized identity, towards anopening of spaces and becoming which can be found in a pleasure understood as experimentand each time new experience. In the reading proposed here, both desire and pleasure can be used in an aesthetic andenergetic practice for a transformation of the self. It is, indeed, in this approach that thefamous argument about desire/pleasure can be bridged38. As Patricia McCormack (2006: 6)points out, the experience of pleasure can be as much a vector for transformation and38 Foucault rejects the possibility of becoming through desire and argues that desire is always perceived as a lack- as an argument out of the negative - whereas Deleuze contrarily points to pleasure as being bounding andterritorializing. For a discussion of those diverging views see Gilles Deleuze’s essay on Desire and Pleasure(1997). 121
  • 122. transfiguration as desire if the former is understood as “setting into action a process ofbecoming” – a spark after which the self is “not returned happy or satisfied, but disrupted,irreversibly changed or affected.” Wilhelm Schmid (2000: 340, 341) asserts in a similarmanner that the experience of pleasure is not at all sedentary or tranquilizing but, on thecontrary, that which pushes us to our limits, towards a transgression and transformation of theself: Im Konzept der Lebenskunst ist die Lust nicht ein Ziel oder ein Zweck, sondern ein Mittel und ein Instrument zur Gestaltung und Transformation des Selbst.39 (Schmid, 2000: 341)All of the above authors, finally, conceptualize the self as intimately linked to a bodilyexperience. Especially in Michel Foucault this embodied experience of the self is highlysignificant, as the different lines of relationality mainly attach on to the body, affect and evenform it and as it is also via the experience of the body that the self is formed. However, in allof those authors the body is an experience rather than a substance. With this stipulation,therefore, nothing has been said about the concrete form of this experience (hence there isalso no such thing as a natural, unmediated, body for any of those authors) which can takemultiple possible forms. Venturing further in our hybridization of different traditions it is also of significancethat therapists like Bracha Ettinger use art in their trauma-work as possibility for opening up asimilar venue of transformation. As Ettinger points out, art can have this quality of becominga “transport-station” of trauma, even though there is no guarantee that through the practice ofart a trauma can surface and be transported – and thus the self be transformed:39 “In the concept of the art of living pleasure is neither goal nor aim, but rather a means and instrument for thefashioning and transformation of the self.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 122
  • 123. The place of art is for me the transport-station of trauma: a transport-station that more than a place is rather a space, that allows for certain occasions of occurrence and of encounter [...]. The transport is expected in this station, and it is possible, but the transport-station does not promise that the passage of remnants of trauma will actually take place in it; it only supplies the space for this occasion. (Ettinger, 2000: 91)With these last words the circle closes as this observation fits very well with our findingsfrom the last chapter about the enigmatic yet potentially transformative qualities of art andartwork. In certain distinction from the Hellenistic mode of subjectivation the Art of theTranspersonal Self can so give rise to practices which, besides being used for giving one’s lifea certain style, can also specifically be used for therapeutic purposes. This study so starts to move into the realm of a contemporary practice which, whilerecurring to certain stylistic elements of an older, ancient Art of the Self, puts those elementsto new and different uses. The “Greek mode” becomes a “distant memory” (Deleuze, 1988:104) to which it is possible to look for inspiration in some aspects, but from which the modernsubject will necessarily have to differ in its means and ends. 4.6. An Affirmative PracticeA life-affirming and transformative practice of the self thus consists in shaping the flow ofpower, channeling energy through certain constellations of discourse40 and practices andconversely using the energetic to partially change the effects of discourse and influence40 Using discourse in this way has a long tradition reaching back thousands of years with manifold differentexpressions - from the Ancient Greek parrhēsia described by Michel Foucault in Fearless Speech (2001) to thedifferent traditions and forms of (spiritual) chants, prayers and mantras. In each of those instances the discursiveelement - very often elaborately described in its intonation, vocalization, breathing and rhythms - is coupled withan energetic component to achieve a transformative practice of the self. In a subsequent section we will take alook at a few transpersonal and transrational practices of the self in order to obtain a clearer picture of what isapproached here. 123
  • 124. practices. And this cannot be achieved through theoretical endeavors (although a certainmoment of cognitive insight might also be the first step) but can only occur in the experientialpractice of an Art of the Self that is simultaneously aesthetic and energetic and takes bothelements into account. Such a practice might be found as working with emotion and spirituality, but just aswell with sexuality or with the aesthetics of discourse. In this light a sexual practice can bejust as transformative as a spiritual one and, indeed, very often the two coincide in the same.This is, to use a non-European example, the case in the Tantric yogic practice where “ritualsexual union is used as a vehicle for inducing spiritual experiences” (Grof and Grof, 1990:79). Such an expression of the Dionysian might subsequently be perceived not as a permanentorgy, but as an act of the celebration of life in all its transformative and transfiguring qualities. Turning the above around and following the logic of purity to its extremes, we can soalso assert that the only way in which a complete determination of relationality through thesystemic would be possible is in the form of an Apollonian Hegemony. We now can perceivethis Hegemony just as well in the figure of domination understood as the outside to anenergetic power. In domination the relations have been stratified and rigidified to such anextent, that the transformative flow of energetic power ceases. A blockage of power occursand domination arises in the instant when the mutual influencing interplay between theenergetic and its rational co-determining elements of practices and discourses is no longerpossible, because the latter have been set in a way that their strategic (rational) imperative canno longer be altered. Domination thus would be a form and expression of the Apollonian Hegemony and ofthe rule of the formal and aesthetic over content. Yet it needs to be pointed out that, in light of 124
  • 125. the above rendering of an aesthetic/energetic sphere of life, the Dionysian energetic can neverbe completely suppressed. Any Apollonian Hegemony therefore has to remain an everunfinished striving and it is this very impossibility to reach its prospective goal which at timescan make its zeal and relentless fury all the more ferocious. In this way we can draw several findings of the last chapters together. What such astriving for purity, in its extreme forms, leads to is something we have already sketched in thefirst chapter. It could there be described as the negation of the force of life through thetriumph of what Walter Benjamin (2002) called the aesthetic politics. Alternatively we couldrender it with Wolfgang Dietrich (2006c) as the attempted suppression of the Dionysian, or -drawn from this section - call it bare life with Giorgio Agamben (1998). What lies at the basisof all those concepts is the striving for complete determination of relationality through thesystemic and formal and the simultaneous denial of the force of life. This insight could help us to further an important point about the Dionysian andestablish a distinction in two directions. First, the concept of an energetic power surely mightring disconcerting for those who insist that power is still something that - in the first instance -is to be resisted. And, not to be mistaken, everything we have determined so far is no negationof the possibility of resistance against specific forms of subjectivation which might beindividually perceived, and with good reason, as a subjection to outside forces. However,against an analysis that associates Foucauldian power still exclusively with political powerand thus falls back into merely remaining in the position of resistance to and critique of allpower, it needs to be pointed out that the celebration of life in all its aspects is only possiblethrough the acceptance of the basic feature of an energetic power. 125
  • 126. Turning this proposition around we realize that one should equally beware the easyand naïve veneration of the Dionysian as inherently good. The connecting of the Dionysian topower in an energetic fashion also helps to reassert a distinction in this direction. Whatalready surfaced in chapter one in the rendering of the interplay between the Apollonian andthe Dionysian can here once more be affirmed with an energetic power. One of the mainpoints about the interplay between the Apollonian and the Dionysian is exactly that they arenot identical to the binary distinction between the “forces of good” and the “forces of evil” nomatter which of the two is associated with which of those forces. The identification of theDionysian with an energetic power only serves to stress that point. This identification, indeed,might ring just as strange in the ears of those who associate the Dionysian energetic withsomething inherently good as with those who try to fight power at all costs. The crucial practice could once more consist in that Nietzschean gesture of acelebration of life that is not borne out of turning a blind eye on some of life’s parts andsimply negating the existence of everything that does not fit, but that would consist in anaffirmation of life in all its forms and moments41. This affirmative life is beyond good and evilbecause it is characterized, as Gilles Deleuze (1983: 104ff.) points out, by its freedom fromthe moralizing categories of ressentiment towards the other and bad consciousness towardsoneself. And it is in this affirmation of life that ultimately a letting go and letting fade of itsaspects (not just those perceived as painful but just as well the joyful ones) might take place.41 References to the affirmation of life can be found all throughout Nietzsche’s creative life. It is in the context ofEcce Homo (1989b) that Nietzsche’s translator and commentator, Walter Kaufmann remarks in the editor’sintroduction (1989b: 206) about the connection to Nietzsche’s personal life: “A man in physical agony much ofhis adult life and warned by his doctors not to read and write much lest he strain his half-blind eyes, does notonce complain. He is thankful for his illness and tells us how it made his life better.” Nietzsche himself prefacesthe first part of Ecce Homo, on the day of his forty-fourth birthday, by recounting the “presents” he has receivedthroughout the previous year and asking “How could I fail to be grateful to my whole life?” (1989a: 221). Muchmore to the point, this affirmation of life in all its facets, this attitude of “saying Yes to life even in its strangestand hardest problems (Nietzsche, 1976c: 562) is also a cornerstone of Nietzsche’s philosophy and is to be found,amongst others, extensively also throughout the Gay Science (1974), the Twilight of the Idols (1976c), and theWill to Power (1968). 126
  • 127. In this way the own life might so become what Wolfgang Schirmacher (2007a: 7;1995: 3) calls a gelingendes Leben - a life of accomplishment - a life that accomplishes itselfnot because it has been cognitively willed to succeed, but that succeeds on the contrary“behind our back” and without our knowing. It succeeds out of a stance of Gelassenheit(releasement) (1995: 4) which implies an affirmative acknowledgment of our existence in amoment of cognitively letting go. The gelingendes Leben, Schirmacher asserts, is alwaysspoilt once one tries to rationally tackle and grasp it, whereas it can be lived with aGelassenheit which does not try to force it but gives it the space to unfold of its own accord -as it invariably does. Acknowledging life in its different aspects, affirming it, might so be a step towards aVerwindung of individuality in a becoming that turns into a practice of letting go of what wealready have become. Finally, it needs to be pointed out that this fading does not imply aforgetting. Besides the question of whether a willed forgetting might be possible at all, it isalso not what is desired here. This letting go much rather has the implication of an integrationin which the individual elements fade into the background towards the formation of atransrational, relational and thus transpersonal Art of the Self which establishes itself in eachpresent moment anew. Friedrich Nietzsche shows how such integration might take place when, in Ecce Homo(1989b), he sets out to show how one might become what one is, recounted in the words ofO’Leary as follows: [...] for Nietzsche, to ‘become who one is’ is to integrate and unify all those traits, habits and experiences that make up one’s character. However, there is no ‘state of being unified’ that replaces an earlier ‘state of becoming’; rather, unity is a continual process – a process not of improvement and perfection, but of integration and 127
  • 128. stylization. This is a process in which the individual gradually ‘owns’ (and ‘disowns’ by modifying) more and more of their characteristics and experiences. (O’Leary, 2002: 136)This process implies an acceptance and affirmation of what we have become so far in whichcertain elements are enhanced while others are let fade or put into a new and different positionthan they occupied before. Such a process dissolves blockages by redeeming and affirmingparts of the self previously rejected or suppressed. 4.7. ConclusionThroughout the present chapter, setting out once more in a Foucauldian vein the idea of theDionysian was related to Foucauldian power. While traces and elements of this interpretationwere certainly inherent already in Foucault’s writing, his idea of power for this purpose wasre-modeled and twisted into an energetic direction. This interpretation should not beperceived as a rejection of the conventional conceptualization of political power whichcontinues to be of critical importance. And yet, by stressing different elements and putting tothe fore unusual aspects we were able to arrive at a novel understanding of power. Point of departure was a differentiation of the understanding of power that was to beworked out from its conventional interpretation. Therefore, firstly, a short introduction wasgiven on understandings which equate power with a combination of discourse and practice.Secondly, some features of power in Foucault’s own rendering were established – foremostamong them its productivity, relationality and the form of subjectivity (the subject as form)that goes hand in glove with them. Thirdly, the question of relationality was re-consideredfrom the point of view of the aesthetic/energetic. 128
  • 129. Via this relationality, fourthly, the Foucauldian rendering of power was complementedwith a Dionysian element; which led to a transrational, energetic power in interplay withrationally apprehensible forms - discourses and practices. In a third transposition via anintermediary step of discussing the immanent interpretation of power, this study arrivedtherefore at an energetic power, thereby further adding to the picture of the Apollonian andDionysian established in previous chapters. Fifthly, this energetic power was so identified as force of life and the hypothesis of anaesthetic/energetic sphere was proposed. This led, sixthly, to a crucial differentiation for theArt of the Transpersonal Self as celebration of life in all its form towards a possible fading ofsubjectivity. The Art of the Self was portrayed as an art of Verwindung of subjectivity, an artalso of fading and letting go. We might no longer be able to break through into an originaryoutside beyond the Apollonian/Dionysian, but within such a practice of the self an impure andimperfect freedom can be found. Such Freedom is understood as the possibility to partiallytransform ourselves and ultimately opening up the prospect, still so far ahead of us at thispoint, for a fading of subjectivity. We are so approaching the possibility of giving our life acertain style – of turning ourselves into a work of art - through an affirmative aesthetic andenergetic practice for a self engaged in a constant becoming. 129
  • 130. 5. Ethics as Aesthetic and Energetic Practice What is ethics, if not the practice of freedom, the conscious [réfléchie] practice of freedom? Freedom is the ontological condition of ethics. But ethics is the considered form that freedom takes when it is informed by reflection. (Michel Foucault, 1997k: 284)In the previous chapters we have highlighted the distinguishing features of an Art of the Self,beyond the individuality of the autonomous, self grounded subject and beyond the rationalityof the Cartesian cogito. With the concepts of the aesthetic and energetic an understanding ofthe self as in transformation has been approximated. What, however, remains to be discussedis the question of ethics. This shall be the inquiry guiding this chapter: after rejecting themorality which has dominated Western thinking for more than two millennia the questionwhich needs to be put to such an Art of the Transpersonal Self is whether through its practicean ethics, understood as an approximation to the problematic of how is one to live, can stillremain possible? What I will therefore highlight in this chapter is an ethics as aesthetic andenergetic practice – an ethics as transformation. In order to approach this topic, a preliminary observation as to its necessity: In therejection of the moral world order, in the critiques of its renunciatory effects and of theviolence that is inherent in the striving for Apollonian purity and absolute, formalized, Truthit should also not be overlooked that one significant function of this order was to provideorientational knowledge, to impart a grid of orientation for individual behavior. Along thelines of this grid, holding on to its firm handrails and stepping on its secure grounding, theindividual could derive an orientation of what it means to lead the good life, obtain concretecodes and prescriptions for actions - what to do and what not to do. It provided acomprehensive worldview according to which the world can be interpreted and according towhich a moral judgment of good and evil becomes possible. 130
  • 131. However, as we have established, there always was a flip side to this moralworldview. By the very same token of strength and comprehensiveness a transformation ofthe self remained inaccessible as the strong category of the Truth only allows for adeciphering (or renunciation) of the self - knowledge of this truth does not lead to atransformation. This transformation of the self can only be had by letting go of those handrailsof morality and aspiring to live without the iron-clad foundations of an absolute Truth. Atransformation of the self can only be had by embracing the daily existence entailinginsecurity, conflict and risk. Living a life without recurring to strong morals also implies thatliving the good life can no longer follow a pre-determined and universal pattern. And yet, if we understand the question about the good life as the question aboutorientational knowledge it becomes clear that our objection to morals does not imply arejection of ethics – but only that ethics will need to be derived differently. Here we returnonce more to Michel Foucault, whose concepts of the aesthetics of existence offers insightsinto an art of ethics that can be derived out of an Art of the Self. The question of ethics,leading towards an Art of the Self is something that started to pre-occupy Foucault rather latein his life. In the following we will so begin by re-tracing this phase of Foucauldian work inorder to contextualize it and develop some of its key features and trajectories before retakingit from the point of view of an aesthetic and energetic Art of the Transpersonal Self. 5.1. Placing Foucauldian EthicsThe Use of Pleasure (1990b) and the Care of the Self (1988a), originally published in 1984shortly before his death, are commonly attributed to be the main works of the late phase of 131
  • 132. Foucault42. With those two volumes Foucault was to end the silence which had lasted foralmost a decade during which no new books by him had appeared. During those yearsFoucault had written and rewritten, sketched and abandoned drafts for what had beenoriginally scheduled as a five volume series on the history of sexuality. In the introduction to The Use of Pleasure Foucault gives testimony to the many shiftsand changes this project underwent, before finally seeing the light of publication. Foucault(1990b: 4) elaborates how his plans to historically study the “experience of sexuality” in the“correlation between fields of knowledge, types of normativity and forms of subjectivity” hadled him to a different undertaking in which this experience of sexuality, while still playing acertain role, became part of a larger framework. Far from only being concerned with thequestion of sexuality, the topic of study expanded to frame the question of subjectivation. Didier Eribon (1991: 319) remarks on what happened between the publication of thefirst and the release of the second and third volume: “Histoire de la Sexualité became ahistory of techniques of self, a genealogy of the “subject” and of the ways in which it wasconstituted at the dawn of Western culture”. What so becomes apparent is a shift, which lateron has been called the shift from the middle to the later phase of Michel Foucault’s thinking.Towards the end of his life he himself would characterize the overall trajectory of his thoughtthe following way: Three domains of genealogy are possible. First a historical ontology of ourselves in relation to truth through which we constitute ourselves as subjects of knowledge; second, a historical ontology of ourselves in relation to a field of power through which42 Many important essays and interviews of this phase have been compiled in the First Volume of the EssentialWorks of Michel Foucault entitled Ethics, Subjectivity and Truth (1997b). The most comprehensive overviewscan be found within this volume in the texts On the Genealogy of Ethics. An Overview over a Work in Progress(1997d); Technologies of the Self (1997i), An Interview by Stephen Riggins (1997a), The Ethics of the Concernof the Self as a Practice of Freedom (1997k); and Friendship as a Way of Life (1997c). 132
  • 133. we constitute ourselves as subjects acting on others; third, a historical ontology in relation to ethics through which we constitute ourselves as moral agents. All three were present, albeit in a somewhat confused fashion, in Madness and Civilization. The truth axis was studied in The Birth of the Clinic and The Order of Things. The power axis was studied in Discipline and Punish, and the ethical axis in The History of Sexuality. (Foucault, 1997d: 263)In other words: while in the early phase of his thinking Foucault had concerned himself withhow the subject emerges as object of research (scientific) discourses, and the middle phasehad shown his preoccupation with this subject as being formed in the relationality of networksof power, he now asks about the conditions and technologies through which it can fold thoserelations back onto itself, thus actively recognizing itself as subject and engage in a process oftransformation of the self. Foucault so turns to the “forms and modalities in which theindividual constitutes and recognizes himself qua subject” (1990b: 6). This last turn impliesan active pre-occupation of the subject with itself and thus for Foucault needs to beinvestigated as an ethical problem, following the Socratic question of “How is one to live?”(O’Leary, 2002: 9). A main concern uniting those latter two volumes of the History of Sexuality is so thequestion of ethics. What Foucault aims to extrapolate from Antiquity is an understanding ofethics that perceives it “as the elaboration of a form of relation to self that enables anindividual to fashion himself into a subject of ethical conduct” (Foucault, 1990b: 251). Thisethics so distinguishes itself from a morality as it is not presented in the form of “a universallaw which each and every individual would have to obey” (1990b: 250). What Foucault aimsto extract from those ancient examples is a form of subjectivation and technologies oftransformation which, while still remaining committed to an ethics, do no longer perceive this 133
  • 134. ethics in the form of the universal standards of morality. Wilhelm Schmid (2000: 225)recapitulates this Foucauldian understanding of ethics in relation to subjectivity: Die Frage der Ethik ist die Frage der Form, die man sich und seinem Leben gibt, und die Art der Reflektion, die man darüber anstellt. Sie konstituiert sich über das Ethos, die Haltung des Individuums, und nicht über die Befolgung der Norm. […] Dem entspricht die Form des Subjekts: Anstelle der passiven Konstituierung in der Unterwerfung unter die Norm geht es nun um die aktive Konstituierung über die Frage der Form der Existenz.43From within the Socratic/Platonic tradition Foucault so takes up the Socratic question ofethics. For his answer, however, he looks elsewhere. The Models from which Foucault oncemore aims to differentiate his own project are the Platonic and the Christian Models as hediscerned them several years earlier in his course on the Hermeneutics of the Subject(Foucault, 2005). The last two published Volumes of the History of Sexuality (Foucault,1990b; 1988a) continue this trajectory of a rejection of both the Platonic universality of truthand the Christian morality. In both those undertakings Foucault continues a vein of thinking first tapped byFriedrich Nietzsche. Leslie Paul Thiele (2003: 224) observes that “like Nietzsche, Foucaultassesses moral codes as “idols”. They are approached hammer in hand: The hollowness oftheir rationalities must be sounded out.” Also the Foucauldian skepticism towards an ultimatetruth and his rejection of the Cartesian subject stem from a Nietzschean origin. For Foucaultas for Nietzsche, what derives from those premises is an insight into the necessity of anaesthetic creation of the self:43 The question of ethics is the question about the form which one gives oneself and the own life, as well as thekind of reflection which one conducts on it. It constitutes itself via the Ethos, the attitude of the individual, andnot from the adherence to a norm. […] This corresponds to the form of the subject: instead of being passivelyconstituted through the subjection under a norm it is about the active constitution via the question of the form ofexistence. Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 134
  • 135. Das Leben des Menschen, den Menschen selbst, begreift Nietzsche als ein Kunstwerk, und die Fröhliche Wissenschaft erscheint nun als Nietzsches Lebenskunstbuch. Die ästhetische Gestaltung seiner selbst ist der Gegenentwurf zur normierten, moralischen Existenz und entfaltet einen neuen Begriff von Kunst. (Schmid, 2000: 219)In the last phase of his work Michel Foucault recurs to the time of the ancient Mediterranean,but interprets his findings within a frame substantially derived from Friedrich Nietzsche. AndFoucault picks up the thread where Nietzsche left off: While Nietzsche’s preoccupation waswith the time leading up to Socrates and the Socratic break (1967, 1967b), Foucault followsthe turn of events further up through the various stages of Greek and Roman Antiquity andinto the first centuries of our time. The Use of Pleasure (1990b) and the Care of the Self(1988a) were the last books to be completed by Foucault, appearing shortly before his death.A further, fourth, volume in the History of Sexuality titled The Confessions of the Flesh,while supposedly almost finished (Eribon, 1991: 323 ff.), remains unpublished to this day.Although they so have remained the last books published by Foucault himself, they certainlyhave not provided an ending point for the trajectory and impetus of Foucauldian thought andneither do they profess some kind of return of to the principles of Humanism. The late Foucauldian turn towards an aesthetic of existence and technologies of theself in no way resuscitate Universal Man as the subject of Enlightenment and Human Rights.But neither are they testimony that the death of this subject would need to open out onto ableak and dystopic vista of cynicism and despair or a flight into world-rejecting narcissism.What emerges from Foucault’s last writings under the name of an art of living is much ratherthe attempt to re-think an ethics beyond morality and beyond the transcendental subject ofEnlightenment. 135
  • 136. 5.2. The Four Domains of the Relationship to OneselfAt the beginning of The Use of Pleasure Foucault (1990b) develops the methodological toolsto analyze moral systems. He begins by clarifying a basic distinction which is inherent toevery system engaged with the broad question of “how is one to live”. Each such system canbe analyzed, he asserts, by the respective emphasis it places on codes of behavior and formsof subjectivation (Foucault 1990b: 29). Both elements, to a certain degree, are inherent to allethical or moral systems, but their level of development, richness, flexibility and importancevary. Thus a basic distinction becomes possible: […] we should not be surprised to find that in certain moralities the main emphasis is placed on the code, on its systematicity, its richness, its capacity to adjust to every possible case and embrace every area of behavior. With moralities of this type, the important thing is to focus on instances of authority that enforce the code, that require it to be learned and observed, that penalize infractions; in these conditions the subjectivation occurs basically in a quasi-juridical form, where the ethical subject refers his conduct to a law, or set of laws, to which he must submit at the risk of committing offenses that make him liable to punishment. (Foucault 1990b: 29, 30)The question about the code of behavior thus is the question about norms and their concreteform, elaboration and the stringency of adherence they demand. In the context of thisdissertation we have so far defined systems stressing the code-aspect as tending towards theApollonian (moral, abstract). What is of importance for those systems is the abstractcodification of moral rules and their complex elaboration. Subjectivation occurs throughmodeling the own life in accordance with those precepts and through aspiring to adhere tothem as strictly and closely as possible. However, Foucault asserts, there also is a differentmodel: 136
  • 137. On the other hand, it is easy to conceive of moralities in which the strong and dynamic element is to be sought in the forms of subjectivation and practices of the self. In this case, the system of codes and rules of behavior may be rather rudimentary. Their exact observation may be relatively unimportant, at least compared with what is required of the individual in the relationship he has with himself, in his different actions, thoughts, and feelings as he endeavors to form himself as an ethical subject. Here the emphasis is on the forms of relations with the self, on the methods and techniques by which he works them out, on the exercises by which he makes of himself an object to be known, and on the practices that enable him to transform his own mode of being.” (Foucault 1990b: 30)The question about the forms of subjectivation is focused on the concrete way in which thesubject establishes her/himself as a subject. Since both forms of subjectivation and codes ofbehavior are inherent to both models, the difference between the two is one of grades anddegrees and not of clear cut oppositions. Foucault (1990b: 30) calls the model which focusesmore on forms of subjectivation the ethics-oriented model, and the former the code-orientedone. The question of ethics, he asserts, is the question about the form of subjectivationinherent to any moral system. This question of ethics, in turn, always presents itself on fourdifferent levels and can be divided in four component parts according to their (1) ethicalsubstance, (2) mode of subjection, (3) elaboration of ethical work and (4) telos (1990b: 26ff.). (1) The ethical substance concerns the question about which part of the own self shallbe included in the ethical work. Which part of the self, which element of the own life isconsidered to be important for the question of how to live? This question will be answereddifferently whether, for example, the relations to nature or to the Gods are important for livinga good life or whether it is only the societal relations which form part of the ethical substanceand need to be considered. It makes a difference if the ethical substance revolves around the 137
  • 138. question of how to deal with “acts linked to pleasure” or rather “desire”, if what counts is theown “intentions” or rather the own “feelings” (Foucault, 1997d: 263). In any case, the ethicalsubstance defines which part of the self, whatever that in the concrete (societal and personal)circumstances may be needs to be worked over as part of an ethical life. (2) The mode of subjection deals with how the subject is “invited or incited”(Foucault, 1997d: 264) to fashion oneself as an ethical subject. Is it according toindividual(istic) choice, is it derived from the relationality of the concrete situation, or inresponse to universal law? In the latter instance, is it, for example, because of the natural lawof reason that all human beings are called upon to conduct themselves in a certain manner orbecause of the commandments of God? (3) The form of elaboration of the ethical work concerns itself with the actualpractices, with the tools and technologies of subjectivation. In the words of Foucault, itelaborates on “the means by which we can change ourselves” (1997d: 265). This is one of thecrucial aspects and questions for this study. Which are the concrete practices that are availablefor subjectivation? Which behavioral patterns, meditation techniques, practices of thought,philosophical tests of the self or techniques of transformation can be used or even justimagined? (4) The telos regards the aim and goal of subjectivation. What form of being do weaspire to? Is it the purity of the Christian self, the Kantian liberation from immaturity, the nolonger alienated human being or the return to the state of nature of an original paradise? Is it,indeed, even a finished form at all or an open process? 138
  • 139. Those four axes for Foucault define the ethical question, which is simultaneously thequestion about the forms of subjectivation. If Foucault investigates the Ancient period to suchextent as to devote two whole books to it, this is because he believes that from those accountsa way of living can be extrapolated which gives precedence to forms of subjectivation overcodes of behavior. The historical accuracy of the Foucauldian picture of the ancients has been muchdisputed. Pierre Hadot (2002: 177ff.), for example, raises misgivings about Foucault’sscholarship on the ancient Mediterranean, claiming that what Foucault reads into the Antiqueperiod regarding the self cannot be supported by the literature of the period, or at least not tothe extent Foucault claims. Against such a philologist’s reading of Foucault, TimothyO’Leary (2002) points out that, while Foucault’s sources are from the past, his concerns arevery much for the present. The point for a genealogist like Nietzsche or Foucault, O’Learyasserts, is not so much historical accuracy as the relevance of their interpretation for thepresent. This interpretation is of course bolstered by historical material, but its distinguishingcriterion is the importance for the present rather than an objective truth: […] a history such as Foucault’s account of ancient ethical practices must be judged not only in terms of historiographical accuracy, but also in terms of the contribution it makes to the re-interpretation and re-constitution of ethical subjectivities today. […]. While it may be the case, then, that for a certain point of view these historical accounts are ‘fictions’, what is important is that at the level of a present concern they are ‘true’. ‘I am well aware,’ Foucault says, ‘that I have never written anything but fictions’ […]. But a fiction is not merely a false or inaccurate telling of events; a fiction is a production, a creation, a transformation of reality; fiction is as much a verb as a noun. (O’Leary, 2002: 100, 101) 139
  • 140. The aim of the Foucauldian historical fictions is thus not to objectively prove what happenedin the past, but to change a part of current political reality – making it different. Foucault’shistories are thus not the neutral statements of a dis-interested scholar but, on the contrary,tools for an engagement with present conditions: “One ‘fictions’ history on the basis of apolitical reality that makes it true, one ‘fictions’ a politics not yet in existence on the basis of ahistorical truth” (Foucault, 1980c: 193). What this particular Foucauldian historical fiction soaims at is to enable new ways of constituting the self in the present. What he wants to show isthat the end of morality as he sees it heralded in the present does not need to be the end ofethics. He interprets this shift, on the contrary, only as a shift away from the codes ofbehavior. With extrapolating and highlighting the second, corresponding principle – the forms ofsubjectivation - Foucault reminds us that the question of “how is one to live?” can stillmeaningfully be answered. The end of morality thus does then not need to be perceived as anend of ethics. The subject that, under such conditions, poses this question of ethics is so nolonger the subject of a stable being but the subject perceived as form or, as Wilhelm Schmidcalls it, the experiential subject: Das Subjekt das all diesen Aspekten entspricht, ist das Subjekt der Erfahrung – nicht das Subjekt der reinen, rohen Erfahrung, sondern der Erfahrung im doppelten Sinne, wie er dem französischen Begriff expérience zu eigen ist: Demnach steht Erfahrung in einem engen Verhältnis zum Experiment, um nicht nur die gemachte, sondern die mögliche Erfahrung und die Möglichkeit der Transformation zu denken. „Eine Erfahrung ist etwas, woraus man verändert hervorgeht.“ (Schmid, 2000: 236)4444 “The subject, which corresponds to all those aspects is the subject of experience – not of the pure, rawexperience, but of the experience in that double sense which is inherent to the French term expérience: accordingto this experience is closely related to experiment, in order to think not just the experiences one made, but alsothose which would be possible as well as the possibility of transformation. “An experience is something fromwhich one emerges changed”.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 140
  • 141. The subject which is the aim of those forms of subjectivation is thus neither the cogito-subjectnor the transcendental subject, but the one of experience (Schmid, 2000: 238). Ethics is so acertain form of activity, it is something that the subject does, a practice through which itforms itself. An ethics in this understanding is a practice exercised through certain forms ofbehavior towards oneself and others. It is a style which one tries to give one’s existence. Itconsists in the permanent work on oneself, the never ceasing task of turning the own life intoa work of art and fostering an aesthetic becoming. Derived from the above fourfold rendering of the forms of subjectivation thisdissertation places special emphasis on the elements (3) and (4) – the technologies ofsubjectivation and the telos - the aim of such an ethics. Chapter 6 will answer the questions ofthe technologies of subjectivation in regards to an Art of the Transpersonal Self. There thedifference between the Art of the Transpersonal Self and the Foucauldian aesthetics ofexistence will assert itself in the clearest, as Foucault associates those practices exclusivelywith an aesthetic, while we will follow an aesthetic and energetic rendering. On the question of the telos, however, we agree with Foucault (1997k) when he statesthat the telos of such an ethics is freedom. Not the freedom of the transcendental, substantial,subject to live authentically in synchronicity with one’s essence, but the freedom to each daybecome differently – to aim at shaping and transforming the own self against a concretehistorical horizon from which one emerges and to a certain degree remains embedded,without being completely determined by it. It is in this sense that Foucault postulates thatethics is the continuous “practice of freedom” and links it to the aesthetic (1997k: 284). In thefollowing we will now continue in a Foucauldian rendering of an ethics as aesthetics before,going beyond Foucault, complementing this aesthetic with an energetic element leading intoChapter 6 towards the practices of the self. 141
  • 142. 5.3. Ethics and AestheticsIn order to clearer understand this ethics as aesthetics, it is necessary to distinguish it inseveral directions. First, it needs to be shown how such an ethics becomes possible withoutrecurring to a strong morality. Here Foucault follows Nietzsche’s footsteps in trying to insiston an ethics beyond good and evil. Secondly, however, this Foucauldian aesthetics also has to be differentiated from theidea of aesthetics as beauty; it needs to be differentiated from the concept of theaestheticization of life which already Walter Benjamin (2002) criticized in Fascism. Since theFoucauldian concepts supersedes the distinction between aesthetics and ethics whichmodernity has put in place, it needs to be made clear that in this ethics the “good” is notidentical to the “beautiful”. In a similar vein also the concept of art needs to be disentangled from the idea ofsomething that is only available for the select few, the artistic geniuses who, in a stroke ofinspiration, fashion a masterpiece which in this process emerges as a finished piece of work.Both this idea of the artist-genius and the concept of the finished work of art need to bedifferentiated from the Foucauldian understandings. Those two distinct topics will beexplored in the next section. Thirdly, and going beyond Foucault, it will also be necessary to place such an ethics asaesthetic practice into our context of an Art of the Transpersonal Self. This implies that anethics for us cannot remain a purely aesthetic practice, it cannot be just Apollonian. In the last 142
  • 143. part of this chapter the Foucauldian trope of turning one’s life into a work of art will thereforebe complemented with an energetic element, re-casting ethics as aesthetic and energeticpractice of transformation. 5.3.1. Beyond MoralityDefining morality as a formalized code of conduct which guides actions and lays down thelaw of how to live the good life, what fascinates Foucault about a certain period and strand ofthought of Ancient Greece is that it elaborated an ethics in which such a morality wasstrikingly absent. The question of how to live one’s life was not decided according to a pre-setcode of values, but according to circumstantial, contingent factors, relating to oneself andone’s specific situation in life. An ethical activity thus always arose from the concretesituation: The principle according to which this activity was meant to be regulated [...] was not defined by a universal legislation determining permitted and forbidden acts; but rather by a savoir-faire, an art that prescribed the modalities of a use that depended on different variables (need, time, status). (Foucault, 1988a: 91)This ethics so operates with dynamic principles of “variable adjustments” which are always“temporal and circumstantial” pertaining only to the concrete individual and “the status of theindividual himself” (Foucault, 1988a: 54). It has a lot to do with taking the perceived needsinto account, one’s status, the systemic components involved, it relates to kairos – the art ofdiscerning the “opportune moment” (Foucault, 1988a: 57) and being in the moment. The ideal of this ethics conforms to an understanding of a dynamic interplay betweenindividually constituted elements concerning the persons involved and the concrete 143
  • 144. relationality between them. The balance that this ethics strives for is expressed as maintainingan “equilibrium” (Foucault, 1988a: 56) which therefore “could never take the form of aprecise codification or a law applicable to everybody in all circumstances” (Foucault, 1988a:56). What is sketched here is an ethics that is not moral, but that is still made up byApollonian elements - form, aesthetics and style. It is so an ethics derived out of theApollonian, but one which curiously resists the pull towards abstraction. It refrains fromintegrating those elements into an abstract grid to regulate all conduct. It develops differentlocal strategies for transforming a given relationality, but these strategies can never beuniversalized and indeed also need not be. The question of how to lead the good life couldthus be relationally derived from the concrete situation, without the necessity for a GoodBook or code of laws to which to refer: And for this there was no need of anything resembling a text that would have the force of law, but rather, of a techne or “practice,” a savoir-faire that by taking general principles into account would guide action in its time, according to its context, and in view of its ends. (Foucault, 1988a: 62)It is in the development of an experiential knowledge – a savoir faire - adaptable to theconcrete situation, from which this ethics derives. From the Greek precursors Foucault soextrapolates an ethics, that - unlike Christian morality and its pre-formulated code of conduct- in its individual applications is exactly not just “an instance of a modulated universality”(Foucault, 1988a: 60). Quite the contrary ethics is derived out of the concrete situation inwhich it also remains and thus can be perceived almost as “tailored to one’s own way of life”(Foucault, 1988a: 60). Foucauldian ethics so are linked to an aesthetic of existence that is not 144
  • 145. reducible to purely a “science of life” and not grounded in the moral codes of “axioms andalgorithms” (Thiele, 2003: 222). 5.3.2. Two Understandings of the AestheticAmongst the most disconcerting critiques that have been leveled against this understanding ofethics as aesthetic practice are those which link it either with a veneration of the Greek andRoman style of life and its well known inclination towards male-centered, patriarchal valuesof virility or, even more chilling with a Fascist aestheticization of life (O’Leary, 2002: 122ff.). As regards the former it shall serve to point out that Foucault was well aware of theoverall Greek way of life and never proposed a whole-sale take over of Greek ethics 45, butrather a strategic re-use of parts of Ancient practices of the self which necessarily would haveto be deployed differently in a modern setting. The other critique seems to be more serious and it is on account of the latter concern.Because Foucauldian ethics abandon the binding norms of morality as well as supersede themodern separation between the aesthetic and the ethical spheres, its critics, like JürgenHabermas, continue to raise the specter of Fascism: These fears are founded on the perhaps justifiable suspicion that a personal ethics which abandons both Aristotelian virtue and Kantian duty in favor of the idea of the self as a work of art can very easily slip into, or at least collude with, a politics which treats the masses as raw material to be moulded by the will of their masters. (O’Leary, 2002: 123)45 See Veyne, 1997b but also many explicit references of Foucault like the following, in which he makes it clearthat he does not deem a wholesale resuscitation of Greek ethics in any way desirable: “The Greek ethics ofpleasure is linked to a virile society, to dissymmetry, exclusion of the other, an obsession with penetration, and akind of threat of being dispossessed of your own energy and so on. All that is quite disgusting.” (Foucault,1997d: 258) 145
  • 146. The fear is that, uncoupled from a morality, such an ethics as aesthetics might either lead to anarcissistic veneration of the beautiful self, or to a life-denying aestheticization of politics likeit has been criticized by Walter Benjamin (2002): Equaling the good with the aestheticallybeautiful, the political sphere is de-politicized as it is aesthetically ritualized. The masses aregiven the possibility to aesthetic expression; however such an expression occurs only in ahomogenizing unity and at the price of simultaneously being denied all rights of politicalexpression (Benjamin, 2002). At the end of such a fascist aestheticization stands the ideal of a unified and uniformbody politic and the concomitant concept of a unified, homogenous and unchanging self, likeit is envisioned in the hardened frame of both body and self-as-machine in Marinetti and theFuturists: If there is something characteristic about fascist aestheticization of politics, it must be sought in this insistence upon the idea of a non-fractured subject, which finds itself reassuringly reflected in a non-fractured uniform public space. (O’Leary, 2002: 127)In the creation of the unified masses as a beautiful piece of work it does not matter if theworld is destroyed along the way: fiat ars, pereat mundus (Benjamin, 2002: 121). In theStahlgewitter (Storm of Steel) of Ernst Jünger’s ballet of mechanized war, the body of thenation is purified (Jünger, 2004). Under the assumptions of a unified self and unified public,and equating the aesthetic with the beautiful, the consequences are chilling indeed. Against such an understanding, firstly, it needs to be asserted that the Foucauldianconcept of the aesthetics and art differs sharply from the ideal of the creation of a beautifulpiece of work. What Foucault conceptualizes is the idea of a perpetual transformation of theself which he renders as a never ceasing process. Instead of the ultimate goal of a finished 146
  • 147. piece of work, which in its being remains stable as it has been perfected (unified), one soencounters an unceasing flow of becoming in transformation. Instead of the petrifying andstatic principle of “identity”, Foucault proposes a continued process of “differentiation” of theself (Foucault, 1997g: 166). The aesthetic component refers to the attempt to shape thisprocess and give it a certain form according to concrete relational necessities much rather thanfollowing a category of beauty which would lead back to an abstract ideal form. It is this pulltowards an abstract unification under the concept of beauty which the Foucauldian aestheticsof existence resists and the Fascist aesthetics espouse. Regarding the question of art, secondly, Foucault uses the concept of technē which hasboth implications: Art in the modern sense but also work. At this point we can refer to theconceptualization of a weak art we already gave in chapter three as an art which is also awork, although not exclusively so. This concept of ethics as an aesthetic practice is thuslinked to the Foucauldian understanding of style, about which Paul Veyne remarks: Style does not mean distinction here; the word is to be taken in the sense of the Greeks, for whom an artist was first of all an artisan and a work of art was first of all a work. Greek ethics is quite dead, and Foucault judged it as undesirable as it would be impossible to resuscitate this ethics; but he considered one of its elements, namely, the idea of a work of the self on the self, to be capable of reacquiring a contemporary meaning, in the manner of one of those pagan temple columns that one occasionally sees reutilized in more recent structures. (Veyne, 1997b: 231)Instead of an elitist preoccupation or task for the genius artist, the Foucauldian aesthetics ofexistence is an everyday practice, practicable by everyone, in relation with everyone in theconcrete surroundings. It this view that might lead one to see and live the own lifeaesthetically and relationally or, expressed in Foucauldian terminology, as a work of art opento that possibility of a transformation of the self. And therefore, as one might add, always 147
  • 148. open for events of conflict. The Foucauldian understanding of the self, rendered by O’Learyas a [...] precarious, ever-changing, substance-less form which is the site of endless conflict, differentiates him at a fundamental level, from the fascist goal of the stable, armored, individual who embodies the eternal (or, at least ‘thousand year’) truth of his/her race. (O’Leary, 2002: 132)Contrarily to the fascist ideal, the experience of the Foucauldian self is in a permanent flow ofbecoming, it is “fluid,” “open,” “soft” (O’Leary, 2002: 127) and in any case not gearedtowards a finished state. Similarly, Wilhelm Schmid (2000: 241) describes this self to be onedifference and dispersion, instead of identity. It is aesthetic not in the sense of the beautifulreplacing the good but, on the contrary, in the understanding of a technē for giving one’sexistence a certain style, while referring to neither the abstract category of the good (morality)nor the one of the beautiful. Finally, as regards the question of why of project of a life as perpetual self-transformation, as to the impetus that inspires this undertaking, Timothy O’Leary (2002: 138)once more comes to our aid by pointing out that it is born from the realization that “myselfand my life have no shape, or purpose, no justification, outside of the form which I give tothem”. Wolfgang Schirmacher (2007c) calls this insight the step towards homo generator: Mein phänomenologischer Befund ist: Der Mensch war schon von jeher homo generator, aber hat sich lange als homo creator (der aus dem Nichts Erschaffende), homo faber (der Werkzeuge Verwendende), homo sapiens (der Vernünftige), homo ludens (der Spielende) unzureichend verstanden. (Schirmacher, 2007c: 3) 4646 “My phenomenological diagnosis is: the human being has always been Homo generator, but for a long timethe nomenclature of his self-characterizations has been insufficiently comprehensive: Homo creator (i.e. the onewho creates something from nothing), Homo faber (i.e. the user of tools), Homo sapiens (i.e. the rational being),Homo ludens (i.e. the being that plays).” Translation by Daniel Theisen at 148
  • 149. Homo generator acknowledges that humans have always been self-generating beings andgoes about turning this insight into an affirmative practice. Recurring to Martin Heidegger,Wolfgang Schirmacher acknowledges that while we, as homo generator, may not be able todecide on our origins, this in no way predisposes on our becoming: Homo generator, der sich selbst erzeugende Mensch, ist durch Autopoiesis geprägt, ereignet sich tautologisch: Ich bin, der ich werde. Zwar ist mein Ursprung fremdbestimmt, aber nicht mein Entwurf, der im immer erneut entschlossenen Beginnen mein Ereignis austrägt. Für seine Taten und Unterlassungen übernimmt der Mensch, gewollt oder ungewollt, ohne jedes Wenn und Aber Verantwortung. Ob mein Wille an sich frei ist, ist für mich ohne Bedeutung. Für alles, was durch ihn begonnen wurde, wird der homo generator geradestehen: Sein entwerfendes Selbstverständnis ist meine Selbstverständlichkeit. (Schirmacher, 2007c: 4)47And it is through this rendering that our project once more touches base with Nietzsche (1974:232) and his concurrent insistence that what is “needful” is that one “give style” to one’scharacter and existence. Also in Nietzsche this style is no mere abstraction, but always relatedto a personal state and the necessities of a given moment, instead of the formal characteristicsof beauty: Good is any style that really communicates with an inward state, that makes no mistake about the signs, the tempo of the signs, the gestures [...].Good style in itself is a pure folly, mere “idealism,” on a level with the “beautiful in itself,” on a level with, last accessed 30/07/2007.47 “Homo generator, the human being that generates itself, bears the stamp of autopoesis and enowns itselftautologically: I am who I become. While my origin is determined from without, my blueprint, which carries outmy enownment in beginnings that are decided upon ever anew, is not. Whether he wants to or not, man takesresponsibility for all his actions and omissions, with no ifs, ands, or buts. Whether my will is free matters to menot at all. Homo generator will answer for everything that was begun through his will: his self-conception as adesigner is my implicitness.” Translation by Daniel Theisen at, lastaccessed 30/07/2007. 149
  • 150. the “beautiful in itself,” the “good in itself,” the “thing in itself”.” (Nietzsche, 1989: 265)To lead an ethical life is thus, in the interpretation of Schirmacher, Nietzsche and Foucaultproposed here, to lead a life that is concerned with giving itself a certain shape and form. Andhere we once more need to go beyond Foucault. Insofar as this shape is always one which ismade up of relations, insofar as it is a form which emerges as a concrete constellation ofrelationality, it is not just defined by its Apollonian qualities. An ethics of giving one’s life acertain shape thus also has to take the other element into account through which this shape isco-determined. An ethics in our Art of the Transpersonal Self thus always needs to be anaesthetic and energetic practice. 5.4. Ethics as Aesthetic and Energetic PracticePerceiving ethics as the attempt to give one’s life a certain form along aesthetic and energeticlines entails first of all that we consider the self as a weak form. It arises out of the interplay ofthe aesthetic and the energetic component and is thus no longer a pure Apollonian form, butthe result derived from relating the Apollonian once more with the Dionysian. In this mannerwe retain many of the Foucauldian elements of the aesthetics of existence, but once moretwist them by assigning them a different place within our relationality. While still agreeingwith the basic idea of the self as form instead of substance, we modify it here towards anaesthetically and energetically co-determined form. An aesthetic and energetic ethics thus implies taking into account our co-emergence inseverality and being aware that within the aesthetic and energetic sphere any action is alwaysone also affecting the co-emergent (Ettinger, 2006) and co-fading others. This ethical practice 150
  • 151. is therefore always relational along aesthetic/energetic lines. It takes both the aesthetic(formal, systemic) but just as well the energetic (emotional, spiritual, libidinal etc.)components of a given situation into account and, if necessary, seeks to transform themaccording to the perceived situational necessities. The gain of the ethical practice sketched above in relation to the Art of theTranspersonal Self is that a practice can be derived thereof, which does not try to deny theactual living situations of concrete human beings but arises, on the contrary, exactly out ofthose situations. This practice can still give space for the Apollonian (formal, systemic)elements of a specific situation but without being completely determined by them. Being setwithin a larger systemic and historical background containing formal, Apollonian elementsand constraints such an ethical practice does not try to deny or overcome those constraints butto twist them in an aesthetic/energetic interplay according to the situational necessities. Ultimately this practice thus derives to a certain degree from an acausal 48 standpoint;not just because the elements can never all be known completely (which is a problem ofquantity) but also because the energetic eludes rational description (which is a matter ofquality). This ethical practice thus becomes variable, multifold and pluriform, but also foreverimperfect (Muñoz, 2006). If we pose the question of ethics as regards the Art of the Transpersonal Self, thensome pointers towards how an orientational knowledge beyond the Apollonian Hegemony andthe strong categories of Truth and morals might remain possible. Furthermore, it can alreadybe discerned that, firstly, we have stipulated that an Art of the Transpersonal self includes an48 Acausal here understood as deriving from the insight that it is impossible to impute singular causes tosituations and events. 151
  • 152. affirmation of life in all its different aspects and facets. It is out of such an affirmation that theproject of giving one’s life a certain style acquires an ethical attribute. The Art of the Self, secondly, arises in the context of the awareness of our relationalitywith partial others within the aesthetic/energetic sphere. We are thus from the outsettranspersonal and in part determined by others and co-determining towards them. Each actionwe take never only affects our self alone – since within the relationality of theaesthetic/energetic sphere there is no such thing as a “self alone”. Any ethical practice willthus have to reflect on this severality and co-emergence and co-fading and how one’s ownactions might reverberate through this aesthetic/energetic sphere and concretely affect thepartial others. Thirdly, the practice of an Art of the Self also embraces conflict as basic facet ofhuman life and possible source of creative change. The question that is of relevance is thenhow to creatively deal with this conflict to keep open the possibility of mutual transformationin and through it? In such an Art of the Self, fourthly, the ethical question of how is one to live? is notanswered via recourse to a formalized code of conduct an abstract, absolute point ofreference. It is not moral. Ethics is here much rather understood as a practice exercisedthrough one‘s behavior towards oneself and others. It arises from the crucial realization thatwithin the aesthetic/energetic sphere of becoming-in togetherness every action towardsanother is also always (partially) an action towards oneself. Wolfgang Schirmacher (1994b) inhis ethics of compassion here refers to the Indian Upanishads and the notion of the TATTVAM ASI which was already mentioned in the discussion on the State of the Art. It is thisrealization in the face of the suffering other that, in fact, this other is not an outside, foreign 152
  • 153. being, but much rather always already you which points towards a perception of a basicrelationality of existence. This other is always engendered by the same aesthetic/energeticbasic undercurrent of life that is the aesthetic/energetic sphere. This ethics could therefore, fifthly, for example take the form of a practice ofcompassion. This, however, has to be placed under the proviso that compassion is notconfused with pity. In Friedrich Nietzsche’s work (Nietzsche, 1976a) one encounters adifferentiation of the two. Mitleid as pity for Nietzsche always carries an idea of superioritytowards the one to be pitied, of being glad not to be in the shoes of the other. This other-to-be-pitied so remains an abstract, outside “other” and, indeed, Nietzsche advocates stronglyagainst a Mitleid understood as pity. Yet perceived as compassion, on the contrary, it arisesfrom the empathic understanding of a basic connectivity and togetherness of existence. AsFred Ulfers pointed out49, Friedrich Nietzsche exemplified this practice of compassion duringthe episode in Turin shortly before his breakdown, when throwing his arms around the horsewhich was about to be beaten. What derives thereof, sixthly, is an ethics as aesthetic and energetic practice whichfollows certain guiding threads and principles derived from the concepts underlying the Art ofthe Transpersonal Self but poses them in the form of questions to be asked every day anew,instead of pre-given recipes for action. Through the evaluation of a given aesthetic/energetic constellation and one’s positiontherein a form of situational, local and contingent truth (an orientational knowledge) can arise.In the transrational rebound effect of this situational truth, a transformation of the self canoccur. Since this process is open ended, the questions of ‘what to do?’ and ‘what would be the49 In a discussion at the occasion of the author’s defense of this dissertation in New York, December 2007. 153
  • 154. subjectively appropriate choice?’ arise each time differently and there is no guarantee thatanswers given once, in one concrete situation, will remain valid for future use. It is in thissense that an art of ethics is also, as Foucault (1997k: 284) points out, a “practice of freedom”for in it we acquire the freedom to think differently, to each time anew pose the risky, theexhilarating question of who we are, in order to find out how we could - through the practiceof everyday life – give ourselves a certain weak shape and thus yet become differently onceagain. 5.5. ConclusionThis chapter has been dedicated to the question, whether a non-moral form of ethics mightpossibly be envisioned and how such an ethics could be formed within the Art of theTranspersonal Self. It has to be stated that, firstly, this Art of the Self can not provide a frameof orientational knowledge equal in universal comprehensiveness to the moral one as italways has to be understood from the given circumstances. However, far from being ashortcoming this is a crucial aspect of an Art of the Self, as it simultaneously opens the doorfor a local and contingent ethics, which derives from the concrete situation and is not tied to aformal grid of interpretation and judgment as good and evil. From the Foucauldian rendering of the Greek aesthetics of existence, pertinent featuresfor a current Art of the Transpersonal Self have been gleaned. An ethics derived thereofwould, secondly, be an aesthetic and energetic practice, arising from the relationality of aconcrete situation. Unlike a formalized morality such an ethics, thirdly, does not draw itsorientational knowledge out of abstract universalities, but out of the concretely lived horizonand the perceived necessities of the situation. Such an ethics does not look for a fixed grid, 154
  • 155. scientific truth or holy writ in order to arrive at judgments pertaining to truth/falsehood butlooks, on the contrary, for relational adjustments according to the specific circumstances toguide one’s own action. This understanding, fourthly, opens the way for re-casting ethics as arelational, energetic and aesthetic savoir-faire - a practice that can be both philosophical andspiritual and integrates Apollonian and Dionysian elements. This ethics, fifthly, arises from the crucial insight that within the aesthetic-energeticrelationality of existence every act towards another is at least partially also always an acttowards oneself. This realization could lead to a practice of compassion which is notunderstood as pity towards an abstract, outside other but derives from the becoming-in-togetherness within the aesthetic/energetic sphere in which the perceiving self cannot beuntangled from the perceived other and in which each action reverberates in all directionsalong the lines of relationality. Yet, which concrete form an ethical practice will take can, sixthly, not be determinedbeforehand and from the outside. Employed in an Art of the Transpersonal Self, such anethics as practice could start from a life affirming principle, embracing conflict and arelational, transpersonal becoming. What finally could be cultivated through such a practice isan attunement to a given situation from which an orientational knowledge can arise that, inturn, enables further transformations of the self with an ethical guideline and underpinning. 155
  • 156. 6. Practices of the Self No-one can see me twice as I am, in each fleeting instant of my life, as all instants are fleeting... as is life. I will never be the same, each second that steals away from me. And similarly, those who see me now will never be the same as themselves in any two successive seconds of the trajectory of their paths through life. (Augusto Boal, 2006: 13)The concept of this dissertation in part is derived from a series of enigmatic encounters, fromthe engagement and participation in practices leading to experiential understanding whicheach time left me changed yet strangely puzzled and - in the beginning - even resistant on acognitive level. The experience of that which eludes rationalization and theorization, theapproximation of the point at which knowledge slips and falters, the occurrence of somethingthat can not be explained rationally, all that provides a mystery and sometimes provocationfor the theoretical mind. The slippage, however, occurs all the stronger and the sought afterbecomes ever more elusive, the more one tries to think about it and analyze it. Trying to knowand analyze the experience, indeed, seems to make its occurrence impossible. Respecting thisimpossibility at times seems so to be one of the most important and difficult steps ofunlearning the Western mind undertakes in this regard. This chapter is dedicated to certain concrete practices of the self. The term practicehere is taken to mean, following Wilhelm Schmid, a combination of praxis and technique: Im Begriff der Praktik werden die Begriffe von „Praxis” (die Tatsache, dass wir etwas tun) und „Technik“ (die Frage, wie wir etwas tun) miteinander verschmolzen. (Schmid, 2000: 261)5050 “In the term of practice the concepts of “praxis” (the fact that we are doing something) and “technique” (thequestion about how something is done) are fused.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 156
  • 157. Those practices can, as technologies and methods be learnt, written down, described andknown. This is what we will attempt in the next couple of pages. However, none of theseanalyses and interpretations can give an approximation to what occurs in the moment oftransformation which remains ineffable (Grof and Bennett, 1993: 19). This moment can onlybe experienced and understood, and only to a certain degree described and known. From ourdescription of the methods also no (or only a very limited) predictive capacity follows. Those methodologies of an Art of the Transpersonal Self only prepare the (rational)stage from which a transrational experience might spring. The rational elements have theirplace and necessity, but neither are they sufficient as explanations for concretetransformations, nor will a transformation occur whenever such an explanation is attempted.Sticking to this crucial limitation we will thus take a look at some of those practices, withouttrying to reduce the energetic “X” of the moment of transformation to our analysis. Thosepractices so have to be understood as an expression of what we previously have called either aWeak Art or a Gay Science. Through those practices an Art of the Transpersonal Self could be realized. They soare concrete expressions of the always critical and risky venture to give one’s life a certainshape and style; embracing the insecurity that such an affirmation of a relational becoming inseverality through a transformative practice might entail. 157
  • 158. 6.1. Augusto Boal and the Theatre of the Oppressed Theater is change and not the simple presentation of what exists: it is becoming and not being. (Augusto Boal, 1985: 28)The first practice to be discussed here is the Theatre of the Oppressed, which has to be placedin the context of the political struggles in Latin American emerging during the second half ofthe twentieth century. The Brazilian actor, director and activist Augusto Boal invented thismethod combining the theoretical works of Paolo Freire with a certain form of (Marxist)political activism which, in its theatrical implementation, is indebted to the plays of BertBrecht. In Boal’s Theatre method all those different influences are intertwined to form aunique and potent mix for individual and collective transformation. In its original conceptionthe Theatre of the Oppressed so fused the Marxist commitment to social change and justicewith pedagogical concerns and the impetus, visibility and expressivity of a theatrical form ofenactment. Set in the times of the rise of the different socialist ideas all throughout Latin America,the Theatre of the Oppressed aimed at making people at the receiving end of capitalism awareof the mechanisms of their oppression. However, unlike the Brechtian plays which – despitesharing this educational feature - kept the spectators firmly in their seats while the actionproceeded on stage, the Theatre of the Oppressed aimed at an immediate form of activityinvolving everybody present. Thus Boal’s goal in theater was what his countryman andinspiration Paul Freire had been in education: the latter criticized the division between teacherand student, while the former actively went about abolishing the difference between actorsand spectators - and both were inspired by a Marxist ideal of emancipation. 158
  • 159. The Theatre of the Oppressed first developed in the 1950s and 1960s out of theperformances and plays staged at the Arena Theater of Sao Paolo (Boal, 1985: 159ff.) whichBoal also directed. In a development lasting for more than a decade, the plays staged at Arenawhere successively dynamised: taking over the basic topics, ideas and characters of a writtenplay but increasingly improvising the actual performance and interpreting the characters onthe spot, making them come alive in ways beyond the mere recital of pre-rehearsed texts. The reality they wanted to show at this time, Boal (1985: 168) concluded later, was areality in perpetual transition, whereas the “stylistic tools” available to them were “perfect andfinished” and thus static. Therefore, the structural aspects of the play – its pregiven settings,carefully elaborated interactions, and scripted developments - were radically dynamised. Theactor and her/his individual, shifting, performance literally took center stage. Classics of(European and North American) Theater were replaced by local plays. This first phase of“destruction” (Boal, 1985: 165) of the conventional understanding of theater culminated in theplay Zumbí: Now in Zumbí – and this is neither a virtue nor a defect – each moment of the play was interpreted “presently” and “conflictually,” even though the “montage” of the performance might not allow one to forget the presence of the story’s group narrator; some actors remained in tie and place of the spectators, while others traveled to other places and times. The result of this was a kind of “patchwork quilt” formed of small fragments of many plays, documents and songs. (Boal, 1985: 169)In the trajectory of the emergent Theatre of the Oppressed, Zumbí marked the end of one andthe beginning of a new phase inaugurated by the step away from any pre-given scripts. Thisnext phase, of even greater importance for what is at stake in the Art of the TranspersonalSelf, would then be marked by the dissolution of the spectator/actor distinction. This 159
  • 160. distinction was crafted into a social technique of transformation which equally involved“audience” and “mimes” in a play, however the play was taken from their life and flows backinto it. 6.1.1. Theoretical PremisesIn one of his main written works, entitled The Theatre of the Oppressed (1985), Augusto Boallater on would set out to also theoretically reflect upon the changes developing in the 1970s.Starting with an analysis of theater in Ancient Greece, Boal first dissociates himself from theAristotelian understanding of the function of theatrical work and art. Unlike what he calls theAristotelian “coercive system of tragedy” (1985: 3ff.) his own understanding of theater shallnot be tranquilizing and sedentary, but transformative51. Boal asserts that the function of (Post-Socratic) theater in the Aristotelian system andthe long tradition that derives thereof is to tie the viewers to passivity and adjust her/him “towhat pre-exists” (Boal, 1985: 47). While the structure of the play leads the viewers to acathartic moment of identification with the tragic hero/protagonist, they simultaneously alsoare constituted as passive subjects, excluded as they are as spectators from the action onstage52. Aristotelian tragedy, argues Boal (1985: 36ff; 1995: 71ff), follows a certain pattern inwhich the downfall of the tragic hero is caused by a tragic flaw (hamartia) which incites thetragic protagonist to transgress against the law. At the end of the play, in a moment of51 For further information on the current practice of the Theatre of the Oppressed/Theater for Living see and In comparison with the overview over Greek tragedy given in chapter one it needs to be highlighted thatBoal’s description starts with Aristotle. For our purposes this implies a Post-Socratic time in which the breakwith the earlier tradition described by Nietzsche (1967) had already occurred. Unlike Nietzsche, Boal does notconsider earlier forms of tragedy at all. Insofar as Aristotle can be considered not the norm of Greek thought butrather the exception, we are left in the dark about Boal’s views on earlier forms of tragic art. 160
  • 161. catharsis, this tragic flaw is purged and equilibrium restored. According to Boal, what theAristotelian tradition tries to purge from both the tragic protagonist in the play and from thespectators in the audience is the desire to transgress against the law. The catharsis so shalllead to a form of individual adjustment to the established social norms and rules. In short,what shall be eliminated or suppressed is the desire for transformation. This sedentary quality is a feature that is not inherent only to the ancient form oftheater but to most theatrical forms up until today. Boal here uses Aristotle only as startingpoint for what really is a general comment on most forms of theater up until today. The thrustof his critique is that theater mainly functions as a pleasant diversion but in its ubiquitousform does not easily lend itself to an active engagement towards a practice of becoming(Boal, 1985: 46f.). A practice of the self, as we have previously established, could be described as atechnique which consciously takes the aesthetic and energetic elements of becoming intoaccount. It develops tools with which such a necessarily unpredictable transformation can begiven the space it needs to occur. This transformation is allowed to develop into manydirections, while still retaining the option for a certain amount of active influence andchanneling of this becoming. However, the outcome can still never be pre-determined. The channeling occurs through the aesthetic, cognitive, or systemic elements of such apractice, while through the acknowledgment and inclusion of the energetic component thetransrational and unpredictable moment is introduced and can be maintained. The outcomewill be different depending on the set-up of this interplay in the concrete technique: Howmuch space is given to the energetic element? How well defined or loose the 161
  • 162. aesthetic/systemic rules are? How much stress is placed on the (rational) knowledge of theself and cognitive interpretation? We can assert that the transformative outcome might be different depending on thosevariables and structures, however thereof derives neither a predictive capability as to the exactoutcome nor the guarantee that there will be, in fact, a discernable outcome. That is also whatmakes this process transrational. It has rational components which can be described and thuslearned as a technique and we can lead our description up until that moment oftransformation, but exactly this very moment of becoming eludes us. Participating in such apractice, being open to transformation, implies at this point to let happen that which can notbe rationally willed. In agreement with Boal (1985: 122) we can so stipulate that the practice of theater, if itis to be a transformative practice, has to do away with the separating distinction betweenspectator and actor and the rigidity of an unchangeable plot in order to open the possibility forall participants to establish themselves as active subjects and for the transformative becomingto occur. Becoming and transformation might happen in any case, but if one intends toactively work on the self, shape this process and perhaps give it a direction towards thesubjectively better, then this process needs to be consciously included and taken into account.Such is the work of a practice of the Self. In his method of the Theatre of the Oppressed Augusto Boal expresses an acuteawareness of this aesthetic element and the way it can be focused for a transformative practicewhen he asserts that “the aesthetic transcendence of reason is the reason for theatre and for allthe arts. We cannot divorce reason and feeling, idea and form” (Boal, 2006: 15). However, forAugusto Boal, coming from a Marxist tradition, the relation between reason and feeling 162
  • 163. remains a dialectical one, very much like the relation between art and science was portrayedearlier in Theodor Adorno (see chapter three). And, also like with Adorno, we can here assentto this statement provided it is read, first, against the grain of the author’s intentions – in aweak form instead of a dialectic one. Secondly, it needs to be pointed out that therefore alsothe transcendence of reason can never be only aesthetic, but is always aesthetic and energetic. 6.1.2. Spectator, what an Insult!Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (1985: 139ff) introduces the technique of ForumTheatre53. The first distinct feature of a Forum theater is its characteristic as a local andcontingent, vernacular form of theater. It implies for a group of people to work on a commonproblem or topic. This people might be called the “actors,” however what is meant is not agroup of professional mimes, but any group of people wishing to do transformative work on acertain topic. The topic of the play has to be one of concrete importance and relevance for the group- it can focus on a concern, personal or collective problem or issue in which this particulargroup of people is involved. This topic is then turned into a work of art – a play is drafted andrehearsed by the group itself, dramatizing the action until a moment of crisis or evenimminent catastrophe is reached in the story. At this point the play ends with the moment ofthe erupting crisis lingering as worst case scenario and without an apparent solution beingpredetermined. This piece is then acted out to an audience, which in turn is asked to intervenein the play if they disagree with the way the turn of events is progressing and if they see a53 The Theatre of the Oppressed (1985: 126ff.) has a broad range of different techniques at its disposal – rangingfrom Statue Theater, to Newspaper Theater, Legislative Theater until the Invisible Theater as well as a plethoraof other methods like the tools of the Rainbow of Desire (1995). It is only for the purpose of this study that wewill mainly focus on Forum Theater which has been singled out because it seems to me to be the clearest way ofshowing the workings of the Theatre of the Oppressed in light of an Art of the Transpersonal Self. 163
  • 164. possibility for a change which might lead to a different ending. Augusto Boal describes theoverall process and its consequences the following way: First the participants are asked to tell a story containing a political or social problem of difficult solution. Then a ten- or fifteen minute skit portraying that problem and the solution intended for discussion is improvised or rehearsed, and subsequently presented. When the skit is over, the participants are asked if they agree with the solution presented. At least some will say no. At this point it is explained that the scene will be performed once more, exactly as it was the first time. But now any participant in the audience has the right to replace any actor and lead the action in the direction that seems to him most appropriate. [...] the other actors have to face the newly created situation, responding instantly to all the possibilities that it may present. [...] Anyone may propose any solution, but it must be done on the stage, working, acting, doing things and not from the comfort of his seat. (Boal, 1985: 139)The differences between such a practice of art and a regular theater play are immediatelyapparent. First it turns the actors into the active creators of the story, as it is indeed their storyand in it their own investment and personalities that is portrayed. What is intended is a formof transformation, not just the amusement of an audience. There is something personal atstake in this play! This form of theater secondly also emancipates itself from the theaterhouses. A stage can be any open space that one chooses to delineate as such. It furthermore makes use of the art of theater to achieve an overall sensory perceptionof the issue in its connectivity to the different people present, transcending the use oflanguage towards using the whole body: Words are the work and the instruments of reason: we have to transcend them and look for forms of communication which are not just rational, but also sensory – aesthetic communications. (Boal, 2006: 15) 164
  • 165. Since all the people acting out the problem are also those personally involved and are nowplaying a part in the problem, different from the position they normally occupy, it allows for ashift in perspective for all the persons involved. What is so created is what Augusto Boal(1995: 43 ff.) calls an image of reality in the play. Their different position now gives all theparticipants the possibility of a changed experiential understanding of the situation, resultingfrom the shift in their aesthetic and energetic relationality through the altered position theyhave taken on in the play. This experience of a new aesthetic/energetic position within the overall system opensthe possibility for a rebound effect: Acting a different position may transform the personacting. In the words of Boal, a spark so could leap back from the image of reality towards areality of image and thus a “transubstantiation” (1995: 44) can occur. Experiencing - feeling -that a certain problem can be perceived from a different point of view and (through thedevelopment of the play) can also be treated differently, could affect a shift in the overallaesthetic/energetic constellation that makes up this specific system. The relational grid (or,using our Foucauldian description from chapter four: the relational micro-system of(energetic) power) can so be altered as each person becomes aware on a different level of theown and other’s position in it. Through the play the opportunity for the participants opens upto relate differently and thus perhaps become differently. What the Theatre of the Oppressed aims for is a cathartic moment (Boal, 1995: 69ff.).In this question Augusto Boal comes to modify his position: while in his early works Boal(1985) rejects all forms of theatrical catharsis as inherently Aristotelian, later on hedistinguishes the Aristotelian understanding of the term from the theatrical catharsis he nowwishes to employ in the Theatre of the Oppressed (1995). The essentially sedentary 165
  • 166. Aristotelian catharsis, he then asserts, is aimed at purging from the tragic hero a single flaw,the one which made him/her transgress against the law. This form of catharsis thus works as areinforcement of pre-given abstract norms and what shall be purged is the very “desire fortransformation” in order to better “adapt the individual to society” (Boal, 1995: 71). Thecatharsis in Boal’s Theatre method shall work exactly the opposite way, removing obstaclesand blocks for transformation, “dynamising” the people involved (Boal, 1995: 71). 6.1.3. Relational Becoming in SeveralitySuch a practice of theater might also give an altered awareness of the concrete others involvedin the situation. This can lead towards the transformative insight we established theoreticallyin chapter four, namely that others are always only partial others with whom we areconnected and that becoming is always a co-emergence in severality. The aesthetic/energeticsphere previously described expresses itself here as a concrete system of relationality tyingpeople together in their becoming gyrating in this instant around a common problem. Boal,coming from a Marxist tradition, expresses the same thought slightly differently: The I is transformed into an us – extraordinary leap. In this us and in each I, we discover the discovery that the artist made. When we are able to speak of us, we become the sum of all our relations and something more, as in any synergy. (Boal, 2006: 20)Through the involvement of the audience an additional feature is added. Neither “actor” nor“spectator” can be understood any more in the conventional sense of the words, as both aregiven the possibility to establish themselves as active subjects which are always engaged in amutually determining and determined relational becoming. To stress this active element Boal 166
  • 167. (1995: 13) uses the term spectactor to designate the bridging of the gap between actor andspectator. In the practice of Forum Theater, understood as an Art of the Transpersonal Self, thepossibility for a transformation opens up in the exercise and application of a distinct methodon the self. Forum Theater so turns into an example of transformation as aesthetic andenergetic practice. In his own diction Boal so concludes that “we must all do theatre, todiscover who we are and find out who we could become” (Boal, 2006: 62). To this statementone might only add the suggestion that perhaps already the process of “finding out” is part ofthe becoming. The being that is so “found” is then already a being that is remembered – as aline of flight might have opened and the flow of becoming have carried us onwards. Through trying out (enacting and embodying) different solutions, diverse ways ofhandling the problem and shifting the relationality, multiple images of reality can be tried andtested, opening the possibility for a succession of realities of image in a continuum ofbecoming each time the spark flies back to the spectactors. This acting out is repeated and theprocess carried on until a moment of saturation is reached, when everybody feels that thepossibilities have been exhausted or satisfactorily transformed. The process of transformation furthermore is not finished once the performance ends,but is carried on in and through each subject and thus in the overall relationality of the systemwith partial others. Boal concludes: The show is the beginning of a necessary social transformation and not a moment of equilibrium and repose. The end is the beginning! (Boal, 2006: 6) 167
  • 168. Repeating the process at a later time will thus produce a different play and different images ofreality. This practice of the self proposes the transpersonal transformation of the self in andthrough conflict, because conflict – in the form of the issue, topic, concern or problem at hand– becomes the instigator for change. The transformation of the self as an active practice onlybecomes possible by also embracing, working with and through this conflict. The concomitant truth that arises can only be a weak truth. Any strong truth with itsabsolute divisions in right and wrong and subsequent calls for judgment makes it impossibleto engage in the practice of transformation. The strong aesthetic, formal bindings of knowing(the Truth) prevent the openness which is necessary for experiential understanding to occurand for it to have a transfiguring effect. Entering the process with strong, rational knowledgeand an analytical mindset so hinders and hampers this art of transpersonal transformation.Establishing a transfiguring awareness of the aesthetic/energetic relationality implies an act ofrational de-focusing, establishing a presence which attunes itself to the transrationalvibrations rather than the cognitive vivisection of our surroundings. Perhaps against the intentions of its (Marxist) originator the Forum Theater and othermethods of the Theater of the Oppressed can so be inscribed and used in an Art of theTranspersonal Self. At this instance it may be obvious that the point here is not so much toshow that this has been the original and unadulterated intention behind the inception of thismethod some decades ago in Brazil, but to offer a different and novel interpretation, twistingthis tried and proven tool towards new and aesthetic/energetic purposes. We so have gainedan insight into the workings of such a practice of the self under current conditions. As Boal’s reference to Aristotle indicates, this method is necessarily constitutedagainst a concrete historical background and a long tradition from which it derives and against 168
  • 169. which it contrasts its distinct features. However, within that historical horizon it so brings usthe possibility to partially suspend our own ontological ground and, in some way, shape thatprocess of becoming differently from who we are. From within that pre-constituted horizon aline of flight opens so up, towards different horizons as of yet unknown. 6.2. Systemic Constellation WorkWith this section we are once more venturing into the field of (transpersonal) psychology –this time in order to explore the use value of the therapeutic method of Systemic ConstellationWork. Systemic Constellation Work was conceived, exemplary described and reported by theGerman psychologist Bert Hellinger (2003). In the meantime, as Family Constellation Work it has also been investigatedtheoretically (Weber, 2000) and has finally branched out to encompass also other areas, as forexample in the case of Organizational Constellations or Political Constellation Work (Kaller,2007). The first deals, as the name implies, with a field of appliance restricted to theimmediate family, whereas the latter have a different or sometimes wider grasp includingpossible transformations of the self with respect to diverse aspects of (social) life. PoliticalConstellations are therefore also known as Alles-Aufstellungen (Everything Constellations)due to their broad, inclusive reach (Kaller, 2007: 3). As with Augusto Boal in the last section, it also needs to be noted that theinterpretation of Systemic Constellation Work we are aiming for here is one that perceives itas part of an Art of the Self. It is for us so only secondarily an element in a therapeuticpractice. Our interpretation thus necessarily differs from the one given by many practitioners 169
  • 170. in the field, who approach Constellation work from the point of departure of (transpersonal)psychology. Therefore the established wisdom about the tools of Systemic Constellations shallbe used here only as starting point to establish our own interpretation. A practitioner in the field, Albrecht Mahr who studied with Bert Hellinger, gives aconcise description of the very basic principle of functioning of Systemic Constellations onthe example of Family Constellations and hence it is worth quoting him here at length: Familienaufstellungen werden in Gruppen von ca. 20 Teilnehmern durchgeführt. Ein Teilnehmer wählt für sich selbst und für die übrigen Mitglieder seiner Herkunfts- oder Gegenwartsfamilie Stellvertreter aus der Gruppe aus und stellt diese im Raum in Beziehung zueinander auf, wobei er sich ganz von seinem Gefühl leiten läßt. Mit diesem „Aufstellen“ entfaltet sich das innere, meist unbewußte Bild des Teilnehmers von seiner Familie als äußeres Kraftfeld der Aufstellung. Die bei den Stellvertretern auftauchenden Gefühle und Körperempfindungen geben auf eine oft erstaunlich genaue Weise die Situation des betreffenden Familienmitglieds und der in dieser Familie wirkenden Kräfte wieder. Stellvertreter erleben in der Aufstellung u.U. intensive Gefühle von Liebe, Trauer oder Wut ebenso wie ausgeprägte körperliche Empfindungen wie Hitze, Taubheit, Schmerzen oder überraschende Leichtigkeit - all das ohne vorherige Information über die Person, die sie vertreten. Es scheint so, daß die Stellvertreter durch den Akt des Aufstellens zu „Medien“ für Erfahrungen unbekannter anderer Menschen werden, von denen sie auf eine gefühlshaft- körperliche Weise „wissen“ und an deren Schicksal sie für die Dauer der Aufstellung teilhaben. Über dieses Erleben der Stellvertreter können die in einer Familie im Guten wie im Schlimmen wirkenden Kräfte in einer Aufstellung ans Licht kommen und vielleicht erstmals bewußt wahrgenommen werden54. (Mahr, 1999: 2, 3)54 “Family constellations are done in groups of about 20 participants. One participant chooses representativesfrom the group for him/herself and the other members of his original- and present family and places them in theroom in relation to each other, while letting him/herself completely be guided by the own feelings. With this“constellation” the participant’s inner, most of the time unconscious, picture of the own family unfolds as outerforce field in the constellation. The feelings and bodily perceptions arising with the representatives resemble inan amazingly exact form the situation of the family member concerned and the forces at work in the family.During the constellation representatives experience amongst others intensive emotions of love, grief or rage; justas well as pronounced bodily sensations like heat, numbness, pain or surprising levity – all of that withoutprevious information about the person they are substituting. It seems as if the representatives would become a“medium” through the act of being placed in the constellation for the experiences of unknown other people, 170
  • 171. What is immediately apparent in this description is a certain similarity between this methodand the Theater of the Oppressed: both work with the whole body, integrating physicalsensations and sensory perceptions. Both methods also use physical space and a certainplacement/movement to express the relationality within an aesthetic/energetic system. Thissystem connects all the members of the group. Both methods gyrate around a certain topic, problem or issue. In SystemicConstellation Work this is expressed in its aesthetic/energetic relational aspects through firstthe placement of the representatives in physical space, and then through a concerted attempt attransformation (guided by a facilitator) via working towards a shift in the relationality. A main difference consists in the way the practice proceeds. In Forum Theater this isvia rehearsing and acting a play, trying different solutions with a group of “outsiders” (an“audience” which is so also turned into spectactors). In the many variations of SystemicConstellation Work a transformation is attempted via movements in space, words andgestures, relying on changes in the feelings of the representatives as pointers to whether apositive transformation is being approached. A constellation practice ideally is so led up untilthe point in which the tension or strong negative emotions experienced by the representativeshave been relieved and transformed. What is thus provided is a picture very similar to whathas been described above with Augusto Boal as “image of reality” and its way of fostering abecoming through a subsequent “reality of image”.about whom they come to “know” in a sensory-bodily way and in whose fate they participate for the duration ofthe constellation. Through the experiencing of the representatives those forces which – for better or worse – areworking within a family can surface in a constellation and perhaps be experienced consciously for the first time.”Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 171
  • 172. Importantly, the awareness of the underlying transrationality and transpersonalityseems to be much more clearly expressed in Systemic Constellation Work than in the theatermethod. The “outer field of force”, which a participant establishes by placing therepresentatives in systemic constellation work, represents an external and (to a certain degree)conscious recreation of the own aesthetic/energetic sphere of co-emergence and therelationality therein. The severality of the own becoming is so established in the visible andperceptible sensory space of the constellation. The process is much less informed by aesthetic rules and cognitive action than in theForum Theater method. The cognitive input in Systemic Constellation Work is mainlyprovided through the facilitator, who uses her/his experience, professional training and(theoretical) knowledge to guide the process. It is the facilitator who, during the course of theconstellation, suggests movements, word or gestures to the participants and thus helps shapingthe overall aesthetic/energetic dynamic. And yet the facilitator does not only guide accordingto her/his rational knowledge, but just as well includes an energetic component, which impliesa rational letting go and letting oneself be guided: Eine der wichtigsten und wirksamsten Interventionen bei der Lösungssuche ist Nicht- Wissen. Nicht-Wissen allerdings ist alles andere als nichts wissen, sondern gerade das Gegenteil: über sehr viel theoretisches Wissen und klinische Erfahrung verfügen und der Tatsache vertrauen, dass das wissende Feld der Aufstellung sich unserer Fähigkeiten bedient, ohne dass wir den Ausgang kennen Ich sage deshalb auch gerne: kundige Selbstvergessenheit55. (Mahr, 2000: 34, 35)55 “While seeking solutions one of the most important and effective interventions is not-knowing. Not-knowingis everything but knowing nothing, it is much rather the contrary: to dispose over very much theoreticalknowledge and clinical experience und to trust into the fact, that the knowing field of the constellation will makeuse of our capabilities, without us knowing the result. That is why I often like to say: knowing self-forgetfulness.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 172
  • 173. Once more in the words of Albrecht Mahr, it is not so much about (rationally) finding thesolutions, but about letting oneself be found by the fitting solution (Mahr, 2000: 30).Systemic Constellation Work so relies to a certain extent on the energetic and intuitiveelement to guide and achieve a constellation of relationality which, also for the participants, isbeyond mere representation in the sense of acting. This transrational energetic element fosters an experience of a momentary becoming-in-togetherness for the representative in relation to the person that is represented. Feelings,emotions, thoughts, sensory perceptions so flow towards the representative and form anexperiential understanding of the person represented in the concrete situation. A newtemporary severality and co-emergence is so established. The ritual at the end of eachconstellation work, in which the representatives are released from their roles, can thus beunderstood as the corresponding element of co-fading. In the words of Deleuze and Guattari (1987: 10ff), the act of taking on the role of theperson to be represented can be described as a deterritorializing moment of becoming-representative and, when the role is given back, the subsequent instant of re-territorializationoccurs. What happens in between can be felt, understood and to a certain degree expressed,but not rationally explained. In this line of thought it furthermore appears only consequentthat it is reported that sometimes also the person represented (even if far away and unaware ofthe proceedings in the constellation work) experiences emotions related to the happenings inthe constellation. Although the effects of the constellation are usually experienced muchstronger by the people directly present which are affected in a much more immediate way, theco-emergence and co-fading can just as well be felt by the persons represented. 173
  • 174. The process of constellation work could be described with Deleuze and Guattari asmutual becomings which “interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities” (Deleuzeand Guattari, 1987: 10) and occur in an aesthetic and energetic sphere. This sphere isexternally visualized by the person placing the participants and is then built up in severalityby the group. This practice of Constellation Work aims at a transforming insight, first of all, for theparticipant placing the representatives and thus building the aesthetic/energetic sphere ofher/his personal surroundings. However, the transforming rebound effect might just as welloccur (although probably differently) for the other participants who are offering themselves asrepresentatives. For a Practice of the Self both roles - although in different ways - have theirmerit and can find their use. The element of an art, as something that is guided just as muchby intuition as by cognitive means, probably emerges even clearer here than in the ForumTheater56. What needs to be highlighted is that, like in theater work, in Constellation work wefind a contemporary practice of an Art of the Transpersonal Self. What furthermore deservesmentioning is that neither one of those two practices are activities to be engaged in for just asdiversion or amusement but can, if taken seriously, inspire a transfiguration and help in theactive shaping of an ongoing process of becoming. In our interpretation both acknowledge thetranspersonality of the self and enable us to work with this transpersonality towards a life-affirming active transformation in severality. Either one of them sees conflict as possiblecreative instigator of change but neither works towards a purification, understood as a seriesof renunciations of what we are in order to become more perfect.56 However, it needs to be pointed out that both the Theater Work and Systemic Constellation are far frommonolithic practices and know manifold different variations which diverge in how far they stress theaesthetic/systemic component or rely on the energetic. 174
  • 175. What they thus aim for can be described as a twisting/fading (verwindend) movementin which becoming does not imply leaving behind or rejecting what we have been, butintegrating it into our self which so continues as always different and emerging. Only byaccepting, integrating and fading57 who we once were can we partially find out who we noware and open the possibility for actively embracing and also shaping who we might yetbecome. 6.3. Holotropic BreathworkPreviously we have already alluded to the transformative qualities of the pneuma, of ourbreathing. With each lungful of air we take in, we blur the boundaries between us and oursurroundings, making a piece of our environment - and, at times, other people’s pneuma - partof ourselves. Each time we exhale we charge the atmosphere similarly with a part ofourselves. With each breath we change as our boundaries blur. Holotropic Breathwork turns this insight into a practice of the Self, a method and toolof transformation. In its Western coinage Holotropic Breathwork goes back to theexperiments and consciousness research of Stanislav and Christina Grof (Grof 1988, Grof andGrof, 1990; Grof and Bennett, 1993) starting in the second half of the twentieth century.Stanislav Grof’s research on consciousness initially began with work on psychedelicsubstances like LSD in Czechoslovakia. During those initial studies Grof found out that, farfrom only inducing drug-related effects like other forms of intoxication, psychedelicsubstances produced the additional effect of “raising the energetic niveau of the humanpsyche” (Grof, 1988: xii). Instead of classifying those effects along a real/apparent dichotomy57 Which in this connotation also implies letting go. 175
  • 176. and so labeling them as simple hallucinations or illusions, Stanislav Grof (1988) chose adifferent path and opted for the more open term of nonordinary states of consciousness todescribe the alterations in the mind so induced. Further research yielded the insight that almost the same effects could also be inducedwithout the intake of any kind of (psychedelic) substances. Especially the cross-culturalcomparison to “rites of passage of various cultures, shamanic procedures of all times,aboriginal healing ceremonies, spiritual practices of various religions and mystical traditions”(Grof, 1988: xii) gave way to an astounding similarity: It is interesting to notice that the spectrum of experiences induced by psychedelic compounds is practically indistinguishable from those resulting from various non-drug techniques. (Grof, 1988: xii)Researching in a similar direction, Kathryn Lee and Patricia Speyer have pointed out that indifferent cultures meditation techniques specifically using modulations of breathing can befound dating back as far as 4000 years (Lee and Speyer, 1996: 367). While Stanislav Grof was interested in the therapeutic use of LSD and psychedelics,especially for psychotherapy, two occurrences led the Grofs onto a different track. On the onehand, the continued encounter with practices from different cultures served to show thelimitations of the psychoanalytic talking-cure while, on the other hand, the changing socialand legal setting in their new country of residence, the USA, made the work with psychedelicsubstances increasingly difficult or impossible. For their therapeutic work in the field ofpsychotherapy this implied a double shift. The outcome was Holotropic Breathwork whichtakes the actual therapeutic work away from its almost exclusive focus on the discursive leveltowards a predominantly nondiscursive practice and which, concomitantly, substitutes a 176
  • 177. breathing technique for the intake of psychedelic substances in order to induce an altered stateof consciousness. Breathwork therefore first of all means exactly what the name implies - “a generalterm for techniques that primarily involve breathing or manipulation of the breath” (Lee andSpeyer, 1996: 366). Holotropic stems from the Greek holos for “whole” and trepein for“moving in the direction of” and together designates a movement towards wholeness (Grof,1988: 165). Holotropic Breathwork thus is a method which uses breathing techniques toinduce nonordinary states of consciousness. The movement towards wholeness indicates theintention of a therapeutic or healing use of this technique which will need to be discussedfurther on. While many of the breathing techniques employed in different cultures (ranging fromthe Indian pranayama and Yogic practices until the Sufi traditions) tend to be technicallycomplex and elaborate, Holotropic Breathwork reduces this to its bare essentials: Of all the methods, we have opted for simple increase in the rate of breathing. We have concluded that a specific technique of breathing is less important than the fact that the client is breathing faster and more effectively than usual, and with full concentration and awareness of the inner process. (Grof, 1988: 171)The technical aspects of this practice are so reduced to its simplest forms, to a kind ofhyperventilation. Despite the seeming simplicity of its practice, this basic technique caninduce an astoundingly large array of different experiences. Sylvester Walch, himself trainedin this technique by Stanislav Grof, provides a precise yet complex account of how abreathing seminar might evolve: 177
  • 178. The room is darkened and prepared with cushions, mattresses and blankets. All participants, between 16 and 30 people, work in pairs, one experiencing person and one helper. Roles are then switched in the next session. The helper, called sitter, has to make sure that the experiencing person, who is lying on her back with her eyes closed and is in a state of trance, can feel safe, especially when she is experiencing intense emotional stress, rapid and strong movements and other heavy physical expressions. The sitter also supports the experiencing person by providing resistance, or assistance, depending on what is needed. It may also be the case that he will just sit next to the experiencing person - quietly and attentively. Sitters often report that by assisting another person, their own process of development is actively complemented. In the beginning of the session, the experiencing people are lying on their backs with their eyes closed, a relaxation exercise helps people to open up and let go more easily. At the end of this relaxation exercise, the participants are asked to breathe more quickly and dynamically and to allow any feelings, images, sounds and movements. […] The process is intensified by evocative music. […] Slowly, a dynamic field of breathing is built up, a collective space of experience, from which differing experiences and sensations can be processed individually. People react in different ways. Some might breathe loudly, scream or move heavily. Others may go deep inside and seem far away from the outside world. (Walch, 2006: 6, 7)Like in the previous two methods described, Forum Theatre and Constellation Work, alsoHolotropic Breathwork works with the whole bodily system in order to achieve a shift in theoverall (sensory) perception. In the rendering provided by Sylvester Walch, a breathingsession can be divided into several phases which are helped, guided and indicated by the typeof music used: In the first part of a breathing session, music with fast rhythms, such as drum music is used to support breathing. Thereafter dramatic pieces from the area of ethnic, classical or movie soundtrack are used to facilitate breakthroughs. In the last third, integrating, slow or spiritual music is played. Music helps movement, dynamics, creativity and calmness. (Walch, 2006: 7) 178
  • 179. Similar to the cathartic moment described in the theatre method, the process duringHolotropic Breathwork often increases in intensity as it progresses. Indeed, Stanislav Grofsometimes describes this process as pneumocatharsis (1988: 170ff.), as a process leading to abreathing-induced build-up of energies which afterwards is released in a cathartic momentdissolving tensions and blockages: The intensity of the experiences gradually increases until it reaches a culmination point, where most people who have dealt with some painful issues feel a sense of resolution or even a breakthrough. (Grof and Grof, 1990: 260)The breathing process induces physical responses which can range from intense bodilymovements and tremors until sounds, screams, coughing and vomiting (Grof, 1988: 173). Theultimate effect on this level is a form of abreaction in which the body releases hithertoblocked energy. If necessary, this process can be stimulated and guided by focused bodywork, where the therapist encourages certain postures in the participant or applies physicalpressure to intensify and subsequently release tension (Grof, 1988: 194ff.). Simultaneous to those immediate physical reactions - and intrinsically connected tothem - Holotropic Breathwork also leads to the above mentioned nonordinary states ofconsciousness. In Holotropic Breathwork the breathing and music serve to lower the cognitivebarriers and foster a de-centering of the rational mind. The rational “control and censorship”is thus “strongly decreased” (Walch, 2006: 7) and the ensuing altered and shifted perceptioncan in turn inspire a transforming moment of becoming. The exact manifestation such anonordinary state of consciousness will take and which course the process will run can varygreatly and many different forms occur. They range from out-of-body-experiences toimpressions relating to the own biological birth, as well as death and rebirth scenes are alsoknown to often contain a rich mythological textuality drawn from different cultures and 179
  • 180. epochs (Grof, 1988: 37ff). Researchers and theorists in this field have spent considerableefforts categorizing those different known effects (Grof, 1988; Grof and Bennett 1993;Walch, 2002) drawing up an experiential cartography and attempting to place those findingsinto a theoretical framework. However, the exact nature of those experiences during the nonordinary state ofconsciousness is a heavily contested subject with severe difference and often bitterly foughtarguments. Supporters and practitioners of Holotropic (and generally Transpersonal) methodstend to accredit those experiences with an existence beyond the individual consciousness andoften try to establish the veracity of what has been experienced. A recurring motive here is thenarration of incidents of nonordinary states of consciousness in which the practitioner gainedknowledge which he/she did not possess previously and which afterwards was found out to befactually correct. Opponents use the opposite strategy, trying to contest this veracity todiscredit either the scientificity and/or use value of the method or even the personal integrityand credibility of the practitioners. While the one side believes itself to be at the cutting edgeof a dawning new development, the other side dismisses the whole practice as just the newestversion of a New Age fad. Yet while for this context it might be necessary to at least point out the existence ofthis debate as it signifies that the practice introduced here is heavily contested, I at the sametime believe that either side of the argument is not of particular relevance for what is at stakehere. I would argue that for the question of the transformation of the self it is of no greaterimportance whether the experiences correspond objectively to outside occurrences. What is of relevance for an Art of the Transpersonal Self is that a person practicingthose techniques is willing to engage to such a degree that, as described in chapter 2.3., the 180
  • 181. combination of a spiritual practice with a certain knowledge of the self leads to a reboundeffect in which a certain, local, contingent and weak notion of truth about the self can arise.This moment of such a weak truth is, in the understanding proposed here, simultaneously theopening moment of a transformation. Whether this experienced truth is verifiable according to outside standards ofscientificity is of no relevance and it might even be argued that it is exactly the adherence tothose veracity standards of a strong (Apollonian) truth which tends to make such atransformation difficult or impossible to experience in the first place. It is in this sense that Iam quite content to bracket the question of whether those experiences can be proven in the“outside” world. What is necessary from the point of view of an Art of the Transpersonal Self is theactive engagement with the chosen practice, suspending judgment and letting oneself be ledtowards the transrational moment of becoming. Belief is not required in this instant but, justlike judgment, also disbelief needs to be suspended towards an attitude of taking the singlemoment for what it is, relinquishing rational control, letting the process unfold and a possiblevector of transformation manifest itself. This becoming could firstly consist in an integrativetwisting of elements and experiences of the past (a Verwindung of painful, hurting ortraumatic experiences) and, secondly, also lead to a changed awareness of theaesthetic/energetic relationality of one’s existence. The former would coincide more with atherapeutic use of Breathwork and the latter correspond rather to an opening transformation. In the altered state of consciousness it becomes possible to work through differentexperiences, engage with traumatic events not easily accessible in the ordinary state ofconsciousness and thus spark and inspire healing processes. However, what is of equal 181
  • 182. importance for an Art of the Self is that those practices can not just be used to deal with- andheal oneself from the negative elements of life, but also as an open, affirmative practice of theself. Rather than seeing them just as tools to help the injured and traumatized life, theyadditionally can also function as the affirmative practice for an active life. It is needless to saythat the former can not always be clearly distinguished from the latter. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is equally important to stress the fact that thosepractices can not only be used in case something feels wrong or hurts, in case one isstruggling with a problem or traumatized, but that they can be just as useful as transformativepractices celebrating a life in becoming. It is especially this aspect which an Art of the Selfalso wants to emphasize – without therefore overlooking the other, healing, element. AlsoStanislav Grof seems to point at such a possibility when he asserts: Some powerful transforming experiences might not have any specific content at all. They consist of a sequence of intense build-up of emotions or physical tensions and subsequent deep release and relaxation. (Grof, 1988: 167)The Art of the Transpersonal Self knows no overall goal or final/ultimate stage to beachieved, but it is an open, life-long practice. Becoming is not geared at becoming-something-specific after which the process would stop, it does not follow an overall hierarchically (andneither a holarchically) preordained path towards perfection. This does not precludeintegrating healing elements into an Art of the Transpersonal Self – indeed at times andcertain junctures in life those may be the driving impetus behind its practice, as for examplewhen one is faced with painful experiences, existential problems, conflicts and traumas.Nevertheless, in an Art of the Transpersonal Self those moments are recognized as inevitableelements of human existence which can function as vectors for transformation and thus arenot denied, but on the contrary, acknowledged, affirmed and worked through. And, once those 182
  • 183. hurtful moments fade, this does not imply that the practice of the self and the becoming stopbut just that the practice shifts towards different aspects of becoming and so on, withoutceasing. Holotropic Breathwork can so be used at times as a therapeutic tool but just as well asan ongoing, affirmative, method of transformation. It very consciously draws on olderbreathing techniques deriving from the mystic or spiritual field as it can be found in manycultural traditions all around the world: Zahlreiche therapeutische und spirituelle Richtungen haben auf den Atem als Vehikel der persönlichen Reifung und des spirituellen Wachstums gesetzt. Das beschleunigte Atmen als natürliches Mittel der Bewusstseinserweiterung, der Reinigung und der Steigerung des spirituellen Energieflusses ist in den Pranayama-Übungen des Yoga, im Dikhr der Sufis, in Ritualen des Schamanismus und in Zeremonien urchristlicher Gemeinden eingesetzt worden. (Walch, 2002: 21) 58Holotropic Breathwork so integrates older and diverse currents and traditions into aframework adapted to fit the current, (post)modern Western world. The method derivedthereof is a practice which combines several further insights for the Art of the TranspersonalSelf. Like both practices of Forum Theatre and Constellation Work described previously,Holotropic Breathwork is practiced mainly in a group. The distinction between breather andsitter here insofar corresponds to the distinction in Constellation Work between the participantdoing his/her constellation and the representatives. In both settings we have somebody (or58 “Numerous therapeutic and spiritual directions have emphasized the breath as vehicle for personal maturationand spiritual growth. Accelerated breathing as natural means of enlarging the consciousness, of purification andfor enhancing the spiritual flow of energy have been used in the Pranayama-practices of Yoga, in the Dikhr ofSufism, the rituals of Shamanism and the ceremonies of early Christian communities.” Translation by NorbertKoppensteiner. 183
  • 184. several people) who seem to occupy a primary experiencing role and others who appear to bein a supportive position. However, just like in Constellation Work, it is also stressed here thatthe supportive position can be just as conducive to a transformative experience. Thisexperience will necessary be different than the one experienced in the other position, yet thisis not a statement in the sense of “better” or “worse”. This difference is necessarily a result ofa different aesthetic/energetic position within the overall setting. A session in Holotropic Breathwork - like a constellation in Constellation Work - isaccompanied by a facilitator or therapist. Just like in the latter method, emphasis is placed notexclusively on rational knowledge, but on the facilitator’s role in supporting the process,“without judgment” and sometimes even “without intellectual understanding” (Grof and Grof,1990: 262). In both methods the role of this therapist differs sharply from the conventionalpicture of the psychoanalyst who rationally diagnoses a patient and produces therapies forcures by virtue of his expert knowledge. In both Holotropic Breathwork and ConstellationWork, the therapist is somebody who also lets her/himself be guided by the process and isthus a facilitator - somebody who facilitates, makes more facile, helps and guides – and thus apartner in a process rather than an expert imparting rational, diagnostic and therapeuticverdicts. All three methods mentioned here make use of a collective space andaesthetic/energetic sphere in order to achieve a transformation of the self. In all three practiceswe witness the characteristic dis-bordering (entgrenzend) effect described in Chapter Four asco-emergence in severality. What the breathing method shows even more clearly than theother two is that the transformative effect consists in a becoming of the self which can nolonger be clearly separated from the becoming of the Other. 184
  • 185. Although this becoming is perceived as an intensely private experience, HolotropicBreathwork takes place in an aesthetic/energetic sphere whose connecting features areenhanced and highlighted through the build up of energy and channeled in part also throughthe setting, how it evolves, and through music. This becoming so transcends the idea of“collective” and “individual” and is thus transpersonal. In the aesthetic/energetic sphere theinside and outside are intricately connected and blurred. In the end both inside and outside canno longer be separated as all subjectivation takes place within the aesthetic/energetic flow. 6.3.1. The Self as Form – Emptiness and FullnessThere is one peculiar quality and possible effect of Holotropic Breathwork which in certainaspects is unlike the transformations described so far in the previous two sections. Throughthe rapid breathing and the hyperventilation, enhanced and guided by the music, anaesthetic/energetic setting is built which enables an altered state of consciousness no longerdetermined by rational cognition. In this state, an attunement to the relationality of existencecan lead to a transfiguring and fulfilling moment of letting go with quite intriguingconsequences: Nur wenn wir konsequent alles loslassen, was wir haben und wer wir sind, dann können wir eine Ahnung davon bekommen, was das Selbst ist. (Walch, 2002: 145)59Let us explore this crucial facet in more detail: Only in the act of letting go what we havebecome so far, can we experience the transpersonality of the aesthetic/energetic relationalitywe share in our co-emergence. With that we approach again the Foucauldian assertion that theself is a form (see also Chapter Four). The self can so be understood as a form established bythe manifold aesthetic/energetic lines converging on us and transformed by us. The self is the59 “Only if we consistently let go of everything we have and are, can we attain a premonition for what the selfis.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 185
  • 186. form emerging in severality through and within the aesthetic/energetic flow. It is constantlytransforming energy – and transformed by energy - along aesthetic lines. This self - as form - is thus simultaneously empty (devoid of a singular essence whichwould make it separate and distinguish it from the aesthetic/energetic flow) and full (filledwith the aesthetic/energetic current of life of which it forms part). It is thus in the moment ofrealization of the emptiness of the self, that the door is opened towards a perception of thefullness of life of which we are part. From the experience of emptiness springs realization ofthe unity and fullness of life! Once more cross-culturally recurring to a different tradition, this insight is portrayed inthe image of the Zen Circle. Using this method the Zen-practitioner, while moving throughthe degrees of the circle, increasingly realizes the interchangeability of emptiness and fullnessand, transcending ego-limitations, ultimately returns back to the zero degree of the “ordinaryworld” but now perceives it “without value judgments” (Grof and Grof, 1990: 137). At thispoint even the circle itself disappears as “just a teaching device”. Using a slightly differentterminology, Sylvester Walch describes how such an experience can be realized duringHolotropic Breathwork: Durch die Hyperventilation erzeugt der individuelle Atem freie Valenzen für die Verbindung mit dem kosmischen Atem durch die Auflösung der selbstgeschaffenen Begrenzung60. (Walch, 2002: 61)Induced through such a practice, those free valences can lead to an experience of the fullnessof the aesthetic/energetic sphere. What normally keeps us from this realization is theinsistence on our own separated individuality. The continued individuation, necessary though60 “Through hyperventilation the individual breath generates free valences towards a connection with the cosmicbreath through the dissolution of self-created boundaries.” Translation by Norbert Koppensteiner. 186
  • 187. it may be throughout large parts of our existence, therefore needs to be faded (verwunden) atone point for an experiential understanding of the basic relationality of life in theaesthetic/energetic to be attained. The weakening of those individual boundaries leads to astate in which one perceives both: either the weak form of the self, or the energetic unity oflife. The ensuing logical paradox between the “both” and the “either...or” can rationally not bedissolved.The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (1993b) casts this simultaneous experience ofemptiness and fullness as an act of remembrance. In this act of remembrance the selfactualizes the clean slate which it had been in the early stages of its life, before individuationand cognition left their memory impression and before subjectivation began. In thisunderstanding, before prior to being inscribed with experiences and memories, the self is likean empty sheet, free of marks. The first human experience so is an experience of emptiness. Itis in this light, Sloterdijk reasons, that one can understand the Mystics’ insistence that theexperience of nothingness or emptiness is in fact the most natural state and starting point forall other experiences. Sloterdijk points to the many mystic traditions which speak of such anact of remembering emptiness/fullness and he recounts the fundamental difficulty ofelaborating on something which is before language61: Wenn die paradoxe Erinnerung an nichts in einem Gehirn Platz greift, dann geht diese zuständlich vor den Informationsspeicher zurück, in dem die Welt in sprach- und bildgebundenen Vorstellungen mitsamt den typischen informierenden Szenen aufbewahrt wird. Der „Inhalt“ der Erinnerung ist in diesem Fall ein Zustand, der sich als wacher und vorstellungsfreier Aufenthalt in einem klaren Medium oder einem Nichts beschreiben ließe, mit dem Zusatz, dass dieses Nichts, aus der „Position“ des In-Seins, ebenso gut als Fülle aufgefasst werden kann. Aber weil der Zustand selbst61 Also Ken Wilber arrives at a similar conclusion regarding such an ineffable experience. See Wilber, 2001: 51f. 187
  • 188. ein vorsprachlicher ist, kann ihn die Frage, ob Leere oder Fülle seine wahre Natur besser charakterisiert, nicht berühren.62 (Sloterdijk, 1993b: 68, 69) And here the circle closes: The practices of an Art of the Transpersonal Self couldencourage such a fading of individuality – understood as letting go of the subjective past andits remembered being. If, through such a series of practices, the self lets its individuality fadeit so could attain an awareness of this emptiness. Realizing this emptiness simultaneouslyopens the possibility for an affirmation of all life beyond the own individuality. In thisexperience of emptiness of the self the overflowing fullness of all life can be found which - inits aesthetic/energetic relationality - stretches in all dimensions. The dis-individuatingrealization could open the door to a dawning awareness of the aesthetic/energetic connectivitywhich points towards a basic unity of all (human) life. We will take this crucial point into the next chapter where it will be explored in greaterdetail. Since this opening will once more lead to reflections of a theoretical nature, we willfirst conclude this chapter of practices, before addressing the implications of this assertion ofa unity of life we have arrived at here. 6.4. ConclusionThis chapter was dedicated to exploring concrete practices of an Art of the Self. Choosingthree practices can necessarily only give a glimpse and cursory introduction to what is a vast62 “Whenever the paradoxical memory of nothingness takes hold in a brain, it recurs to a state before theinformation memory in which the world has been stored in linguistic and pictorial imaginations and in which it isbeing kept together with the typical informatory scenes. In this case the “content” of this memory is a state ofbeing which can be understood as the awake and conception-less residence in a clear medium or nothingness,with the addition that, from the position of being-within, this nothingness could just as well be described asfullness. But because this state itself is one which precedes language it cannot be touched by the questionwhether its true nature would better be characterized by emptiness or fullness.” Translation by NorbertKoppensteiner 188
  • 189. field of traditions, techniques and methods which have been applied for millennia all over theworld. An in-depth analysis and comparison of all possible practices, however, is certainlybeyond the scope of this work and would probably fill libraries. Our three practices – ForumTheater, Systemic Constellation Work and Holotropic Breathwork - were chosen because theyhave arisen from a Western postmodern way of life or have successfully been adapted to it –but of course many more techniques could be imagined and are currently in use. Those threepractices constitute concrete examples and contributions towards an Art of the TranspersonalSelf. Within the current study this Art thus gains a specific applicability and becomes tangible. What this chapter served to show is that an Art of the Self may have its roots in theAncient Mediterranean (and, indeed, draw on many other cultures as well), but that it is by nomeans a dead practice without relevance today. It is, on the contrary, from the successfuladaptation, changing and twisting of older practices that a new, cutting edge and inspiringunderstanding of techniques of living is currently emerging. It may thus no longer be acontradiction to give shamanistic practices, (spiritual) transformations of the self and differentapproaches to healing a place within the technological life of the twenty first century. In a fourth transposition the theoretical frame derived from the previous transpositionswas so wed to a series of practical methods which themselves are the result of atransdisciplinary and cross-cultural encounter. In line with Rosi Braidotti’s (2006: 5),suggestion of a transposition as “intertextual, cross-boundary or transversal transfer,” thischapter combined (continental) European postmodern theory with practices and technologiesstemming from Brazilian theater and, in two further cases, therapeutic practices significantlyinfluenced by Eastern (Indian) traditions. The result is a combination which does notcompletely ascribe to either one of those traditions and strands, but much rather weaves them 189
  • 190. together into a “discontinuous but harmonious pattern” which, according to Braidotti (2006:5), is the hallmark of transpositions. The Art of the Transpersonal Self was so sketched as a set of practices that can, on theone hand, lead to a continued, active, subjectivation as individuation and thereby lend itself tothe project of giving one’s life a certain form. Within this understanding one roughly candifferentiate between the use of an Art of the Self for therapeutic purposes and the moregeneral purpose of subjectivation as open form of transformation. It is probably in the frameof a therapeutic use that the connection of transformation to conflict arises especially clear.However this process of transformation may, on the other hand, also reach a point at whichthe transformation leads to a fading of individuality. Although this second effect derives fromthe first it still makes sense to distinguish the two, because the second seems to suggest aninversion of the first, or at least a radicalization of certain tendencies of fading which (asintegration) are also present in the first. Neither of those forms of use implies that these practices should not be takenseriously, they require quite some discipline and exercise and are neither intended norusefully practicable just for fun. It does, however, mean that those practices can become partof everyday life, can be exercised permanently and continuously; which indeed is alsonecessary for an Art of the Transpersonal Self. Leaving the quite extraordinary experience ofemptiness for a moment aside, it can be postulated that in such practices being is continuouslytranscended in the movement of new becomings. Besides presenting the practical applicability and possible workings of such practicesfor an Art of the Self, we were able to further complete our understanding of the self andsubjectivation in this chapter. The intricate connectivity and relationality of the self became 190
  • 191. clearer in the practices portrayed in the first two examples. On the third example, HolotropicBreathwork, we were able to re-take and substantiate some Foucauldian and Deleuzian topicsfrom the last chapter. It so became possible to highlight and give additional meaning to theidea of the self as form. With Forum Theater and Systemic Constellation Work we explored different venues ofactive subjectivation, while through our last example we started to properly approach thepossibility of a fading of individuality. All three examples served to substantiate the idea of atranspersonal self that co-emerges in severality and is amenable to the active practice of apermanent transformational becoming. Underlying this concrete severality we encountered aconnectivity which spreads in all directions and forms an aesthetic/energetic sphere of life. In this chapter we were led to an insight about the basic unity of life and the possibilityof experiencing such a unity through a letting go of the autonomous, singular individuality. Inother words, from the de-individualizing experience of emptiness there springs the awarenessof the fullness of life. The implications of this insight remain yet to be examined and this willbe the guiding thread for the next chapter. The aesthetic and energetic form, that concrete relationality that makes us human, alsoimplies the relation one has with one self. Not in order to find out about one’s perennial truthbut to effect a transformation. On that path, certain techniques might prove helpful at differentjunctions. Foucault (1988a; 1990b; 2005) described some of them recurring to the ancients.Other might be, from today’s perspective, the art of Systemic Constellations, Forum Theater,and Breathwork. The Transpersonal Art of the Self can bloom in this instant, as the energeticand aesthetic shaping of the relation one has with oneself and with one’s surroundings. 191
  • 192. 7. An Impersonal God – Where Theory Fades If we affirm one single moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence. For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this event – and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed. (Nietzsche, 1968: 532, 533)With the analysis of three practices in the last chapter a critical juncture has been reached,leading to a new opening and insight. In the flow within the aesthetic and energetic sphere weencounter something that is connecting the self to possibly all other living beings, yet is at thesame time strangely local and contingent. If it holds true that the energetic does not lend itselfto abstraction, that it is the force which always only flows in concrete (aesthetically co-determined) relationality, then we seem to be at the threshold of an understanding that ismetaphysical yet local and personal. With Friedrich Nietzsche this study has begun, and itwas the very same author who so forcefully criticized the metaphysical assumptions on whichmodernity was built. In his writings the death of God has been heralded (1974) and thetwentieth century has subsequently taken heed of this call, deconstructing, criticizing andtrying to overcome metaphysics (Vattimo, 1997). Insofar as postmodernity was born out of the rejection of metaphysics (Lyotard, 1984),it has not succeeded in overcoming its heritage. However there is an important net benefit tobe accrued. Weaving its path through postmodern critiques, the metaphysics we currentlyseem to be approaching can no longer be the same as a hundred years ago, when Nietzsche setout on his criticism. Being aware of the violence that lurks in the metaphysics of a pureApollonian form, remaining skeptical about the (Christian) morality, the question still needsto be approached: If there is a continued possibility and necessity for a transformation of the 192
  • 193. self, if this transformation can neither be explained nor brought about by rational means and,finally, if at the limit point of this transformation there occurs an understanding of a basicconnectivity of life, then what kind of salvation can we still hope for? What experience oftranscendence is still possible today? 7.1. An Impersonal GodThroughout this study it has been argued that the Apollonian does not need to be rejectedwholesale. Rationality, as for example practiced in the postmodern virtue of critique (Butler,2000), has its place and its necessity. However, I have also put forth that rationality alonedoes not suffice for an affirmative life. Such an affirmation can not solely take place onApollonian grounds – neither deconstruction, rational cognition, nor the practice of critiqueby themselves lead to an affirmative life. Yet such an affirmation seems to be necessary, ifhuman existence is to remain meaningfully possible. I have tried to show that the continuousbecoming of human beings can only take place on the grounds of such an affirmation. I holdthat the good life can be realized only in a practice that is not purely critical. And indeed, it can be argued that also we Western, supposedly rational individuals,have always to a certain degree lived a practice of affirmation, ignoring what we knew to berationally true. Besides rationality, besides what we cognitively thought, we always have insome way affirmatively practiced the transformation of ourselves. Otherwise human existencewould not have remained possible. As Peter Sloterdijk (1987: 68ff.) points out, even nowadays, after knowing it forcenturies to be rationally wrong, most humans still have the feeling that the sun rises in the 193
  • 194. morning. The sunrise is affirmed, without thinking that it is, in fact, the earth that rises. TheCopernican worldview may have rationally displaced the Ptolemeian, but as Sloterdijk (1987)reminds us, Western human beings have always remained in part Ptolemeians – affirmingtheir experiences despite what they held to be rationally true. Michel Foucault and many others have shown us the importance of the practice ofcritique, the importance of thinking differently63. However this critique needs to be coupledwith an affirmative practice, if the task of transformation is to be turned into an active practiceof the self. And at this juncture another quality needs to be added to this practice oftransformation: The recognition of something beyond our rational knowledge and therecognition of the unbroken human need to be fulfilled or transfigured. It is this also therecognition of something beyond our cognitive grasp. In the Art of the Transpersonal Self this recognition plays itself out in the celebrationof the aesthetic/energetic basic unity of life beyond individuality and beyond the purerationalization of the autonomous subject. In the experience of this basic unity of lifesomething past our knowing is approached and affirmed, something that might be called theimmanent divine (Grof and Grof, 1990: 40) as the realization of a basic creative energeticconnectivity beyond all seeming boundaries. Indeed, many names could be given to this experience and it alternatively might be aswell understood as the experience of an impersonal (energetic) god - that from which lifesprings and which enables subjectivation through individuation and its transcendence. If theself is specific form within the aesthetic/energetic flow, then we are encountering thisimmanent divine within ourselves as well as everywhere surrounding us. Subjectivation is63 See also the discussion entitled (Post)modernity at the beginning of this work. 194
  • 195. then a specific constellation of the basic aesthetic/energetic current from which it can neitherbe separated nor distinguished and of which our lives become concrete expressions. In this sense it remains true - as Heidegger says - that “only a God can still save us”(1966: 11). Insofar as we crave the advent of a personal god who will become the active agentof our salvation and take this cumbersome burden of being saved from us, well, we may waitin vain. We have killed this personal god “beneath the weight of all that we have said”(Foucault, 1972: 211). This personalized god was the active agent who set down the moralcodes of conduct of “thou shalt” or “thou shalt not” for us to follow. It was this also the godseparated and distinct from us and to bask in whose grace worldly matters have to berenounced. If this god would be the only divine option available, then what would be left tohumanity, this orphaned multiplicity (Sloterdijk, 1993a: 50), is with Heidegger tonevertheless aspire to an affirmative practice of witnessing our own decline “in the face of theabsent god” (Heidegger, 1966: 11). Alternatively - in the reading proposed here - what remains possible is the perceptionof an impersonal, energetic, god. This impersonal force neither has left us nor as it is identicalwith the force of life. It is not an outside agent in whose eyes we have to pass muster and towhose grace we have to live up. On the contrary, it is the force which cannot be separatedfrom us, from whose grounds we could not stray even if we tried and whose expression weare – individually and collectively. It will not solve the question of our salvation for us, it willnot take us by the hand and lead us to deliverance, yet it is the impersonal force that keepsopen the possibility for us to affect our own salvation and transcendence – even if we cannotwill this transcendence to happen. This is the form of a continuing transcendence which mightfind its expression in certain moments of a peak experience or cosmic unity64 (be that in a64 The term peak experience originally derives from transpersonal psychology and was coined by AbrahamMaslow. Stanislav Grof likens it to both oceanic states and cosmic unity which he describes as follows: 195
  • 196. practice of meditation, love, sexuality or other) but that is mainly realized through aneveryday practice in which the divine and sacred are re-encountered. Following a Deleuzian vein, Rosi Braidotti (2002, 2006) thinks along similar lineswith the use she makes of the notion of zoe. Braidotti starts from a critique of the concept ofzoe as bare life in the form used by Giorgio Agamben (see chapter 4.2.). She contends thatthis idea of a bare life on whose excluded inclusion rests the full, political, human life (bios),fundamentally remains an argument out of the negative and at odds with an affirmative theoryand practice: This view is linked to Heidegger’s theory of Being as deriving its force from the annihilation of animal life. Agamben perpetuates the philosophical habit of taking mortality or finitude as the trans-historical horizon for discussions of ‘life’. The fixation on Thanatos – which Nietzsche criticized over a century ago – is still very present in critical debates today. (Braidotti, 2006: 39)In an almost psychoanalytic turn, Agamben’s zoe is that which is always already lost andabsent, it is life’s forever receding horizon. Against this concept of zoe as bare life, Braidotticonceptualizes her own understanding of zoe as the fullness of life, the potency (potentia)inherent in all beings. Zoe, in its positive plenitude, so is the “generative inhuman energy”(Braidotti, 2006: 270). Starting from Henri Bergson’s élan vital - as it was recast by GillesDeleuze (2006) - she thinks of zoe as an immanent transcendence which resists asacralization65 and yet forms the undercurrent of human becoming. Instead of that which is“Descriptions of cosmic unity are often filled with paradoxes that violate Aristotelian logic. [...] an experience ofcosmic unity might be “without content, yet embracing all there is.” Or we might feel that we are “without ego”at the same time that our consciousness has expanded to include the entire universe. We can perceive ourselvesas existing and yet not existing and see all material objects as being empty while emptiness itself appears filledwith form.” (Grof and Bennett, 1993: 39, 40)65 The notion of the sacred that is resisted here can concretely be understood as that which is to be sacrificed (thesacrificial as in bare life) and which derives its divinity from a being-forfeit and being absent whichsimultaneously enables the positive human life as built upon this sacrifice. This notion of the sacred so relates tothe Christian tradition of the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, sacrificed for the whole of humanity. For thediscussion further on it is important to keep this specific connotation in mind. 196
  • 197. always already absent and excluded (Agamben) and also against those who would turn it intoa metaphysical, abstract and outside substance, Braidotti’s zoe is always embodied. It isinseparably tied to the enfleshed subject in and through which it manifests. Zoe so is that which always is already present “the endless vitality of life ascontinuous becoming” (Braidotti, 2006: 41), the “affirmative power of life” and “vector oftransformation” (2006: 109). The love of zoe is thus the affirmative love of life in all itsmagnificence – in its exuberant, flowing, generative but also cruel and uncaring aspects. Thisnotion of zoe is beyond good and evil as it is a “fundamentally amoral force, the true nature ofwhich is best described in its relentless generative power” (Braidotti, 2006: 223). What has been described above as the simultaneous experience of emptiness (of theself as form) and fullness (of life) is here rendered by Braidotti as the Deleuzian becoming-imperceptible (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 232 ff.): The dawning awareness and experienceof the force of zoe which is simultaneously the Verwindung of individuality and ego-death: Becoming-imperceptible is the point of fusion between the self and his or her habitat, the cosmos as a whole. […] It is like the floodgates of creative forces that make it possible to be actually fully inserted into the hic et nunc defined as the present unfolding of potentials, but also of qualitative shifts within the subject. The paradoxical price to pay for this is the death of the ego understood as social identity, as the labels with which potestas has marked our embodied location. […] In this sense, Deleuze’s ‘becoming-imperceptible’ is Deleuze’s conceptual and affirmative answer to Foucault’s much celebrated and grossly misunderstood ‘death of the subject’. You have to die to the self in order to enter qualitatively finer processes of becoming. (Braidotti, 2006: 261) 197
  • 198. The “I” of the “ego” is not the proprietor of the generative power of life, it does not “own”this life. It is, at best, as Braidotti remarks, a time share (2006: 236). What is there to do forthe self is to live according to this generative power, to embrace its flowing pull towards newbecomings, and to give it a certain, temporal, shape. If there is meaning to be given to theFoucauldian undertaking of turning one’s life into a work of art, then I would suggest it mightbe found in one of the forms of a continuous practice which leads to the daily encounter andaffirmation of the divine understood as force of life in and through oneself and one’ssurroundings and thus to one’s own transcendence. 7.2. Affirming Life as Prerequisite for Experiencing the DivineAt this point a crucial array of questions and constructive concerns arises: Drawing onpostmodern philosophy, can the possibility of experiencing such an impersonal energetic godbe maintained? Is it possible to meaningfully use the concept of a god without having tocompletely revoke all of those rightful critiques starting with Nietzsche and without fallingback into the old metaphysical trap of strong thinking66? Are we not, with positing a divineprinciple, in fact making a step backwards into the realm of absolute metaphysics, closingdown possibilities of critique, spaces for difference opened only after long struggles? Stillreeling from the aftereffects of the iron-clad Christian morality, will we so be cast back yetagain into absolute formal principles? Here we can draw directly on Friedrich Nietzsche who, after heralding the death ofGod (1974: 181ff.), comes back to qualify his statement with a new possibility and a newquestion:66 On the pitfalls of metaphysics and strong thinking see also Vattimo 1997. 198
  • 199. At bottom, it is only the moral god that has been overcome. Does it make sense to conceive of a god “beyond good and evil”? (Nietzsche, 1968: 36)For Nietzsche, in order for the idea of such a god beyond good and evil to hold any meaning acertain basic attitude towards life is necessary. Far from denying this possibility, Nietzschegoes on to set down the prerequisite which has to be met for encountering such a god. What isrequired is that one holds an attitude which no longer judges any kind of experience as goodor bad, but that welcomes every turn of events in kind - no matter what it brings: Every basic character trait that is encountered at the bottom of every event, that finds expression in every event, would have to lead every individual who experienced it as his own basic character trait to welcome every moment of universal existence with a sense of triumph. The crucial point would be that one experienced this basic character trait in oneself as good, valuable – with pleasure. (Nietzsche, 1968: 36)The crucial point here is that the question whether such a god will be possible for us isdecided by ourselves and our own attitude and perception. Transcendence is not bestowed inthe form of divine grace as reward from the outside. This is no easy solution: only in auniversal celebration of existence in all its facets can such a god be experienced. WhatNietzsche asks for is to embrace everything that happens as the best possible option in thismoment, to celebrate every instant of life as being a part of oneself. What is meant is anaffirmation beyond good and evil which refrains from any moral judgment. This, it must benoted, is far from simple. Judgment is especially hard to renounce when one feels the victim,the oppressed, when one takes righteousness to be one’s only weapon. And yet, an active transformation of the self can only be had if one steps back from aclaim to absolute Truth – to right/wrong, good/evil. As we have already pointed out inprevious chapters, it is exactly such an attitude of non-judgment and acceptance which is not 199
  • 200. to be equaled to passivity. Quite the contrary, it is this attitude which enables the possibility tothink, act, and become differently. It is precisely this kind of stance that our Art of theTranspersonal Self also intends to foster and inspire. Here we reconnect with our Foucauldianfindings of chapter four where we postulated as one hallmark of such an Art of the Self that itacknowledges and embraces the aesthetic/energetic in all its forms – also in the “classical”Foucauldian understanding of power. What we have already pointed out previously can here be asserted once more withFriedrich Nietzsche: This impersonal divine principle can also express itself in a terrible sideand does not lend itself to the easy veneration as inherently good and benevolent! Also withNietzsche we here encounter the possibility of a divine principle, while additionally pointingto the necessity of suspending judgment as part of such a practice of the self. Thus, while weonce more re-open the possibility of encountering the divine, there is no absolute moralimperative or formalized code of conduct that derives thereof. This divine is, on the contrary,to be found in a practice of a transforming Verwindung of those strong moral categories. To ward off another possible misunderstanding: Such a celebration of life is no recipefor fatalism or passivity. It necessitates the perpetual active work of the self on itself and thealways risky acceptance of conflict as basic element of human life through whichtransformation-in-becoming can take place. It is no statement against acting in line with one’sown values – but those values can never be formalized, fixed and rigid, but always only localand open to perpetual re-evaluation.67 Accepting each moment as it occurs is no precept fornon-action. On the contrary, the possibility of working towards new becomings is only67 That this attitude may be difficult to practice is easily comprehensible when one takes into account that it alsoimplies a non-judgmental stance towards the perpetrators of all kinds of violence and atrocities. Some practicesof an Art of the Self – in our study especially the practice of Systemic Constellation - are set up in a way to fostersuch a non-judgmental presence. In his Vier Grundlagen der Aufstellungsarbeit (Four Pillars for the Work withConstellations at Albrecht Mahr also stresses this attitude of non-judgment. That this is adifficult and very often exacting and challenging process needs to be highlighted. However, in the sense of acontinued transformation of the self it can also be tremendously rewarding and enriching. 200
  • 201. possible on the basis of the acknowledgment of every moment of life, in the way it isconcretely perceived, as integral part of oneself. Beyond good and evil each moment of ourbecoming is therefore also neither arbitrary (coincidental) nor necessary (predetermined). As the energetic/aesthetic flow only exists in relationality, this impersonal god isfurthermore not identical with an outside force. God is not the Almighty Other lording overHis creation. The experience of the energetic as the experience of life is simultaneously theexperience of the self in both its emptiness and fullness. The perceiving self and thisenergetic, impersonal god are in the end one and the same and the perception of theaesthetic/energetic can so not be separated from the perceiving self. What might beencountered is something that is beyond our rational cognition but it is not a thing-in-itself oroutside essence which could be posited independent of our experience. To sum up this lastthought, neither is this impersonal god an active, willing, agent who reaches down to earthand makes us, nor is it separable from the self. This is what is meant when it has here beenidentified with life or the divine principle. 7.3. A Weak TranscendenceWith this divine or sacred principle, or aesthetic/energetic force of an impersonal god, we soare approaching metaphysics. Since it also has become clear that this metaphysics is not anovercoming of postmodernity through a new strong, absolute principle, it could be proposedthat this form of metaphysics might be understood in the sense of Gianni Vattimo (2006) asan ultra-metaphysics68 which, in the fading of individuality, also opens the fullness of the68 The German translation of Vattimo’s text (2006) by Hans-Martin Schönherr-Mann has kept the Nietzscheanconnotations by calling Vattimo’s concept an „Über-Metaphysik“. The English translation as “post-metaphysics”in the same volume unfortunately has lost this meaning and so suggests, in my opinion, a too easy approximationor integration into postmodernity. Therefore I decided to use the term ultra-metaphysics (derived from theSpanish translation in the same book as ultrametafísica) which first of all seems to me to be closer to the 201
  • 202. plane of transcendence towards a flow of the energetic as recognition of the divine. Thistranscendence then could be perceived as a weak form of transcendence which, on the onehand, corresponds to people’s needs for transfiguration, salvation and fulfillment while, on theother, posits this divine encounter as always experienced concretely and locally. It can not begrasped abstractly or clad into the formulas and codifications of a strong Truth but it can onlybe understood intuitively and experienced. Any form of expression of this experience occursalways within a concrete life-world to which it remains tied. The weak transcendence so takes place against this horizon of interpretation and cannot, without violence, be integrated into a universal frame of communication. Noproselytizing pull derives from this weak transcendence as it does not lay claim to a universalTruth which would be automatically communicable outside of its horizon of experience. Andyet it is metaphysical in the sense of a transcendental experience which cannot be rationalizedor analyzed and thus has to be taken as given. Hence it is a weak form because it cannot beuniversalized and knows about its own contingency and the situatedness of its experience. Yetit is transcendent as it posits the existence of a force beyond our knowing and description – aprinciple which is rationally impossible to know. It also needs to be stressed that in our interpretation it neither is a question of whetherthose divine experiences are absolutely or objectively real and or not. It is not a matter ofproving an experience absolutely real as opposed to it being just apparently real. From a weakstandpoint those experiences are perceived as real within the given horizon in which theyarise and hold true for a moment – they so are a weak truth. Whether that horizon can also bethat of science (whether that experience can be scientifically validated) is a different question.But also science in our context pertains to only a weak truth as science is understood,meaning Vattimo gives it and secondly (and most importantly) does no longer carry the reference back topostmodernity which, indeed, I believe it would no longer be a part of. 202
  • 203. following Nietzsche (1974), as gay science. Whether those experiences so hold true in thescientific sense of the word is only of remote interest as long as they hold some truth withinthe horizon in which they appear. The scientific horizon bestows only a certain kind ofvalidity and is no ultimate arbiter any more. In any case, arising as experiences of a concrete person, they intimately relate to thatperson her/himself and her/his concrete surroundings and partial others. For thetransformative, healing or changing effects this truth can have, the question of an overall truthand absolute reality are moot. For those experiences to have a transformative effect they donot need to be verified according to an abstract outer standard. The only thing necessary for apossibility of transformation to occur is that the experiencing person takes those experiencesfor whatever they are within that moment – true for a given situation, expressions of a certaininstant of becoming. While it is so necessary to suspend judgments (on strong truth/reality, ongood/evil) this experience does not ask for blind faith and neither to renounce critical facultiesand thinking. 7.4. A Parting of WaysAt this point of the discussion it becomes necessary to establish a critical distinction towardsthe role which Gianni Vattimo ascribes to hermeneutics69 for accessing the divine. From hishermeneutic approach, Vattimo (2006) argues that the weak truth is rhetorical70 and, followingHeidegger, that Being discloses itself in language71. In contrast to his view, in the proposed69 I understand hermeneutics as method of linguistic interpretation, following Vattimo’s assertion that theconstitutive characteristics of hermeneutics are “ontology and Sprachlichkeit, linguisticality” (Vattimo, 1997: 3).70 See also chapter two.71 See also the discussion of hermeneutics by Luca D’Isanto in his introduction to Vattimo’s Belief (1999). 203
  • 204. Art of the Transpersonal Self, truth and being (becoming) are not just rhetorical and not justrevealed in discourse. In the present rendering, truth and being are mediated, communicated, and thuspartially co-constituted in discourse, but experience is always seen as carrying a non-discursive element. I thus agree with Vattimo in so far as experiences are always perceivedagainst a historically specific horizon in which they arise; however experiences carry a feltcomponent which escapes (discursive) expression within that horizon. Emotions, feelings,sensations are not equal to discourse and can only be mediated through discourse in theirApollonian qualities, thereby loosing the Dionysian element. In accordance with Vattimo it needs to be asserted that in this experience no thing-in-itself discloses itself as this experience is always mediated against a historically constructedhorizon (and could thus never be pure), but going beyond Vattimo I also stipulate that thisexperience in part escapes expression within that horizon. When Vattimo asserts – as LucaD’Isanto points out (1999: 8) – that the “postmodern subject” is only as an “interpreter” ofsigns and thus of a “chain of messages” which “consists in the historical-natural languagesthat make every experience of the world possible”, Vattimo is subsequently led to hold fast tothe Good Book for accessing the divine. It seems to be only in the constant, never-endinginterpretation of the scriptures that the divine announces itself. In my rendering this task ofaccumulation of knowledge and interpretation alone do not engender a transformation of theself. Vattimo, on the other hand, seeks to constantly re-interpret Christian inheritance andidentifies this inheritance once more with a text: I believe that one ought to speak of Christian inheritance in a much broader sense that would concern our culture in general, which has also become what it is because it has 204
  • 205. been ‘worked’ and forged in friendship by the Christian message, or more generally by the biblical revelation (Old and New Testament). (Vattimo, 1999: 33)Vattimo so arrives at the point in which truth is once more tied to an abstract form – the Bibleof the Old and New Testament in which “the long process of God’s education of humanity”reveals itself (Vattimo, 1999: 38). In the end, for Vattimo (1999: 60), salvation is bound to thetext. This study, while coinciding to a large degree with a weak proposal (truth as alwayscontingent and context bound, human life as taking place against a historically mediatedhorizon), moves towards an experiential field of understanding in which discourse only playsa co-constitutive role. It entails the recognition of experiences which remains beyonddescription and for which scriptures do not offer authoritative access to the divine. The first difference with Gianni Vattimo thus concerns the question of the roles ofinterpretation and experience. A second difference is that Vattimo in his work on Belief(1999) maintains the idea of a God as active agent, who chooses to limit himself in an act ofincarnation and kenosis in which he “empties himself” into Jesus Christ. Although startinglike Vattimo from a Nietzschean point of view, the interpretation established here differs fromalso in this second aspect. In Vattimo’s rendering humanity continues to live by the grace ofan active, outside, God who just chose to limit himself, while here an impersonal god wasportrayed, who is not an active outside agent but the flowing force of life which cannot beseparated from the experiencing subject. 205
  • 206. 7.5. Spaces for EncountersAt this point Western philosophy re-encounters parts of its own spiritual past as well as apossible future in the engagement with other traditions of thought. Similar processes,practices and experiences have been described in many spiritual traditions over themillennia72. Many of them contain descriptions of peak experiences in which individuality istranscended and leading towards a realization of the relationality and unity of life. MichelFoucault here provides an outlook for us, summing up the current state of affairs and retakingthat Nietzschean theme of a philosophy of the future: There is no philosopher who marks out this period. For it is the end of the era of Western philosophy. Thus, if a philosophy of the future exists, it must be born outside of Europe or equally born in consequence of meetings and impacts between Europe and non-Europe. (Foucault, 1999: 113)In this light it should also be remembered that already Nietzsche (1968: 124, 125) situatedAncient Greece at the halfway point between Rome and India, and that the precedent for anEastern influence on Western philosophy already has been established at the very cradle ofthe Western tradition. Michel Foucault analyzed the historical practices of the self in AncientGreece in great detail, acknowledging the influence of other (Eastern) traditions of thought onthe Greek modalities of working on the self. Today, we seem to be at another juncture wherethe dis-oriented73 Western tradition might make use (and be in need) of practices stemmingfrom somewhere else, adapting, changing and reconfiguring them to fit our current frameworkif the Apollonian Hegemony is to be lifted and Apollo once more related to Dionysius.Perhaps it is time that the ban on thinking and acting in that direction which has been in placein the West since after the Sixties be lifted. Postmodernity as critique of rationality by rational72 See also the Section Cross-Cultural Roots in the Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, editedby Scotton, Chinen and Battista, 1996.73 The idea of dis-orientation, understood as lack of Orient, was introduced by Salman Rushdie in his novel TheGround beneath her Feet and is here quoted after Dietrich, 2006a: 2. 206
  • 207. means has its validity (Dietrich, 2006c: 26). However, since postmodernity remains tied to theApollonian forms, going beyond it implies, from the perspective proposed here, a renewedengagement with that which cannot be theorized which entails as we have just seen, a form ofweak transcendence. Engaging with different non-European traditions we find that the experience of suchan impersonal god as the divine force of which oneself is part is also encountered in manyphilosophical systems and spiritual practices. In the Indian Upanishads this realization ofdivinity is expressed as the Tat Tvam Asi, the “Thou Art That” or “you are the Godhead”(Grof and Bennett, 1993: 164). What we encountered already earlier in our discussion of theState of the Art with Wolfgang Schirmacher’s ethics of compassion as it is derived out of abasic unity of life beyond individuality, we re-encounter here with Stanislav Grof. Grofreminds us of the many different expressions which are used for this realization of unitywhich, in the end, nevertheless remains beyond words: The ultimate creative principle has been known by many names – Brahman in Hinduism, Dharmakaya in Mahayana Buddhism, the Tao in Taoism, Pneuma in Christian mysticism, Allah in Sufism, and Kether in the Kabbalah. The basic message in the mystical traditions has been that not only can we connect with the creative principle but each of us, in a sense, is the creative principle. (Grof and Bennett, 1993: 163, 164)In this vein it might be worth exploring in which space the Western philosophers employedhere and those conceptualizations meet. For some of those philosophers, like Michel Foucaultwho spent time in a Zen Buddhist temple, such a connection is also autobiographicallyconfirmable (Foucault, 1999: 110). The Foucauldian idea of a self as form instead ofsubstance and the concept of a perpetual transformation as becoming coincides to a striking 207
  • 208. amount with the Zen Buddhist assertion that the self is formed in interaction with the world,thus giving the illusion of a substance where there is really only a form shaped in a series ofencounters: Buddhists believe that change and movement are characteristic of existence. Everything is in change or flux. The idea of a fixed or permanent ego or self is perceived as an illusion that is created in an attempt to cope with the ever-flowing flux of reality. (Scotton, 1996b: 115)In this line of thinking it might perhaps also be more than a mere coincidence that a formerpriest, Ivan Illich, is said to have sparked Foucault’s interest in the technologies of the self(Carrette, 1999: 4). Even more, Foucault’s thought has also been referred to as “worldlymysticism” (Bernauer, 1990: 178) while simultaneously mystic forms of healing andtransformation, as they can be found cross-culturally, have been called a form of “technologyof the sacred” and “art of transcendence” (Walsh, 1996: 97). This brings us to a second argument: Just as it would be a misinterpretation to see allof Buddhism as a world-rejecting retreat into narcissism, it would also be misplaced to thinkof the Art of the Transpersonal Self as geared towards a renunciation of self and world infavor of the mystic unity. Much to the contrary, what an Art of the Self is occupied with is thequestion of how to live one’s life, how to give one’s daily existence a certain shape and stylewithout recurring to a universal code of conduct. An Art of the Self is neither a form ofescapism nor of world-rejecting introspective individualism. As I have showed throughout this work, a postmodern interpretation of Foucault’sthinking might thus not necessarily remain the only possible one and both his and FriedrichNietzsche’s thoughts might be turned into vectors leading to a renewed coupling and mutual 208
  • 209. impregnation of traditions. In transpersonal psychology, from whose realm some of thepractices previously described hail, such a coupling of different strands of thought anddistinct cosmovisions was already successfully attempted some time ago (Scotton, Chinen andBattista, 1996). Holotropic Breathwork and Constellation Work are some of the visibleresults. The question remains, whether philosophy will dare to do the same, even at the risk ofre-approaching some of those categories that were so rightfully criticized over the pastdecades. What we have sketched so far is but the first step towards a space where traditions ofWestern philosophy might re-encounter non-Western traditions leading towards a philosophythat is simultaneously a practice and a form of spirituality and, thus, acknowledges fortransrational experiences. Michel Foucault once pointed out that there are times “when the question of knowingif one can think differently than one thinks, and perceive differently than one sees, areabsolutely necessary if one is to go on looking and reflecting at all” (Foucault, 1988a: 8). It isin line with this inquisitiveness of finding out to what degree it is possible to think differentlyin order to become differently that this study borrows heavily from practices taken fromdifferent fields. In this endeavor this study has sought to test in how far those practices can beinterpreted with certain thinkers considered postmodern, to sound out in how far it is possibleto go with those thinkers beyond postmodernity and to what extent they can accompany us inthe concrete application of those practices towards the point where theory fades. 209
  • 210. 7.6. ConclusionStarting from the point of departure of a unity of life this chapter first identified thisexperience of unity as an experience of the divine. This force of life could also be renderedwith in the form of Rosi Braidotti’s understanding of zoe as generative energy or, as theexperience of an impersonal god, which we secondly were able to distinguish from thepersonal god and strong foundations of metaphysical thinking. The plane of transcendence, fourthly, opens up once more as weak transcendence asan experience of a divine principle which cannot be known but is yet local and alwaysemergent against a concrete horizon. With Friedrich Nietzsche we fifthly asserted thenecessity of an affirmation of life beyond good and evil as necessary precondition forexperiencing such an impersonal god. Sixthly we parted ways with Gianni Vattimo whoconsequently thinks postmodernity until its limit point and steps beyond, but afterwards fallsback into a Christian hermeneutics of the Bible. Against his Christian philosophy I so pose anaffirmative, practical, philosophy whose rallying point is not the ever new interpretation of atext but the daily experience of life in all its forms. At this point Western philosophy, seventhly, re-encounters other extra-Europeantraditions as well as parts of its own spiritual history. The necessity for such an encounterwas, seventhly, asserted if the Apollonian hegemony is to be lifted. Finally, with our fifth transposition, the circle closes in this chapter. At the verybeginnings of this study there stood Apollo and Dionysius - two divinities, two gods, ofancient Greece. Spanning the bridge through several transpositions into and out ofpostmodernity we have now once more arrived at the realm of the divine: at an aesthetic andenergetic impersonal god. Starting with Nietzsche’s critique of strong, metaphysical, thinking 210
  • 211. we so approximate a weak transcendence after strong metaphysics. Having traveled the routevia postmodernity it needs to be emphasized that this conclusion entails no rejection ofpostmodern thinking, whose modes of critique and investigation continue to serve manyeminently important purposes. We have, however, against the grain of mainstreampostmodern thought, established a new opening into the transcendental in which a twistedpostmodern tradition also finds its place. 211
  • 212. 8. Beyond the Apollonian Hegemony In sum it is question of searching for another kind of critical philosophy. Not a critical philosophy that seeks to determine the conditions and the limits of our possible knowledge of the object, but a critical philosophy that seeks the conditions and the indefinite possibilities of transforming the subject, of transforming ourselves. (Michel Foucault, quoted after O’Leary, 2002: 139)This dissertation began with a short historical assessment read from the perspective of twoprinciples: the Apollonian and Dionysian. Ever since Platonic times the abstract forms of thetruth, morals, the institutionalizations of church and state and with them Apollo have reignedsupreme in the West. Through a long series of shift and changes this formalistic pull hasbecome ever stronger in the West and nowadays the Apollonian sun burns bright on theEuropean and North American horizons. It also shines its radiant beams down on many otherplaces in the world, wherever those European inventions have been spread, often with fire andsword. Shadows have, indeed, become rare in the past centuries when everything Dionysianwas cast under suspicion. Repressing the Dionysian in oneself it had to be externalized,fought and purged in the name of the Cross, progress, enlightenment and civilization allaround the world. However, since the energy of life can be suppressed neither completely norpermanently, since the Other can never be totally vanquished or assimilated, the struggle isnever finished but always continues in different guises, different times and places. Striving forsecurity so becomes a quest for a world in which the Other has become extinct and the ownrepressed Dionysian parts do not return – an impossible undertaking; and highly violent.Coming out of a tradition of a thinking of difference and doubt, the aim of the Art of theTranspersonal Self is to contribute to a renewed balance between the Apollonian andDionysian, by opening spaces and proposing practices, fostering transformations of the self 212
  • 213. which acknowledge both elements and also appreciate the daily art of existence that can bethe outcome of such a re-linking. It is also highly untimely from the point of view of thedifferent international arenas and actors, as it asks for an affirmative stance of suspendingjudgment as opposed to providing certainty and security. Finally it is practiced on the small, local or communal level. What has here beentermed Art of the Transpersonal Self is in the end the result of series of transpositions,adaptations and modifications of practices that in part are thousands of years old and hail fromdifferent places and times. They derive from the hybrid space where spirituality, philosophy,(transpersonal) psychology and different cosmovisions might encounter and mutually enrichone another, without ever becoming the same. The Art of the Self sketched in this work is butone way of conceiving this undertaking, it is a hybrid derived to fit a certain horizon ofexperience. Hopefully it might also be adaptable to other horizons in which it then will nolonger be the same. However, for this smallness it is still no less serious. On the contrary, this insistence on