Highlights of Vitvan's teachings (1), V.1.3, August, 1998
The event of the taking off-line of Vitvan's writings (except for his work on Good and Evil) prompted me to write this article about some essential points in Vitvan's system of thought and practice. After all, a lot of useful information about the place of the human being in the cosmic order has vanished into thin air, as far as the internet community is concerned.
Note, however, that all the Vitvan material can be purchased at the School of the Natural Order through the order form at www.sno.org.
Where to start expounding Vitvan's teachings?
Let's begin with a short note on his life. Vitvan's real name was Ralph Moriarty deBit, a French Hugenot family name. He worked as a forest ranger for a considerable part of his life and became gradually aware of his role to play as a teacher of the Gnosis, the perennial Wisdom-Tradition. He met his Indian teacher, Mozumdar, at a certain stage in his life and became instructed in the Ageless Wisdom through his help. It was Mozumdar who granted him the name 'Vitvan' (Sankrit for 'one who knows').
Portrait of VitvanVitvan was a healer during a certain period of his life, but he decided to concentrate on developing and teaching a modern Gnosis. He succeeded in elaborating a system of thought into a form that is adapted to the mentality and orientation of the current Western mindset.
He founded the School of the Natural Order (SNO) which still exists to this day (at Baker, Nevada). The scope of his work is amazingly broad and the famous Golden Dawn teacher Israel Regardie had the highest respect for him and his accomplishments.
More biographical data about Vitvan can be found in Richard Satriano's book "Vitvan, an American Master", available at SNO.
Note, that I may point out some links to other Wisdom-tradition teachings where I think it is proper to do so. After all, the Wisdom-tradition (Hermetic tradition) is basically one in it's essence and all these teachings are strongly correlated, though they may be phrased in different terms and concepts. I consider it good practice to establish some of these correlations. You will find many more such connecting points when you start to study these materials and especially so, when you put the basic ideas (such as the natural urge to share your love, understanding and material resources) into practice. Experience will prove the usefulness of the Hermetic teachings about life.
Basically, Vitvan's teachings are very simple in their essence, but very effective in helping one to understand the basic features of life as a natural process of development and mastery of forces and energies that compose Mother Nature. Needless to say, out of sheer ignorance and reification of symbols and words, over-intellectualization, two-thousand years of suppression of basic knowledge of life facts, etc., the natural flow of energy has become blocked to a large degree, has become canalized into expressions of what some dare to call 'civilization', while in reality over-emphasis on material comfort, over-emphasis on sex, sex-appeal, money and powergames, has almost completely distorted the minds of large portions of the entire human race! How far has the human race got astray from its real purpose and destiny!
Vitvan's basic theme is that we live in a dynamic energy-world, out of which eventuate 'things', 'bodies', configurations of units of energy. The single quotes that are put around the words 'things' and bodies' are part of a so-called semantic device, an aid in helping one to remember that in reality there are no 'things', 'bodies', etc., but only energies and configurations of units of energy. Vitvan would repeat this statement endlessly, hammering in these basic facts of life. Modern physicists confirm this point of view (remember Einstein's equation E=mc2 and modern field physics). Vitvan was very charmed, both from field physics and general semantics. This latter science is concerned with the use of language in daily life and with effecting a new orientation towards life: a non-Aristotelian multi-valued orientation that will help one to rise above simple dualistic schemes such as 'good' and 'bad' , 'heaven' or 'hell' type of orientation which belong to the past Aristotelian age. Vitvan also opposed any notion of 'metaphysics', because he argued that there is not anything 'beyond' physics, or, mother nature. Don't take these words to mean that there is nothing 'spiritual' in nature or in the human being. Rather, Vitvan meant to express the fact that subtle energies are a most natural phenomenon, intrinsic to nature and not somewhere 'out-there', far away, almost unreachable, etc. You will understand more about this point of view when you start to study Vitvan's writings more closely.
I will say a little bit more on general semantics in relation to the Gnosis shortly. BTW, if you think you see a lot of "etc.'s" appearing in the text, then you're certainly right.
This is another semantic device (Yes, you've guessed it: "the etc. device"). Basically this is to remind us that there may be many factors, events, relations, etc., left out of the considerations, inferences, etc. one is talking about, engaged in, discussing.
The etc. device is an important one as it helps one to remain extensional "in order to make allowances for other known, or as yet unknown, similar elements." (editor's note in Vitvan's booklet "Perceptive Insight").
Vitvan foresaw a change of mentality, a change in orientation towards life taking place in the world (in a time where the vast majority of people was still very much stuck in notions of a rather static, 'material' world. It has become clear that change is ever going faster today, competition is tough, granted, but new ideas about how to live one's life in a more sustainable way are also gradually seeping through in the minds of people.
Vitvan and the science of general semantics
The following section will by necessity rather sketchy, since the subject of general semantics (g.s.) is a vast one. Vitvan's interest in g.s. started when one of his sons showed him a book from Korzybski, the founder of the science of general semantics. His son thought it a good joke to tease his father with this entirely new approach to language and consciousness, since his father was until then a rather conventional teacher of the Ageless Wisdom (which of course was formulated in a rather metaphysical language until Vitvan reformulated the ancient Gnosis into his New Cycle Gnosis). Vitvan's interest was immediately roused and he got into contact with Korzybski with whom he had many vivid discussions about this new way of looking at the use of language in daily life. Korzybski granted Vitvan the right to use his major diagram, the so-called 'structural differential' which I will discuss in this section.
But first we will have a look at one of the basic diagrams, occurring in many of Vitvan's books: the camera diagram. See fig. 1.
Fig.1. The camera diagram.
The figure in front of the camera represents a 'thing', a 'body', which in reality is an energy system (configuration of units of energy) from which we receive stimuli.
These stimuli result in the formation of an image in the mind (psyche) appearing 'substantive', 'massive', 'somewhere-out-there'. This process can be called the first order of abstraction (as Vitvan calls it in his description of the perceptive process). To abstract means 'to draw from', drawing/receiving stimuli in this case, but it can also mean 'drawing inferences'. It is important to understand that the image is not identical with the energy-configuration,
the image is not the 'thing-in-itself' (German: Ding an Sich). To identify these two means to confuse orders of abstraction (in this case a first order abstraction with what we could call a zero order abstraction (the energy-configuration).
Many people confuse the images they have abstracted from the energy-configurations ('objects', 'bodies', etc.) with the 'thing' itself. To do so is to live in ignorance about the dynamic nature of life's processes. Physicists now know that there is no such thing as a 'static world'. All is ever changing, transforming, eternally becoming. Furthermore, out of the infinite range of frequencies/energies only a small portion is registered and processed.
This means that by the very nature of the structure of the human nervous system only some bandwidths can be registered and that many realms of nature remain a closed book for us (as long as we haven't developed the faculties with which to penetrate into these realms). Something to ponder about! When you understand this, then there is no more room for dogmatism, absolutes, etc. This surely is an important fact to add to our educational programs!
A further step in the order of abstraction is made when one assigns a label (word) to the image appearing substantive. We do this many times a day (unconsciously). "A tree", "my body", "my wife", "my husband", etc. In general semantics this labeling is called: the second order of abstracting.
General semantics is very much about becoming aware of one's use of symbols (words) as unconscious use of language can enormously harm others and oneself as I will illustrate further on. Abstracting is a natural process, but there are many pitfalls in which people can get stuck. One of the most common errors that humans are prone to is to identify the word, the label, with that for which the label stands (the image - the first order abstraction, or, the 'thing itself', the dynamic energy configuration - the zero order abstraction). Korzybski said: 'The map is not the territory', what effectively expresses what g.s is about.
Examples of confusion of orders of abstraction:
1a. An excellent example of confusion of labels with that for which a label stands is supplied by the piece of paper that we commonly call 'money'. Have you ever thought about that? A piece of paper for which people are ready to kill each other, exhaust themselves in working eighteen hours a day. Let's analyze this a little bit. What is money? A convention, an international agreement on value of services, products, etc. symbolized by a piece of paper (a carrier of information). Nothing more, nothing less. It has no intrinsic value in itself. The point is, that people have confused this symbol with 'the thing itself', i.e. human talents, natural resources, etc. Money has become an end in itself instead of being only a means to accomplish things. Vitvan calls this: the reification of a symbol.
Moreover, on the one hand money is kept scarce, creating the illusion of the sheer inevitability of mass unemployment, the necessity of endless budget-cuts, scarcity, etc., while on the other hand there is huge flow of money through the electronic networks based to a large degree on mere speculation. A truely sick system!
If you doubt what I say here, study the emergence of LETSystems (see my link to www. newciv.org on my homepage) all over the world where local forms of currencies are introduced to enable people to interact, trade, do services for each other, etc., in ways that are almost impossible to do in the currently degenerated money-system. I could go on at length about this topic, but I'll restrain myself a bit. Suffice to say that the current economic system is based for a large part on myths, leading to the gross enrichment of a small elite on the one hand and a gross impoverishment of large groups on the other hand. The role of raising interest (and speculation!) in misusing the symbol (money) of exchange of services & goods should be researched also, as this is a vital point in 'making money', I think.
Some research seems to have been done in this direction by Margrit Kennedy. She has written the book 'Interest and inflation free money', with subtitle: 'How to create an exchange medium that works for everybody', published by Jon Carpenter, The Spendlove center
Charlbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3PQ, England.
A little additional info:
The problem with compound interest lies in its exponential growth nature which is totally different from natural growth patterns (see figure below). Kennedy remarks that in the physical realm the exponential growth pattern usually occurs where there is sickness or death. A good example is cancer. Her conclusion is: Interest in fact acts like cancer in our social structure.
Margrit Kennedy pointedly remarks that she has never seen 'money making money'. Someone else than yourself has to work in order to realize the interest on the money you've put on your bank. Not only that, every year more persons have to work ever more hours in order to 'make money' for the ones that put their money on the typical commercial banks. This follows from the nature of compound interest. Kennedy shows that we all pay interest because it is included in every price we pay for a product, service, etc. "On the average we pay about 50% capital costs in the prices of our goods and services"
This means that we would have at least double the income that we have now, or, we would only have to work half of the time to keep the same standard of living! About 80%-90% of us work considerable part of our time to enrich the top 10%-20%
To the one standing in clear perception of these facts this is a totally unacceptable practice! S/he will never contribute to the enslavement/empoverishment of people which is a result of charging interest (a confusion of orders of abstraction: human talents/energy with the value (money) given to the use of these talents).
Are there any alternatives? Yes, there are banks that don't charge or pay interest on money. They've found a way of making a living without creating a win/lose situation. I'm sure there are such banks in Denmark (JAK-banks) and Switzerland, and it seems there will be one in the Netherlands too (contact address: Aktie Strohalm, Website Aktie Strohalm)
I don't know about the USA and other countries. You may Email me if you have some information about that.
It might be well to remember that charging interest is discouraged in the Christian bible and explicitly forbidden in the islamic Koran!
Other economic systems exist that don't suffer from the flaws of the current dominant one, notably LETSystems and other local economies. In these systems there is no need for obsession with economic growth as there is in the current dominant system.
For those that want to invest in projects, at least let them choose for ethical investment projects. Such investment opportunities are being offered by some banks nowadays.
Ok, that's only a short exposť of the strange case of compound interest. Kennedy adds many more important notes, such as the necessity for inflation in order for governments to overcome the worst problems of increasing debt. It's a kind of (hidden) taxation.
1b. Many of the above remarks are applicable on the issue of land ownership and speculation on land. It has caused endless suffering, especially in so-called third-world countries. Kennedy deals with this issue too, offering viable solutions. You will understand readily that the whole idea of 'owning' land is another confusion in the minds of people. Mother earth gives freely to us, and 'owning' her is a weird notion indeed. How on earth can people think that way? The indian chief Seattle certainly knew better. Read his speech 'How can one sell the air', published by The Book Publishing Company, Summertown, TN 38483, USA.
It seems that we, the so-called 'civilized' people, deserve the label 'primitive', instead of the old indians..
2. Many people confuse the image they have of a loved one with the person himself/herself. If they have an image of a lovely, perfectly (to their wishes) adapted partner and identify this image with the character of their partner, they are bound to get disappointed. Suddenly their partner isn't that lovely anymore. S/he behaves differently than expected. What has happened is that these people have projected their image of their partner (loved one) on their partner, confusing orders of abstraction (first order, the image, with zero order, the 'real thing', their partner's autonomous identity or pattern).
This fact about human tendencies to project their images unto others is another must for inclusion in our educational programs! This extends also to the attempts to mold children or adolescents into a pattern (occupation, behaviour, etc.) that isn't their own. I described this in my article theosophy basics, part two and I can refer you also to part one of that series where the fourth jewel, the unique characteristic of each being, is expounded. The basic principle here is to help the young one to develop, to express, its innate qualities, talents, etc., by whatever means appropriate.
3.The misuse of the 'is' of identity.
Korzybski was of the opinion that the use of the verb 'is' in semantic constructions such as 'That person is a crook', 'He is a communist', 'He is a liberal', 'She is a lazy person', etc. should be abandoned altogether. Such a labeling has caused endless suffering, as you can imagine when you recall the McCarthy period of persecution of those labeled 'communists', often totally out of thin air, without any basis whatsoever. By labeling a person a 'communist' that one's career was ended at once. Talking about the misuse of language!
The tendency to identify labels with the 'thing', 'person', etc. is a rather strong one and a dangerous one for that. It should be brought to everyone's attention how pernicious this can be and pointed out when done (most of the times people are totally unaware of doing such things, except in cases of the pernicious and deliberate misuse of language to manipulate people).
To paraphrase this section: humans have strong tendencies to identify themselves with the images they abstract from the dynamic configurations in the energy-world. Values are attributed to these images and a complete world of false-to-fact abstractions is built, hampering a free flow of creative energy, leading to what are called 'semantic blockages' (also leading to blockages in the nervous system, 'body', etc.).
The solution is to abstract consciously, about which Vitvan writes in his booklets 'Veil of Maya', 'Perceptive Insight' and 'Clear Thinking'.
Figure 2 shows the famous 'structural differential', a figure that is basic to the science of general semantics. It is another way of symbolizing the dynamical facts expressed in the camera diagram.
Fig.2 The structural differential (s.d.)
A short description of the structural differential: You can see the indicated orders of abstraction:
-waves/frequencies as zero order of abstraction
-images, feelings, etc. as first order abstraction
-labels, symbols, words as second order abstraction
-classification as third order -etc.
Not to all images are labels attached. We may be unconscious of these images. A notorious example would be the suppression/repression of life-energies, going subconscious, going underground but still playing an important role in one's functioning. Vitvan has incorporated this diagram, with the permission of Korzybski, in his Gnostic teachings. There is much more to say about the s.d. and the indicated orders of abstraction, but I'll leave it for now, only reiterating that conscious abstracting plays a very important part in Vitvan's teachings.
One more example will suffice: the attribution of human characteristics to 'God'. This is called anthropomorphic thinking, a tendency that is deep-rooted in (almost ) all of us, by the very nature of the limited expression, evolution, of the human thinking organ (the sixth sense, as the Buddha called it). To define 'God' is to confine 'Him' or 'Her' or 'It'. Vitvan was of the opinion that no referent (see further on) can be found for the word 'God'. That doesn't mean that 'God' doesn't exist, but rather that 'God' is beyond any description.
A related tendency is to 'objectify' 'things', such as a perception of a beautiful girl ('a nice thing'). The worship of cars is another example of confusing orders of abstraction. A car is just a 'piece of metal', a product with no intrinsic worth at all. Yet it conveys status (the more expensive the car, the better). This kind of objectifying means to give away power to others, since not to have such a 'valuable thing' is to be deprived of life's essentials (very funny, if it wasn't for the many unnecessary tragedies people experience in this respect - but, of course, this is all identification with symbols such as cars, careers, status, etc.).
Vitvan would say: "don't stop abstracting at the second order", go on to the higher levels for your own sanity.
As a conclusion to this first article about Vitvan's teachings and g.s. I'll present a simple diagram from "Perceptive Insight" which involves the concepts 'referent', 'reference' and 'label'.
"A" in diagram 3 is called a "referent". This means that something has been experienced (an impression has been established in one's consciousness, nervous system, etc. by one of the senses - touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing, and, the mind as sixth sense). "A" represents the 'thing', 'event', quality, relationship, function, behavior, etc. experienced. That what we experience is labeled 'referent'.
(free after Vitvan's booklet ~Perceptive Insight~).
"B" : from every experience a memory is retained, sometimes fresh, sometimes receded into the unconscious. Vitvan also points out the existence of the Egoic memory, "pertaining to the life of the continuation of individualized Self-awareness throughout the series of births and deaths in that palingenetic process called reincarnation." "For immediate purposes in respect to the correct use of words, exact thinking, proper evaluation, etc., we are dealing with memory in the ordinarily accepted meaning of the term. "B", therefore, is called the "reference" or "memory files."
"C" represents the word, sign, symbol, etc. given or ascribed to a definite or precise reference or referent. Here the natural order process is described. First an experience, the referent; second, the retained impression of the experience, the memory-reference; then, third, the word, sign or symbol used for the purpose of communication." (~Perceptive Insight~, p.26).
Vitvan strongly warns against the use of words for which no proper referent or reference has been established. The 'building up of words, labels, etc. for higher order abstractions' without referents is designated by him as the "Tower of Babel".
The point is that we form notions when we hear words, even when we don't have referents for these words. One's nervous system creates artificial referents in such cases, after repeated exposures to such words, creating false-to-fact-notions (this is a sort of device to save people from going nuts).
I can imagine many such situations, varying from a child being beaten up by its parents, internalizing the notion of being a 'bad child', to the attribution of intrinsic value to 'objects' or the attribution of authority to persons who hardly deserve such a status (when at all).
According to Vitvan the 'continual, habitual use of words which do not have referents is devastating, both individually and racially'.
He says: 'remember: there is no way to jump from "C" to "A" without proper indication. We must not use words for which we have no referents.'
This ends my first article on Vitvan's teachings. As you can see, Vitvan's description of general semantics is thoroughly practical and entirely free from a flight from reality. Instead, these teachings enable us to get to the core of 'things', and, especially, to the core of oneself as you will discover when you start to study his work seriously.
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