Rolf von Eckartsberg
In this article, we outline the steps necessary for the further development, integration, and bodily actualization of the ideas of existential phenomenology and human ecology. We assemble the evidence and introduce the cloud of witnesses to whom we are indebted and with whom we find ourselves in solidarity facing the task of redefining the aims of psychology as a human science and praxis serving the emancipation
We propose the new term Dasein-Synthesis for this integrative venture acknowledging our relatedness to psychoanalysis (Freud), psychosynthesis (Assagioli), daseins-analysis (Boss, Heidegger). We feel that we have to overcome one-dimensional thinking and even dialectical and dialogal ways in favor of a multidimensional and multi-logal approach. We need all the voices and active contributions of all the participants in concert, and political debate in the service of higher integration; and, by means of more realistic wrestling with the ultimate existential phenomenon and truth of man, we achieve: THE CREATION OF A WAY OF LIFE TOGETHER.
Existential phenomenology has overcome the uni-dimensional closure in psychology, which has viewed man as conditioned behavior. Emphasizing the importance of consciousness and the personal meaning of action, existential phenomenology is working out a more adequate formulation of man's self-world and self-other relationships. The danger inherent in this approach is solipsism and the disembodiment of the reflecting and perceiving function of man as the transcendental ego (Husserl). Heidegger's notion of Dasein and Merleau-Ponty's development of the phenomenon of body subject which can be seen as the way in which Dasein incarnates our world and other oriented ways of thinking in need of development in the direction of socio-cultural actualization.
Dialogal Existentialism (Buber, Marcel, Rosenstock-Huessy) develops the social and interpersonal dimensions of human existence and articulates the importance of speech and language. The danger here is what we might call: dialogal self-indulgence, the sharing of our being-whatever in uncritical mutual acceptance and openness (The Encounter Movement).
We think that the task is wider and that we could include the step of moving toward active personality- and society-building efforts, the creative transformation of the qualitative totality of everyday life. This means that we would have to balance opposites (dichotomous ways of thinking) and learn to integrate multidimensionality in a high intensity ecological manner through inspired fellowship.
This vision would have to permeate the whole of human existence in imagination, idea, word and deed: in full incarnate creativity. The aim of Dasein-Synthesis is to allow a person, with guidance and in cooperative dialogue and interaction, to become aware of the extent, quality, and meaning of his ongoing life in his unique circumstances and with the particular set of other people who constitute his active social life what we call the Existential Ensemble and to encourage the living out of one's insights.
It has been our understanding that deepened awareness of one's involvements in life and the resoluteness to incarnate one's understanding is necessary for fully developed ingenious living. It has also been our experience that all forms of counseling and therapy must fail unless they address themselves ultimately to the foundational questions of:
WHO AM I AND WHAT IS THE MEANING OF MY LIFE WITH OTHERS?
In a sense, all living of individuals, as well as of groups of people and even of nations, can be understood as an implicit question and manifest answer to the issue of the meaning of personal existence: I AM WHAT I DO. WE ARE WHAT WE DO TOGETHER.
Naturally there is much more involved, because human life is more than what is expressed through actions the most tangible dimension of existence. However, equally important is the meaning of one's actions human intentions expressed through the body. Life is presented to an individual in experience as conscious awareness and the question of the meaning of one's existence can only be answered through deepened awareness and understanding regarding the meaning of any act and fullest participation in it. We call this the systematic study of
experiaction. On the lived level and for the actor, experience-and-action form a unitary whole of which we can become aware.
I AM NOT ONLY WHAT I DO BUT ALSO WHAT I DREAM MYSELF TO BE.
Focusing on our awareness of experiaction, we also have to consider the more private and subtle aspects of personal existence: the realms of imagination, which are beckoning to become incarnated. We can become aware of what we dream, project, anticipate, remember, and ruminate about to fathom the perhaps invisible unifying strands of meaning that, together, are woven into the fabric of a person's life and into interpersonal and inter-corporeal relationships. These subtle aspects present themselves experiactionally as horizons of meaning, invisible presences that hover around the objects of attention as subtle pointers to the wider fields and con-
texts of relevant experiactions; they enrich my life and our lives together as we share them in dialogue.
We have chosen the Heideggerian term Dasein to indicate the nature of human living. It has the advantage over terms like person, psyche, or individual because it connotes better that human living is a complex and dynamic matrix of interrelationships rather than a skin-encapsulated body that we call the individual. Dasein is usually translated as a being-in-the-world-together-with-others. It is a dynamic, relational, and comprehensive concept. In our approach, we feel ourselves closely related to both Ludwig Binswanger Daseinsanalytik and Medard Boss Daseinsanalyse, two important Swiss psychotherapists who have used the concept of Dasein in characterizing their approach. We also feel close to another European psychotherapist: Victor Frankl Logotherapy, who has emphasized
the importance of the to meaning for human living and who considers the loss of meaning in a person's life as the root problem of much of contemporary suffering and a psychological as well as spiritual illness.
What is common to all three of these men is their explicit acknowledgement of and indebtedness to European existential philosophy. More specifically, this means that they all view man in a particular way as the unique creature in the world who is meaning-giving through his activities and at the same time concerned about the meaning of his own existence. In this they differentiate themselves sharply from all other approaches, particularly from those like psychoanalysis and behaviorism, which tend to reduce all human phenomena to naturally determined processes and, in so doing, either completely deny or at least devalue the uniquely human capacity of being concerned with the meaning of one's acts and existence.
This is not to deny the reality of Freud's insights into the language of desire. (Ricoeur)
Dasein-Synthesis shares the philosophical anthropological perspective of modern existential philosophy, but it also wants to integrate phenomenological insights of E. Husserl, M. Merleau-Ponty, E. Strauss, A. Gurwitsch, and A. Schutz regarding the structure and functioning of consciousness. In this, Dasein-Synthesis goes beyond Daseins analysis in that it concerns itself with all specific and multi-dimensionally integrated ways in which an individual finds himself experiacting his array of life-situations. Dasein-Synthesis is not focusing either on pathological experience exclusively, or on isolated phenomena such as dreams or the "psychopathology of everyday life in the tradition of Freud's psychoanalysis. Instead, Dasein-Synthesis regards every moment in a person's life as related to and expressive of the meaning of an individual's total existence. Dasein-Synthesis, therefore, emphasizes the domain of everyday life one of the main contributions of Husserlian phenomenology (Lebenswelt) its description and thoughtful amplification of implicit meaning-structures. The whole day-to-day, moment-to-moment experiaction of an individual becomes the concern of Dasein-Synthesis, including the higher human dimensions usually referred to as: spiritual, i.e., the qualities of the esthetic, moral, and religious. In this emphasis, Dasein-Synthesis is indebted to Psychosynthesis, created by Assagioli, which is an essentially intergrative approach emphasizing the development of unique and higher self-hood in the life of the spirit.
In his work, Assagioli seems to have integrated the insights of C. G. Jung the principle of individuation and the concept of the collective unconscious (G. Allport) idiographic psychology and the concept of becoming (A. Maslow) peak experience and the psychology of being. Assagioli's key notions are the higher self and the higher unconscious, as they are expressed and fathomed through guided imaging activity.
Dasein-Synthesis also feels itself indebted to certain Eastern traditions, as represented by A. Watts and the writings of Gurdjieff, Lama Govinda, Meher Baba, Krishnamurti, and Sri Aurobindo. What is common to all these approaches is the concern for the psychological and spiritual growth of the unique individual in the course of his life and in relationship to a higher religious sphere.
Although Dasein-Synthesis is indebted to all of these points of view, it also focuses on the historical and socio-cultural situation of the individual and tries to help the person become aware of the way in which his culture shapes both his actions and experiences: his experiactions. In this we draw on the work of A. Schutz, P. Berger, M. Natanson, R. Laing, W. Reich, N. O. Brown, H. Marcuse, I. Illich, and others who have given us a conceptual framework and thoroughgoing critique regarding the social construction of reality. To grow as unique, responsible, and aware individuals, we have to become aware of the multiple determinations of socialization, which is part of our biography and heritage.
The critical emancipatory approach (Habermas, Radnitzki) offers a critique of contemporary institutional life and establishes an important nexus between knowledge and interest (ideology) within a neo-Marxist value-engaged framework. The work of Levinas, Buber, and Rosenstock-Huessy as dialogal existentialists is also value-engaged but based explicitly on our Judeo-Christian heritage.
Rosenstock-Huessy, in particular, has shown how the development of personal consciousness in the matrix of the mother-tongue (language generally) can be seen in its traditional dimension as the fruit of the historical–political struggles and institutional developments of Western Civilization by virtue of which we are all individually named creatures in history and responsible citizens in society. In its creative dimension and potential, personal consciousness, i.e., the way in which my own living is given to me as a seemingly unique experiactional manifold in interaction and inter--experience with others leads to the challenge and obligation to help recreate the way of life of a people by work and deed. Each person, Rosenstock-Huessy claims, has a voice if he uses it in the determination of his own and his people's destiny. Values are involved and every experi-act has a moral dimension to it. Dasein-Synthesis recognizes the importance to include the socio-historical contexts of experiaction in the full articulation of personal existence. Looked at from this enlarged frame of reference of the individual as a named creature, as value-committed, as a response-able citizen in society, as a participant in history, we begin to see the central phenomenon of concern, study, and experience of Dasein-Synthesis to be: THE PERSON, AS DASEIN, IS A HISTORICAL
AND A COCREATIVE PARTICIPANT IN A WAY OF LIFE.
This is no less than the biographical person history dialectic for the study of which Sartre has developed an approach, which he calls the progressive-regressive-method. Dasein-Synthesis develops a theory, a way of study and a guided praxis to help a person to bring about the transformation of his own way of life if he so chooses, as a result of free discourse and appeal amongst equals as contrasted to manipulation of all varieties. The aim of self-transformation is the basis of many forms of personal-and group sensitivity training of the Esalen type, which enjoy wide popularity today.
Although we are sympathetic to these efforts as opening-up strategies, we feel basically that they are too fractionated and short-range. They have the quality and structure of a vacation from everyday life, whereas lasting personal change has to include the transformation of the very way of the everyday life of the individual himself. We also feel that human intimacy and freedom can never be engineered or achieved by means of manipulation. An underlying pre-reflective experience of harmony, sense of community, common values, inspired fellowship, and shared sensitivity for style must precede all systematic efforts to arrive at a deepened understanding and more spontaneous participation. Where this experience is lacking, it could and should be created. Only in the context of a common life together over time, of all ages and all varieties of people and skills, as a commitment to a shared vision of a new way of life does it make sense to work out difficulties and problems together. For therapy and with persons who experience psychological difficulties in living, the problem also is: The way of Life. How can we help a client to become aware of the full variety of the ecology of life styles as the context in which how his own way of living is limited and distorted? When the way of life of a whole urban society or a social class becomes sick, suffering from socio-genic and culture-genic illnesses, then the whole social group has to find new ways.
Esalen as the prototype of a Spiritual Spa and Experiential University designed to restore people to a more fulfilling presence to reality and to each other, signifies this need and trend toward: A THERAPY FOR THE HEALTHY.
Initially, shared explorations through group work can be very useful and they can be directed toward all aspects of living from tuning-in to bodily functioning and movements, to ways of imagining, perceiving, feeling, thinking, evaluating, articulating a philosophy of life, the personal structure of belief, and the creation of a shared rhythm for a meaningful way of life.We have to concern ourselves with the whole spectrum and interplay of personal and group-life manifestations, and cannot single out one dimension as being more significant than the others. Using a house holding perspective we can see that all aspects of personal living, from moment to moment and from year to year, contribute to the ecology of the total way of life and hence they must all be integrated and questioned as to their underlying meaning. Together they make up my repertory of life-situations through which my living takes place and shape.
Dasein-Synthesis explicitly acknowledges that the private sphere of life as opposed to the public social domain offers the greatest degree of freedom for creative self-world transformation. This is the domain where the individual and his voluntarily chosen intimate group the existential ensemble can explore aesthetic possibilities of design in house-decor and artifact choice and collection, in the cooperative and co-creative building up of a personally styled aesthetic dwelling place. Particularly in our life today there are almost no limits set on the way we furnish our intimate surroundings, nor on the materials we use in reading, listening, watching, and talking, nor in the way we dress and appear in public. We live in an era of unprecedented freedom of choice within the private sphere. There are many imagining mediation and actualization possibilities open and waiting to be realized. However, this takes active training for sensitive and subtle aesthetic perception and for the development of the ability to design from within the available skills of the participants(lebenswelt-skills). Dasein-Synthesis feels itself closely attuned to the traditions in the fine-arts, literature, cultural history, music, and nature meditation (walks, hikes, horticulture, crafts) as training ground for the development of taste, of aesthetic sensibility with awareness of what we might call, A POETIC INDWELLING (Heidegger).
Particularly the realms of creative imagination, in conjunction with the meditative exploration of myth, ancient rites, metaphors, and symbols, lend themselves to explicit personal and dialogal procedures, which we are developing inspired by Assagioli's Psychosynthesis.
Dasein-Synthesis also emphasizes the imaginative and experiactional exploration of concepts, which are seen as for unfolding processes.
In line with this approach, theories as constellations of interrelated concepts and processes can be imaginatively explored as the circuitry of thinking and maps of experiactional realities (phenomena) can be developed that help bridge the widely-spread discrepancy, if not to say irreconcilable dichotomy between the conceptual and experiactional levels of human awareness.
Dasein-Synthesis recognizes that it is shortsighted to focus our attention exclusively on the individual or the intimacy of the private existential ensemble. Much, if not most, of our life is spent in public settings and public roles and, hence, is socially organized. This is true for the material realms of our technological environment, which has great effect on the ecology of our experiactions, on our -ratios (McLuhan), our images (Boorstein, Boulding) and on our havings, doings, and beings generally. Through socialization, we have internalized our culture and our heritage. We are the beneficiaries and spokesmen, as well as victims of our linguistic tradition, until and unless we become spokesmen and founders of our own way of life in our own right.
Dasein-Synthesis recognizes, therefore, the temporal organization of our life as an important dimension and a source for creative freedom. Our rhythms and calendars give the beat and point out the direction for our shared social and individual life. Rosenstock-Huessy, in particular, has demonstrated the importance of the calendrical rhythm for the creation and maintenance of shared ways of life, and the significance of the calendar, of celebration and rites for the nurturance of solidarity among a people. We refer to these value-dimensions lived out in rituals as the ecology of the spirit. It manifests in the balancing of the life of work, of leisure, and of celebration, personally, in terms of family and kinship, as well as in terms of one's network of friends, of one's direction-giving cloud-of-witnesses who have testified to the same spirit before us: what we refer to as the voluntary association of our existential ensemble. Dasein-Synthesis stresses the importance and freedom of individuals and groups of cooperating and co-creating persons to evolve their rituals together and to celebrate these rites as communal calendrical events, commemorations and reaffirmations of shared direction-giving inspirations.
There is also a non-cyclical evolutionary calendar the history of the successful ways of life of our human race which we have to take into account because we are all its heirs and carry its experiaction-potentials in the very flesh of our body as readiness to respond and move. We can characterize this as the historical succession and yet also simultaneous coexistence of three phases of: Ways of Life. We call these the NOMADIC, the RURAL, and the URBAN ways of life, which, all together, are now in a phase of incipient global integration. These three styles of organized experiaction respectively emphasize different human potentials, i.e., body, hands, head; the mythical, the practical, the rational; wilderness-camp, agriculture-village, media networks cities; trail path, roadway, superhighway. We are all heirs to these ways of life and styles of consciousness and in need of integrating them through balanced and rhythmic time and activity-budgeting in our contemporary life contexts, wherever we may live.
From their original isolated context of ethic diversity and embeddedness in regional landscapes these unique ways-of-life communities (cultures) have evolved into a global network solidified and intermixed through worldwide technological production and commerce. This threatens to wipe out the way of life differences that form the creative matrix for synergistic cooperation and integration. In America of the 1970s, we have the greatest and most diversified melting pot situation ever and the modernizing influence of fractionation has proceeded to the point of uprooted atomized individualism. This maximal situation of individual freedom to experiment with livingis also, and at the same time, a situation of highly precarious and unstable social organization in ever growing danger of disintegration.
(Berger: The Homeless Mind; Roszak: Where the Wasteland Ends; Rosenstock Huessy: The Christian Future).
Rampant and precipitous growth of modern consciousness in the domains of technical reason has lead to the withering and suppression of the realms of imagination and inspiration, of creativity (Berdyaev: The Meaning of the Creative Act) and higher religious experience. Religion gives rise to the interpersonal powers of faith, hope, love, and service which are the building forces par excellence. The last mentioned are also the creating forces in that their reality and appeal empassions the person to respond with the courage of direction giving-power in the search for deeper fulfillment together as co-creative participants in a way of life community. This could be accomplished with commitment to values through a vision. We may use I. Illich's formulation for this:
THE QUEST FOR A CONVIVIAL SOCIETY THROUGH COOPERATIVE SYNERGIZING OF DIFFERENCE.
This quest is entrusted to each person and to each generation. We are to create our way of life together anew each time. The political and socio ethical form that this bequest takes has to be full commitment to the free, co-creative, democratic, and difference respecting life of dialogue among equals. Everybody has a voice that he must be encouraged to express and he must be listened to seriously and with openness. As our guiding imperative for placing our trust in dialogal appeal and struggle, we recommend Rosenstock Huessy's response to the rational individualism of Descartes (cogito ergo sum I think, therefore I am):
RESPONDEO ETSI MUTABOR I ACT EVEN THOUGH
I WILL BE CHANGED BY IT.
Although Dasein Synthesis can be used to help individuals with particular psychological problems, it is basically an approach to further and deepen the meaning of one's existence in the direction of spiritual growth and incarnation, which to us seems to be a universal aspiration of all people. It is thus an approach that is suited to help develop an attitude of becoming and an appreciation for a for-ever open ended life of growth, toward which individuals and groups can aspire. We need a psychology of genius to fathom and bring out man's fullest potential.
A tentative goal becomes visible at the horizon of possibilities:
THE DEMOCRACY OF GENIUS
Dasein-Synthesis, in its broad scope, is based on an ecological point of view that stresses the harmonious and mutually beneficial interrelatedness of all aspects of living and is concerned with the problems of context and embeddedness without which the individual is doomed to isolation and solipsism. As individuals and voluntary spontaneous groupings of men living together, we have to learn to see ourselves as part of an interdependent functioning whole, ultimately as responsible world citizens, engaged together in the creative undertaking of shaping our lives and situations in such a way that the fullest potential (genius) of every individual can be released and find its integration in the dynamic qualitative totality of the community of all people in their differences. With Chardin, Rosenstock Huessy, and Berdyaev, we believe that human evolution and growth with responsibility is continuous and forever developing toward higher forms of synergetic participation on all levels for individuals, as well as spontaneous groupings of people what we have called the existential ensemble united through common and shared values, as a way of life together.
This article constitutes the condensed introductory chapter of a book by the same title that was in preparation for publication by the author in the early 1970s. The article first appeared in April 1974 as a class handout for a graduate class in Social Psychology at Duquesne University. The author was inspired by his wife Elsa's interest in Assagioli's work on psychosynthesis, and originally this article appeared with Elsa's name listed as co-author (in much the same way that all songs by either John Lennon or Paul McCartney, while they were members of The Beatles, bore the team signature (Lennon/McCartney.) Rolf wanted to create his own synthesis of Assagioli's work as viewed through the filtering influence of his wife Elsa, as well as through Heidegger, Boss, and even Freud. And he wanted this new approach to human science to be accessible to others both existentially and interpersonally as a shared experience. His original co-signing of the article with both his and Elsa's name was thus in keeping with his spirit of humility and togetherness.
For the purpose of the current publication, Elsa preferred that Rolf be named as sole author, as a kind of post-humus tribute to his unique vision.
In this essay, von Eckartsberg develops his idea of an Existential Ensemble (referring to the interpersonal circuits that constitute each of our 'inner circles' and wider networks of social relations). The working draft that appears here was never revised by the author, but retains its freshness of vision and occasionally, includes raw formulations that we prefer to present as is for the reader to accept as a work in progress. This article was found by the Editor among Rolf's voluminous manuscripts and memorabilia, shown to him by Elsa on a recent visit to their country house in Western Pennsylvania. We wish to express our deep gratitude to Elsa for her generosity in allowing us access to Rolf's early manuscripts, and to give
permission for this publication of one of Rolf's classics. She was indeed his muse.
The Humanistic Psychologist, 36:9-18, 2008
Copyright © Taylor Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0887-3267 print/1547-3333 online
Correspondence should be sent to Elsa von Eckartsberg: email@example.com
Scott Churchill at Dallas University, and former student of Rolf's at Duquesne University, just recently published this early paper of Rolf von Eckartsberg found in the von Eckartsberg ARCHIVES in 2008. Rolf-Tonio von Eckartsberg, Rolf's son, was kind enough to forward to me a copy of the published paper.