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Is the Buzzword Intentionality a throwback to the 1880s or something new?

10.16.06; Vol. IV No. 2  Journal of Nonlocality and Remote Mental Interactions, OpEd article.


Iona Miller, 10/2006

Doctrine of Intentionality

Jung (1961) said, "To this day God is the name by which I designate all things which cross my willful path violently and recklessly; all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions and change the course of life for better or worse.

There are several subcultures whose worldviews embrace psi phenomena as Reality, or react as if they do. They range through governments to tribal people to new agers and neo-pagans to leading-edge researchers. Even the most skeptical scientist can be compartmentalized or even superstitious in his or her subjective thinking at times.

To conduct sound reseach, we must catch ourselves in the act of trying to verify our own preconceptions, a “perception Lab.”  This is an intrisic problem of armchair scientists who are long on theory and short on experimentation. We have to pierce beyond the perceptual artifact to solid postulates, testable hypotheses, rigorous protocols, and acurate statistical analysis.

But psi may prove to be more than just an artifact of primitive belief. Meta-narratives emerge as mythologizing, literature, psychology, sociology, religion or philosophy and cutting-edge science theories. The philosophy of science describes the dynamics of the scientific method.

Just because the subject of psi remains objectively problematical doesn’t mean we should stop systematic investigation, both scientifically and metaphysically. Babies don’t know how the world works so they constantly keep testing their environment, over and over. Are we just cosmic babies, feeling our way along, blindly? We are when it comes to proofs of mind over matter.

Quantum Chaos

We must be willing to question our own beliefs, comprehending the nature of subjectivity, experimenter bias, and that the mind deploys them as explanations for unknown agency, the blindspots of our consciousness. As ever, any postulate and hypothesis we can make depends on "which" physics it is based in, since there are several competing models: Copenhagen, Many-Worlds, Transactional, M-Theory, Plenum Physics, and a wide variety of idiosyncratic theories.

This simple fact makes quantum physics a domain of self-contained, mutually exclusive belief systems with their own presumed truths about the primordial nature of Reality. New Agers and armchair philosophers often confound and cobble them together into half-baked theories, sometimes with fantasies of “ascension”, aliens, and evolution.

“Fill in the blank” explanations can be outlandish, possible, plausible, probable, or match reality. The distinction between "true believers" and skeptics comes at the point of interpretation of phenomena, attributions of the source of events or perceptions, whether one's model is psibernetics, "magical thinking", external agents, nested hierarchies, holistic mysticism, or physicalism.

A theist will tend to attribute positive expectations of “agency” to God, a pagan to nature, a humanist to self, and an atheist to complex dynamics, or randomness,. A debunker is dismissive. A true skeptic remains open-minded, at home in the ambiguity.  And the loose use of the buzzword ‘intentionality’ leaves its agent or means totally ambiguous.

My Karma Ran Over My Dogma

This fashionable term for mind/matter interaction, "intentionality", fails as a shorthand to explain anything. You may as well call it karma, luck, or free will, or True Will, like the magicians do. Karma, whether you believe in it or not, at its root just means natural consequences of behavior.

Philosophical use of the term comes from Husserl, describing consciousness and the freedom to act. Husserl got the term from his teacher Franz Brentano.  As a creative act, capable of altering consciousness, it is mystical technology. It declares we are free and not helpless.  All perception is intentional, and we can use it change our inner world.

Does it really work to claim an intention to be intentional? Doesn’t intentionality always imply future tense rather than concrete results?  If the implication is an ‘intentional result’ isn’t that an acausal pretzel-twist in logic?  Jung tried to account for an acausal factor with his notion of synchronicity, but it is hardly testable, though most of us notice meaningful coicidences all the time.

Even in clinical research, to name psi expression intentionality doesn't make it so. In actual fact, most of us can’t form enough intentionality to drink the amount of water the body needs each day or eat healthy. The unresolved New Year’s resolution is a truism.

What makes us think we can be more consistently intentional in the extradimensional? It is a ‘fantasy of intentionality,’ a subjective hypothesis that human intervention at some subtle level perturbs outcomes in some desirable manner. It might express our insecurity in an uncertain, uncontrollable world more than a physics process.

People often mystify their experiences unnecessarily when they don't have a more plausible explanation. It is endlessly interesting to speculate on, but the notion that the all-knowing nonlocal field identity exerts some influence over environment and personality may simply be mythopoesis, myth-making.

In mythopoesis many cultural forms meet and form an organic fusion. Does the contemporary revival of myth with focus on our creative potential point to the possibility of a unified world, a neo-Utopian variant where we wish and make it so? Kant proposed that mind was creator of the world, making sense of chaos by imposing order on it. 

Is this really any different that the current new age fad for creating your own reality with the so-called secret of the law of attraction, which is then treated like a law of physics? Philosophers turn into armchair theorists. Later Whitehead proposed our most brilliant moment happen when perception and meaning converge. Phenomenology, too, came from the existential movement.

The real question is why do all cultures engage in mythopoeisis? Why are we harking back to philosophies of the 1880's?  Of course consciousness that is intentional can engage in creative acts.  So wat else is new? It proceeds by the intuition in every cognition, creative vision.  We can see more; become aware of more - even be in love with universe.  We can make ourselves see things in a cetain way and respond to them. Thus, phenomenology is a rudimentary way of developing mystical faculty.

Mythopoesis means change, re-mythologizing in times of cultural chaos. What I mean here is not a mis-spelling, but an amalgamation of mythopoesis or story-making and the autopoeitic self-organization of chaos theory; self-maintaining unity.

Autopoiesis describes the way living systems address and engage domains in which they operate. What human need do these mythically patterned meta-theories fill? Identification with the field body may just be another way of being attached to a belief to explain the Unknowable, to push the agent beyond the threshold of observability.

The Emperor’s New Intentionality

The notion "we create our own reality" is a relative truth.  From a Jungian point of view, any "intentionality" we could exert would be subject to the competing agendas of autonomous archetyal forces and dynamics that don't give a fig about your personality needs. Existentially, we are moved by more than a single metaphor, a single role, a singlular self-image.  Whatever you choose to call them, we harbor nested competing agendas, conscious and unconscious.

Even in chaos theory, many forget there are strange repellors as well as strange attractors. Resonance is another buzzword rapidly equalling the old standby of spiritualism, “vibrations”, which has found vindication in quantum and vacuum fluctuation But somehow, both in our lives and quantum mechanics, these extradimensional entanglements are unobservable, beyond physics, and therefore strictly speaking, metaphysical.

The ancients conceived of magic working through focus and will.  Now a diffuse holistic awareness is preferred, perturbing the quantum flow. Whether we think we are changing reality through a focused act of will or even by "broad-beam" self-transformation the whole scenario may be a self-delusion cast in perennial truths and pseudo-scientific terms.

If it bothers or offends you to think otherwise, this is more likely true. There is emotional attachment there, not clarity. If you think you can do it by "aligning" yourself rather than manifestation, why are you harboring fantasies of misalignment? It makes little sense that the particle "intends" and the field "corresponds". In Nature, the reverse leads to manifestion.

Is this notion harboring a demiurgic God-complex, a control fantasy in an otherwise uncontrollable world?  If we believe in God, why do we presume to interfere with that fiat by introjecting our small agendas? Does it conceal a spiritual hubris to be co-equal or co-creator with divinity? Or, more to the point, why would we look to the divine as an agent of psychophysical dynamics?

Nonlocal Intentions

Intentions may or may not exert a nonlocal organizing effect. They do when they mobilize effective action. Often the 'butterfly effect' of chaos theory is invoked for pumping holistic mental effects up to macro- proportions. But chaos theory doesn't organize through intentionality; just the opposite, by criticality.

Correlation is not identity. There is appearance being and process being, which correlate with particle/wave. We are both particle and field, and they are both complex, and may be analogous or metaphorically connected to the hypothesis of intentionality - but that doesn't make it real: it makes it a belief, an operational worldview. The ego somehow facilitating the holistic self to manifest is solipsistic, because the field self is in no way diminished even by negative thinking by personality.

If you think intentionality works for you, that is an interpretation, an arbitrary allocation of a cause to a perceived effect, which may be largely unrelated and/or statistically irrelevant. Once the narrative is "set", that becomes the story and the person zealously sticks to it, right or wrong. This is human nature and the nature of emotional investment. It may be the eternal human yen to create order from the fear and chaos of our lives and cleave to faith in the Great Beyond, whatever one thinks resides there.

A myriad of "brandable" new age technologies are based on non-scientific interpretations and confabulations of scientific theory. Though having its own organic root in metaphysics, new age tech has hijacked and romanticized the philosophical territory of psi research with its own prosaic interpretations. Because it makes a romantically appealing metaphor doesn't mean it matches up with naked Reality. Often incompatible physics theories are confounded together for the so-called explanations.

Psi and Intentionality

Psi researchers must be careful to see these explanatory buzzwords like 'alignment' and 'intentionality' for what they are, smoke and mirrors explaining nothing, not what some say they are. Like the next new buzzword, "extradimensionality", it is just a displacement into the Unknown of a process that may be something entirely other than what the experiencer thinks it is.

To get to the Truth we have to follow the age-old axiom to ‘Know Thyself,’ and be willing to engage in some conceptual atom-smashing of our cherished notions. Otherwise, one engages in a pre-conceived, self-confirmatory journey for validation not a Quest for knowledge.

Rather than extradimensional participation in some subtle physics process, it may just be another trick of the mind - in the end, nothing more than a concept that doesn't match up with nor describe Reality. Oh sure, intentionality may function mystically in some nonfungable parallel universe, or that could be just another mentally attractive perennial fantasy. Those most concerned with “changing the paradigm” may be among those most firmly attached to their own idiosyncratic interpretations.

If there are memes in our culture, there are strange attractors in our thought patterns, that can harden into fixed beliefs. The fact is we don't know, and anyone who charges you and says they do is a either a fraud or self-deluded, or both. We are components of mythic culture which recursively regenerates itself in a network of self-similar productions.

Anywhere there is non-equilibrium, a gap in personal or cultural awareness, myth will self-organize a meta-narrative to fill the lacuna. Mythic beliefs are self-contained. Even fantasies of holism automatically exclude other options, except through embedding and hierarchy.

There are many aspects of psi, some more credible and testable than others.  ESP (information transfer) is the most plausble, psychokinesis (mind over matter) most problematical. Serious researchers are beyond parlour tricks such as seances, regressions, or ghostbusting.

Still, there is no scientific or spiritual consensus about the mechanics of physics or consciousness, much less mind/matter interaction or the influence of one mind on another organism. But Mystery doesn't need to be metaphysical, mystical, nor dismissed as "noetic nonsense". It simply isn't limited by any of our concepts nor scientific blindspots. We can just admit we stand in the Mystery.

The way to keep a path alive is to walk on it. And remember common sense, such as, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” Even though we’d all like to think so, wishing and even earnest visualization doesn’t always make it so.  There are other intentional and unintentional forces in play.

Spirituality or Spiritual Materialism?

New Age Snakeoil? Let the Buyer Beware

Is The Secret really offering anything more than a pre-packaged version of the materialistic American Dream as a combination of the so-called law of attraction that like attracts like, the old notion of the power of positive thinking, and a half-baked notion of cosmic energy lifted from new physics?

Why is the message of this film so riddled with materialistic goals? The speakers themselves put lavish houses and 'getting on Oprah' as their central goals. Is there any superior spirituality in that? Why is it most of the speakers have made their living from telling people what they want to hear? Most of the goals presented are based on romanticism or crass materialism - desire-based, not spirit based.

Am I the only one who's noticed? Why is new age culture so faddish and based in emotional appeals to gullibllity? Is it a marketing gimmick or really spreading a valuable realization or a somewhat twisted disinformation verging on magical thinking? The producers say there is more to their process -- feelings and state of mind. Maybe both views have truth value. Do you want them to affect yours?