As we enter the world we are infinite. We have no boundary. We are zero. At three months, or so, we begin to distinguish that there is an “other” – the breast as part object. By 6 months old the boundary between us and the other (usually mother) is clear; and often frightening. Warmth, food, security and affection can be withdrawn as well as present. Our world is strait, though we do not know it. As we age and explore we push the boundary back; and back. If we are fortunate, and conquer our fear, we realise once more that there is no boundary. We are existence and all of existence is us. Death is an illusion. When we leave the world we can then fade to white and lose the loneliness and fear that haunts life, to experience all that is directly once more.
Strong brown God is the river
Reiver of sods and odds thrown
Our brownian drownian motion a-quiver
Deep pooling in currents its own
Still life flowering river
Our silver shiver of life
A gurgling-guddling quick’ning sliver
Wrangling-tangle of strife
All we be is water-taught
Aught but water our withal
A tumbling jumbling ripple of thought
Pride before a waterfall
Day the rose-garden lifetime
Wild thyme and strawberry day
And infinitely nightly tight-coiled our lifeline
Running through death and decay
Well the still point of the world
Whirled without end to be well
For waving and curling dimensions unfurled
Love and its ocean-tide swell
.. great quote from Wilfred Bion. Our whole purpose is to make reality out of infinite potential. I’m struck by similarity underlying Bion’s model of reality-creation and that of Alfred North Whitehead’s view of a “prehensile” crystallisation of reality in the present moment out of infinite potential.
“The art of being yourself at your best is the art of unfolding your personality into the person you want to be.” Wilfred Bion
“We cannot think first and act afterwards. From the moment of birth we are immersed in action and can only guide it by taking thought.” Alfred North Whitehead
Bion has this concept of our thinking as a candle actively penetrating the dark in a quest to mate with and discover the ideas or truths already there waiting. If I understand aright Bion’s model of how this arises:
– there is a welter of “unthought” images, emotions and other stuff floating around – his Beta elements.
– if we are able to tolerate the pain of the unknown – then we begin to assemble these into the building blocks of thoughts – his Alpha elements. (Mostly we are able to do that because we’ve had a “good enough” mother and a holding environment as a baby).
– these alpha element thoughts then abstract into – pre-concepts which are “looking for” concepts to “mate with” to allow understanding of ideas. Importantly the ideas already exist and our mind and brain is a machinery that has evolved to allow us to think them.
Compare this with Whitehead’s view of the implications for reality of quantum mechanics (see Process and Reality). The present moment – is like a zipper – moving from a past event into a future that the observer crystallises by selecting from the infinite potential. This then, the process by which reality is created. He calls the present moment prehensile, because there is an active searching or selecting of the future.
This concept (If my understanding is correct – the book is almost impenetrable) surely has resonance with Bion’s view. There is at the heart of both schemas a vital present force which is actively seeking a “mating” with a future that it is involved in helping create or crystallise.
Can we call this free will? Are we witnesses here and eternally now of all of creation?
“The foundation of reverence is this perception, that the present holds within itself the complete sum of existence, backwards and forwards, that whole amplitude of time, which is eternity.” Alfred North Whitehead