Bennett: DU volume four…/2010/01/08/bennett-du-volume-four/

Bennett: DU volume four…

Here is the introduction to Volume Four of Bennett’s The Dramatic Universe. This volume is of interest because of its historical/evolutionary topics, and, as noted, the best critique is to simply cite and discuss some of its issues. T he book is filled with some brilliant ideas, but tends to fall apart as one examines it.

It is said that a man needs a guru. I think that Bennett needed the absence of one: his brilliant intellect was corrupted by contact with Gurdjieff, and the result is the failure of his masterwork, which nonetheless has some interesting ideas.

This last volume of our survey of the Dramatic Universe is devoted
to History, and especially to the history of the human mind. In a very
significant sense, History is the content of the mind; for all that has
happened since the world began is present to the mind, notwithstanding
that only an infinitesimal part can be discerned in any detail. Con-
versely, it can validly be said that without mind there would be no
history-nothing but an endless array of meaningless transformations
of matter and energy.
The intimate connection between Mind and History is made in the
Present Moment. The present moment is the totality of immediate
experience both actual and possible. All that is experienced is present,
but it does not follow that what is not experienced is not present. As we
read a book only one page is directly experienced; but all the rest are
present and so too are the other unnoticed books on the shelves behind
us. The Present Moment is the one immediate certainty of our experi-
ence and yet it is vaguely outlined and its content varies in many differ-
ent ways. Moreover, the ‘present moment’ of one person is different
from that of another. Much the same can be said of both mind and
history. There are separate minds, partial minds, collective minds, and
there are also ‘other’ minds.
We are accustomed to associate history with the ‘past’ and indeed
as a convenient mode of description this works well enough. But we do
not directly experience the past, except in rare states of consciousness
when it appears to’ be present. The ‘past’ is a verbal fiction that, when
taken to refer to some actual object, can be very misleading. Without
mind, no meaning could be assigned to the word ‘past’, as all events’
,,:ould have an equal status within the ‘AbsolEte World’~ For mind, the
situation is totally different i.. so different indeed that mind cannot
conceive mindlessness, but unfailingly projects itself into the entire
COntent of its own experience. This makes it hard to realize that historical
reality is substantially different from the simple sequence of events.
Thus we fall into the two-fold illusion of supposing that we can con-
te~plate history without mindand mind without history. This involves
Us in the further error of supposing that we can contemplate anything
at all except the content of the present moment.
If We put aside this last error and accept that all experience is in the
present moment; we have to choose between solipsism, or the doctrine
I that only ‘my’ present moment is real, and coalescence, or the belief that
the present moments of separatgjselves can be united within a Greater
Present. In the present volume, we shall adopt the second alternative
and take it as the foundation of a view of history that treats the real
world as a Chinese nest of present moments containing, and contained
by, others. This view agrees with our private experience that is always
‘of’ the present moment and yet is constantly varying in extent, dura-
tion and content. The apparent incongruity of treating history as if it
were contained in the present moment, is due to the habit of thought,
prevalent for thousands of years among speakers of the Indo-European
group of languages, of treating experience as a linear sequence of _
events. ‘Time’, according to this habit of thought, appears as an in-
dependent reality in which ‘before and after’ and ‘past, present and’
future’ have objective meaning apart from the experience they qualify.
It is not easy for those who are conditioned by linguistic form to enter
into the experience of others who, though also conditioned by their own
modes of thought, are free from the illusion that the nature of time is
adequately expressed by the past, present and future tenses of the
Indo-European verb. The sense of the Present Moment is conveyed
with great force in the Semitic languages, which have no intrinsic verbal
forms for expressing the flow of time.
We cannot abandon our native languages, but we can seek to remedy
their defects. The habit of treating time as an objective reality has been
to some extent cured in modern physics by relativity and quantum
. theory, which help us to put aside the illusions of an absolute time
and of continuous process. Experimental psychology has shown that
the duration and extent of the present moment can be measured for
different forms of experience and that it combines, dissociates and
changes with variations in mental state: We use forms of speech that
affirm the universal significance ot ‘here and now’, such as when we say
‘at the present moment’ or, more rhetorically, ‘we who are privileged to
share in this present historic moment’. The intuitive awareness that
present moments can coalesce into a greater present is no illusion but,
on the contrary, of great positive significance. The present moment does >
undoubtedly change, contract, expand, divide and coalesce, and yet it
always remains unique and unlike any other kind of situation. The
point is that all actual experience is contained in the present moment
and it is not to be found elsewhere.
The usage of the term ‘present moment’ refers to periods of time
which vary from seconds to centuries and from the transient states of
A single person to the common experience of many, even millions. We
must therefore look for some common feature and this we find in the
connection between the ‘present’ and the ‘Will’.
The peculiarity of the present moment consists in that its uniqueness
does not imply singularity: but, that it is always experienced as the only
one of its kind. In this respect it resembles a formal property like
roundness. There is, nothing like roundness- it is the only one of its
kind and therefore unique. But it is not singular for we meet with many
instances of roundness. This may give us the key to grasping the charac-
ter of the present moment. Just as roundness is the property common
I to all round objects, so is the present moment the property common to
all centres of experience. We cannot write ‘selves’ for centres of experi-
ence, because we have seen that the present moment can be shared by
many.:We~~an write Will, but the justification fordoing so cannot be
developed here: It has been suggested in Vol. II in connection with
Individuality and Self~hood and it was reinforced in Vol. III in con-
nection with Human S~deties. As the purpose of this Introduction is
to indicate the lines we propo~e to follow in our account of history, we
shall make the assumption that the apparent contradiction of the
uniqueness and non-singularity of the Present Moment is due to a
property of the Will that is not recognized in Our usual modes of thought.
With this assumption we can say that the Will determines the extent
and character of the Present Moment. All that is outside the sway of
any particular will is also ouside its present moment. It follows that
the present moment is perpetually being invaded, enriched, weakened,
strengthened, by the influx and efflux of elements extraneous to the
will. Among these elements are traces and memories that we refer to
the ‘past’; expectations, fears, foresights, that we refer to the ‘future’;
forms and patterns that we relate to eternity and acts of separation and
coalescence conditioned by hyparxis. These various eleme’nts are all
experienced within the present moment, but they originate outside it.
An important group of these elements that enter and leave the present
Illoment gives rise to the experience that we interpret as Time. We do
not question the authenticity of the experience of successiv~ changes in
the Content of the present moment, nor the validity of the distinction’
between traces and memories on the one hand and expectations on the
Other. We do, however, question the common assumption that memory
refers to experiences that ‘no longer exist’ and ~xpectation to experi-
ences that ‘do not yet exist’. If the present moment is enlarged a
Illernory becomes a present experience. It can also happen that an
el:pectation becomes a present experience-for example in the pheno-
menon of pre-cognition. Since enlargement and contraction of the
present moment may occur to any degree-at any rate we know no
limits to the possibility-there is no justification for saying that there is
a,h absolute past or an absolute future or even that ‘before and after’ can
always be predicated of two events. Situations that, for our small present
moment, appear to be separated by the relation of before and after may,
for another and greater will than ours, all be here and now. The same
argument applies to separation in space. That which on one scale is ‘at
a.distance’, on another scale is ‘here’. My own house is here and now
for my personal life and other houses are ‘at a distance’. But for my life
as a member of a community all houses in the village and all its inhabi-
tants are here and now. Such modes of coalescence are familiar to us,
but we do not recognize that they depend upon acts of will. They are
transformations of extent and content of the present moment brought
about by a shift of the interest or attention. This is, whether conscious
or unconscious, an act of will. The man who has no will to be a citizen
does not belong to the present moment of the city and is not even aware
of it.
The connection between space-like coalescence and will is not hard to
recognize. That which arises in time-like experience is harder to accept.

And yet it should be obvious that a ‘past’ moment can become ‘present’
if we accept its present reality and do not thrust it away from us. We
live in a small world because we have a small will. Development and
evolution in the true sense involve coalescences of will, and so the en-
largement of the Present Moment. Coalescence of the will comes ‘by
its exercise and this is possible because it is opposed by a disintegrating
or disordering tendency that invades the present moment. Here we
meet the true character of Time. Time is the name that we give to the
disruptive influence that enters our present moment. In so far as we
succumb to this influence, we find past and future separated from us
and from each other. We do not readily grasp that the disruption is
due to the weakness of our own will. Hence we treat time as an objective
reality and the temporal sequence as independent of man or of any other
mode of existence.
In the present volume, we shall start with an examination of the
various ways in which the present moment seeks to preserve its identity
against the disruptive influences that enter it. We refer to these collec-
tively as the War with Time.
Within the present moment, there is a state of change or flux. This is
of at least two kinds, that can be called causal and purposive. We ca.n
distinguish also insignificant and significant change. The first kind is
unrelated to the wilt that characterizes the present moment, while the
other stems directly or indirectly from acts of will. These two kinds of
change correspond to ‘happening’ and ‘history’. In this way, we pass
from the study of experience as the given totality to the discrimination
~f direction and purpose transcending the immediate present.
Significance cannot be predicated of a situation that has no recog-
nizable order. And since significance is certainly relative, there must
be more orderly and less orderly situations. The hierarchy of order cor-
responds to the series of multi-term systems introduced in Vol. II and
more fully developed in Chapter 37 of Vol. III. With the help of the
results obtained we shaH set up a Systematics of History in Chapter 43.
In this way, we shall connect history with the present moment and the
struggle between Order and Disorder that we have called the War with
Having laid the foundations of our historical studies, we shall exa-
mine the story of this earth and the appearance and evolution of life
to the point where the organization of sensitivity in the higher animals
made possibl~the arising of Mind. The seven chapters of Part 17 will
be devoted to the History of Mind until it reaches the Present Moment
shared by the writer and the readers of this book. We shall end with
a survey of ‘expectations’ that will take us beyond the present situation
into the future of mankind,
The concept of the _present moment as the total situation accessible
to the operations of a ‘will’ is decisive for understanding the Universal
Drama and its projections-into the life of man. The concept is exceed-
ingly hard to seize and it is irreducible to simpler terms. In Vol. II we
devoted five chapters, 27-31, to the study of will. At that stage, we
identified will and relatedness, so making the triad the characteristic
system for the operations of the will. We do not find it necessary to
mOdify in any radical manner the conclusions then reached-particularly
those referring to Self-hood and Individuality-but the emphasis should
no~ be so eXclusively placed upon the triadic property of relatedness.
~dl manifests in every structure as the principle whereby the structure
IS ~t~uctured. In the tetrad, it is the principle of order and directed
~ctlVltY.)n the pentad, will means the principle of significance where-”
y the present moment seeks to expand into the unpresent. The six-
term system of the will is the form of its coalescence. A coalescence is an
element of the historical process; it is directed, purposive and structured.
n coalescence, the present moment realizes its own pattern and
coalescence means a concerted and complex act of will.
rom these notions, we come to that of progress as the transformation
of the present moment from a state of lower order and organization to a
state of higher and more stable organization. The difference between
this view of progress and those commonly held is that ~t does not
distinguish between subjective and objective order. The entire present
moment subject to the sway of the will is the field of the ordering
activity. Inner and outer order are separable in theory but not in prac-
tice. In this light, history acquires an unique significance as the self-
realization of will. That which was fragmented and therefore transient,
is in process of coalescence whereby its unity will be restored. This
coalescence brings together fragments of will and builds them into a
complex, organized structure. The history of mind shows us how this
process operates. Understanding of the Historical Process resolves the
enigma of the Dramatic Universe and provides an answer to our initial
question as to the meaning and purpose of human life on the earth.
The study of history is thus the best and even the only possible final
stage of the enquiry to which these four volumes have been addressed.

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