Alan Watts - Our Image of The World lyrics
I find it a little difficult to say what the subject matter of this seminar is going to be, because it's too fundamental to give it a title. I'm going to talk about what there is. Now, the first thing though, that we have to do, is to get our perspectives with some background about the basic ideas that, as Westerners living today in the United States, influence our everyday common sense - our fundamental notions about what life is about. And there are historical origins for this, which influence us more strongly than most people realize. Ideas of the world which are built into the very nature of the language we use, and of our ideas of logic, and of what makes sense altogether.
And these basic ideas I call myth, not using the word "myth" to mean simply something untrue, but to use the word "myth" in a more powerful sense. A myth is an image in terms of which we try to make sense of the world. And we at present are living under the influence of two very powerful images. Which are, in the present state of scientific knowledge, inadequate. And one of our major problems today is to find an adequate, satisfying image of the world. Well that's what I'm going to talk about. And I'm going to go further than that, not only what image of the world to have, but how we can get our sensations and our feelings in accordance with the most sensible image of the world that we can manage to conceive.
Alright, now - the two images which we have been working under for two-thousand years and maybe more, are what I would call two models of the universe, and the first is called the ceramic model, and the second, the fully automatic model. The ceramic model of the universe is based on the book of Genesis, from which Judaism, Islam, and Christianity derive their basic picture of the world. And the image of the world in the book of Genesis is that the world is an artifact. It is made, as a potter takes clay and forms pots out of it, or as a carpenter takes wood and makes tables and chairs out of it. Don't forget, Jesus is the son of a carpenter. And also the son of God. So the image of God and of the world is based on the idea of God as a technician, potter, carpenter, architect, who has in mind a plan, and who fashions the universe in accordance with that plan.
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So basic to this image of the world is the notion, you see, that the world consists of stuff, basically. Primordial matter, substance, stuff. As parts are made of clay. And the potter imposes his will on it, and makes it become whatever he wants. And so in the book of Genesis, the lord God creates Adam out of the dust of the Earth. In other words, he makes a clay figurine, and then he breathes into it, and it becomes alive. And because the clay become informed, by itself it is formless, it has no intelligence, and therefore it requires an external intelligence and an external energy to bring it to life and to put some sense to it.
And so in this way, we inherit a conception of ourselves as being artifacts, as being made, and it is perfectly natural in our culture for a child to ask its mother, "How was I made?" or "Who made me?" And this is a very, very powerful idea, but for example, it is not shared by the Chinese, or by the Hindus. A Chinese child would not ask its mother, "How was I made?" A Chinese child might ask its mother, "How did I grow?" which is an entirely different procedure from making. You see, when you make something, you put it together, you arrange parts, or you work from the outside to the in, as a sculpture works on stone, or as a potter works on clay. But when you watch something growing, it works in exactly the opposite direction. It works from the inside to the outside. It expands. It burgeons. It blossoms. And it happens all over itself at once. In other words, the original simple form, say of a living cell in the womb, progressively complicates itself, and that's the growing process, and it's quite different from the making process.
And so there is, for that reason, a fundamental difference between the made and the maker.