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THE THOUGHT METHOD PROJECT -- PART 2
(Outline of Thought Method Development)

Richard L. Roth

(written around 1955 in Hollywood from final thinking in Brooklyn around 1954)

[The asterisks before paragraphs are to indicate a certain looseness and independence. These were just notes, reminders for me of where I was at. I never produced a structure that I felt deserved a formal exposition.]

1*   first creative glimmer - thesaurus project, then beauty, history, war game

2*   feeling of hopelessness before the enormous mass of knowledge - need for an all embracing system not depending on mastery of this mass

3*   To describe a thing in general terms that would apply to a whole class of things - expanding the specific into the universal - thus to write a history of man with no mention of identities nor of events - so that it might apply as well to the history of intelligent beings of another planet. This wish for general terms raised the issue of proper definitions - and from this to a system of definition - then to a system of thought, a thought method - then, much later, to a system of consciousness - so, aside for the while schemes of history and such projects.

4*   In making this inquiry I wished to use myself as the only source - I reasoned that my knowledge of man's knowledge would always be tiny, and man's knowledge itself was still tiny. - So I felt the futility of seeking knowledge in constructing a thought method - I felt the answer was in myself - I must somehow articulate what was implicit in my very act of thinking - I refer to this attitude as "self completeness."

5*   self completeness - limited objective policy

6*   simple feeling that what I seek is already in me

7*   The grand reasons - in retrospect - the underlying urge of my project - I had immediate objectives - but somehow as I strived towards them, before even attaining them, I replaced them with broader objectives - this was because unconsciously I was following "grand reasons" - awareness of these underlying reasons for my quest - and establishing concepts satisfying these reasons - was necessary before returning to the more limited objectives.

8*   My mind seeks coherence in all things - the mind is a "thing builder" - that is - as things relate to each other they constitute greater things.

9*   Contact with theories of science relating vast numbers of things - such as the atomic theory, and the theory of evolution - pleased my mind greatly - but no matter how science seemed to integrate things I felt a gap between all these things and the constructor of things - the mind itself - I somehow had to "feel" an integration between my thoughts and my perceptions - between myself and the universe. I cannot simply say "a thing is so" - I must say "a thing is so to me" - but what am I? - if it relates to me it somehow partakes of me - to describe a thing is somewhat to describe myself - I must somehow adjust my view so I can once again "feel" - "accept" this duality as a oneness - me and thing - thus as I see a thing I am also "seeing" my position relative to it, and the nature of my perceiving sense organs, and the behavior of my mind with respect to it.

10*   In making this thought method I sought elementals - so I condemned the use of words seeing even simple words as representing an advanced level of thought - I tried simply to handle mental images - seeing if I could arrange them into mental image formulas (illustrative sequences) - which would gradually fall into a system where the concept of symbol would finally occur - so that I would finally be justified in using words - so the project of "symboless thought."

11*   a final (for the moment) statement of what I am to me - all my words, concepts, feelings

12*   The symboless thought project was a manifestation of the spirit of my inquiry - which was to trace my most intricate thoughts down the very foundations - and the belief that there was but one central foundation - that no matter at what idea I began - if I traced the reason for that idea and the reason's reason and so on - all these lines would converge onto the central foundation - so the pyramid of logic - tho I visualized it upside down - a pyramid standing on its point.

13*   This central foundation to which all reasons led and for which, by definition, there were no further reasons, would have to be accepted - so the basis of all my reasoning would be a "scheme of acceptation."

14*   rejected study of philosophers or others who might use approach similar to mine - for in accepting or rejecting their ideas I was already using my own method - what was it?

15*   In my symboless thought attempt I tried to visualize how things would be were my sense organs different - I imagined a giant's, a bird's, an insect's, a fish's viewpoint - or a blind man's - or a man with eyes all around his head - or a different spectral band of sensitivity - or extremely long arms - or different movement abilities - and so forth - the same thing would appear very differently - so seeking the elemental, I must find a viewpoint transcending the appearance of a thing.

16*   I somehow conceived that a viewpoint that could be accepted without further reasoning and would be independent of appearance was to be found in "wish" - I would consider my wish as an "absolute truth," and the "absolute truth" or "reality" of a thing would be constituted in the fulfillments and unfulfillments of my wishes regarding it.

17*   Wish and fulfillment recommending similar wish - or wish and unfulfillment recommending adjustment of wish 'til there is fulfillment- I refer to these sequences as the "the wish circuit." I would especially associate the "reality" of a thing with its "unfulfillment" aspect. The wish concept seemed an illumination - yet I bogged down - I suppose other concepts were needed before it could play its role - to simply say my wish was absolute truth did not constitute what I felt was the role of the scheme of acceptation.

18*   My thinking turned - still in the symboless vein - to cataloguing "the tools of thought" - I would identify each one by visualizing a sequence of perceptions characterizing it - I found it necessary to give each one of these a name for convenience in mental handling - I decided to use symbols "unofficially" - these tools of thought took much time to establish - not that they weren't apparent - but it took much mental play - one by one - before I could really accept - feel them as elemental - I'll enumerate the tools of thought as I currently see them - which is not final -

[I forget the meaning of many of these following terms, which I didn't document at the time, and just retain them here to give some of the "flavor" of my thinking. (1995)]

thing - part

pearance - sequence

simil

    extension

    perceptual - identity

       conceptual (yes-no)

         simil-controlled

            alternative (contradictory simil controlleds)

            alternative dependent certainty (conditional)

            ceoffectual confirmation ("pattern" of complex thing locates missing elements)

symbol - intention

quantity (simil by equivalent role)

19*   Connecting "tools of thought" and "wish" perhaps brought about thru coordinating 2 sense organs with respect to a wish - eye, reach, food.

20*   Outside the thought method project but destined to affect it as a precursor of the "search for self," was the "chameleon hypocrisy" project - I wished to assume each time a different personality with casual new acquaintances - especially "dates" - and this - systematically - that is - gestures, life story, posture, voices, temperament, etc. - this in the interest of converting tediously conventional situations into a game - and also to sharpen my consciousness of myself - for, I reasoned, when would I be more intensely conscious of myself then when I'm deliberately suppressing my natural actions which otherwise spontaneously occur and so go more or less unnoticed. (I never could bring myself to carry it out.)

21*   The "chameleon hypocrisy" project was a special phase of a general movement favoring more conscious and systematic observation - Stanislavski's "An Actor Prepares" - read in connection with "chameleon hypocrisy" had influence. I sought a larger descriptive vocabulary in various fields - scientific and artistic color terms - Bertillon's physionomial nomenclature - furniture museums - desire to learn botany, geomorphology, meteorology - textiles, fashions, etc.

22*   The movement for systematic observation affected by the movement for intensity of consciousness turned to observing my own train of perception - I decided that where a perception changes is the critical point - for during the perception the consciousness is absorbed in the perception - whereas where the perception breaks is where the consciousness is most liable to become aware of itself - I wanted to determine the types of attention - this project I named "attention shift."

23*   The attention types at present are:

direction - general state of awareness determined by wherever the body happens to be oriented
border - an intruding perception pulling the attention center towards it
construction - a wilful sweep of the attention
loss (negative form of "border") - the perceived disappears leaving the attention to revert
fatigue - the motive of attention is saturated so attention reverts
absence - the shift of major attention from perception to thought - has since become superfluous as will be shown.

24*   "perfect me" - another point outside the thought method subsequently affected it - due to occasional social awkwardnesses that embarrassed me before myself - I decided I could never fully avoid situations inciting pangs of self reproach - however, I might define self - myself, in such a way that I would view these situation more lightly - what am I? - I saw a choice of several concepts - the most obvious - simply my body - but inadequate - what about my property - and everything I have occasion to use that extends my powers? - this is a concept of self going beyond body - but I was more inclined rather to go into the body and exclude parts of it from the concept of self I desired - I could say it was just the mind - but that's a lot - a lot more than I know of - I could say the conscious mind that I actively control - I could say the conscious mind I actively control and approve of as well - I thus arrived at the concept of the "perfect me" - I said that if I could define myself as being without responsibility, that "myself" would be perfect for without responsibility was to be without failure. So I excluded from self all that area of the conscious mind involved in making decisions - I looked upon it as another person - "the real me" was simply the onlooker.

25*   After a long period of spasmodic mulling - mostly spent in shuffling about the tools of thought - I developed a new attitude towards them - which I think occurred thru a refinement of the "perfect me" or "irresponsible me" concept which related it to them - the half jesting idea of "real me" being a simple observing mechanism where even my decisions for action were excluded, suggested the idea that my thoughts themselves are outside the real me - that the real me simply perceives them - that my thoughts are things perceived by my consciousness even as some things are perceive by my eyes or the other sense organs - so that consciousness is a sense organ like any other - a "sixth sense" designed to perceive what takes place inside the mind - and, like any other sense organ, perceiving only an aspect of things - so if my thoughts are things then the tools of thought, as thoughts themselves, are things and I can accept them as such as I would a tree - for that matter all thoughts no matter how unsound would be real things - remains, as always, the question of their usefulness. But this concept of the "sixth sense" at least is a way to use a thought where it's believed useful without still worrying as to its formal justification.

26*   self self - other self

27*   apparently I had been drifting towards a more articulate acceptance of the tools of thought from another direction for shortly after proclaiming the "sixth sense," it occurred to me to conceive these tools of thought not as thoughts themselves but as simple wish drives - that it is a natural impulse to think even as it is to eat or sleep - and that tho learning was involved in how we think, that needn't lessen the brute wish nature of the tools of thought - I called this "the think drive" concept and the tools of thought are henceforth "think drives."

28*   I felt that tools of thought, viewed as perceptions by "sixth sense" and as wishes by "think drive," needed further working - I felt that both concepts were valuable - I felt that "real me" was not seriously met by the "perfect me" concept as long as no position on wish was taken - I felt wish to be a central concept - I felt the think drive concept calling for a relationship between wish and real me.

29*   With the broadening of my inquiry into the entire question of self, I saw that no serious attempt had yet been made to place feelings. Yet feelings are elemental to self - they are not quite wishes - pre-wishes perhaps - they are always involved with perceptions - which now includes thoughts - and there is a certain consistency in the relationship between specific types of perceptions and specific types of feelings - in a way certain perceptions "carry" certain feelings - this concept I call "feeling cargo."

30*   I saw that not all feeling cargoes involved conception of myself - there were feelings of fear or desire where obsession with the inciting object drowned out awareness of self - I felt however that feelings of pride and shame involved intense awareness of self and that to map out "zones of pride and shame" might be a method of delineating the real me.

31*   This is an "area" concept of self - the "perfect me - sixth sense" tradition was more of a linear sort - a moving line of attention - a "route of attention" - it seemed to involve the real me yet many times this attention involved no awareness of self - even when I tried to compel it - was the real me nonexistent at such times? - not really - for it's not born anew - but has a continuity - is it latent? - dwelling in an "area" - the concept that the attention route is at least partially independent of real me I call "the attention beast" - the idea that it has a life of its own.

32*   I tried various ways of visualizing schematically the universe that was forming - about the most persistent model - the attention beast as a giant free swimming amoeba going thru a cosmos of globes of different colors - each globe a perception with its feeling cargo - and that the route of the attention beast was due to forces within it and to the globes which tended to form characteristic quick passage routes between them. All this is begging the question - it calls for a study of the globes, the routes, and the anatomy of the attention beast.

33*   However this visualization allowed a marriage of the "area" and "linear" concepts of self - I said that there were areas of perceptions and their feeling cargos involving awareness of self - that these constituted the latent me - that when the attention beast was passing through these zones the real me was existing.

34*   This calls for precision on what perceptions involve awareness of self - there are formal concepts with "self" so stated - but what about "savages" or "barbarians" (preliterate societies) who may not even have such a word - or any person who is not inclined to self-reflection - they surely have their "real me's" just the same - so self awareness perceptions cannot just be of an intellectually articulate type - there are perceptions that are dynamically self - which in substance brings us to the line of thought of "zones of pride and shame."

35*   Pride-shame and feelings of love, dedication, devotion extend beyond physical self to other individuals, institutions, things - so these might all be encompassed within dynamic self - this shows the "beast thru self zones" concept to be a flexible one lending itself to the real situation - a soldier dying for his country - not sacrificing self for an institution but sacrificing existence for self - in the case of great dedication to the country. To be proud and ashamed and devoted to those we love is to comprehend them in our dynamic self - to identify ourselves with a character while following a story - in the pattern of dynamic self perceptions temporarily established we become that character. There may be a characteristic perception-feeling cargo pattern for forming a self but there may be a number in the same mind ranging from very transient to very continuous.

[It was upon finally having the thought underlined above that I had the beyond self experience.]

NO MORE

36*  more:    (Oct. '90, edited Jan. '00)     (summarizing what I consider essential ideas above)

There is the field of existence "I" which would refer to the totality of activity of the nervous system of the organism. When you say "I was born and I will die" you refer to this corporeal idea. Then there is the "self I" which I call a category of structure in the field of existence. There seems to be a dominant self but there could more such structures of varying intensities and durations in this field. Of course, how to describe the character of this structure. I'm not up to that, but just to have framed the situation this way has satisfied me.

37*  more still:   (May '96)

I considered "wish" the basic assumption, a kind of "black box." But now I've started to think about these matters again while searching for feelingly thought words to put into my paintings (in my undecipherable Moop script). I want to go into the black box. For the time being, I propose to myself that pain and pleasure are the ground of wish, and, going further, that wish is the ground of the "primitive self" that I had speculated about in my earlier reference to preliterate societies and to non-introspective persons. I distinguish this "primitive self" from the "pride-shame" self with its attendant possibility of a self transcendence which I believe I experienced in that short euphoric period. I have to think further about how these two self ideas relate.

end for now

Click for ADDENDUM:
I give just one example to show how I thought words might be defined in a conceptual framework using references to ideas from the "Thought Method" to justify each step. But I wasn't driven to go further. If I were, it was time to stop tinkering in my garage and to study certain branches of linguistics, mathematics and philosophy.