How do we talk about Rolfing® and ‘gravity”? I think we would find collective agreement in our community that a discussion of Rolfing must include ‘gravity’. However, we can have interesting discussions about ‘gravity’ and never once mention Rolfing, somatic practices, or even life. This is fertile ground for confusion. As we attempt to understand ‘plumb lines’ and ‘world lines’, it is easy to forget the obvious: our interest is limited to how living people respond to ‘gravity’. I believe that we would benefit if this concern were more explicitly and succinctly stated in our essential formulae.
What might a concise, functional, verbal formulation of Rolfing look like? How would it contain a notion of ‘gravity’ as experienced by living organisms? I propose in this essay a formulation that recognizes a biological aspect of ‘gravity’ broad enough to encompass Rolfers’ various ideas about ‘it’ and yet specific enough to be understood by non-Rolfers. If we assume we are a species-in-evolution, some notion of aspiration (in the sense of a great ambition or inner desire) also must be contained in the formulation. I will offer a variation of this notion for consideration, and wilt conclude with brief commentary on propositional functions, clear thinking, and General Semantics.
In the biological sciences, the influence of gravity on an organism’s movements is termed geotaxis. Geotactic responses are tropisms: directional growths or shifts or an organism in response to external and internal stimuli. As processes, geotactic (sometimes termed geotropic or gravitropic) responses may be both negative (moving away from stimuli) and positive (moving toward stimuli). Practitioners of structural integration have recognized a collective epistemological impasse for some time: how can ‘gravity’ seemingly produce ‘lift’? If we reframe the question and its variations to avoid misleading semantic reactions’, I predict that much of the debate regarding this impasse will be revealed as unnecessary. As a generic term of the modern (1997) life sciences, “geotaxis” could be useful; it serves as a reminder that ‘gravity’ produces negative and positive tropisms in life forms. As a concise foundation, a common ground for various perceptions of ‘gravity’ in relation to Rolfing, I suggest that we adopt the term.
What usually happens in a Rolfing session? What are we doing when we effect structural changes in our clients that are beneficial? Something restorative or stimulating to an organism is termed analeptic. As a functional formation, “analeptic geotaxis” might serve us in our efforts to comprehend and communicate how ‘gravity’ could act as a ‘therapist’ through Rolfing.
“The middle region of the sky, wherein the spirit dwelleth, is radiant with the music of light; There, where the pure and white music blossoms, my Lord takes His delight.5”
When Rolfing profoundly changes a person’s orientation to include shifts in values and choices, when we occasionally witness a true change of heart, what words would serve? For many of us, a personal quest for “something more” led us to Rolfing, and experiences of this somatic practice awakened a deep, sleepy urge that grew into a clear desire to seek fulfillment in our lives. A recalling to memory of something forgotten is termed in psychology an anamnesis. An urge of an organism to seek self-fulfillment is termed entelechy (from the Greek word for “complete reality,” entelekheia). Sometimes it appears that Rolfing sparks an “anamnestic entelechy” that goes beyond feeling taller or more grounded. Eyes glimmer, lives change, sweet life pours through us a precious breath at a time, and we appreciate this gift we have all been given, ever so briefly, within this narrow slice of earth and sky.
I submit the following as a concise, functional verbal formulation of our work:
Rolfing: a somatic practice of touch and movement seeking to evoke an analeptic geotaxis, potentially engendering a sense of anamnestic entelechy in the participants.
Like many of our other formulations to date, I can safely predict that this one also will produce a blank stare on the face of just about anyone introduced to the terms. Why? Because as students of General Semantics6, Epistemics7, or science will recognize, it is a propositional function8: an indefinitely-valued statement containing one or more variables. The variables here are the unique choices, actions, and intentions of given individuals as specific times and places. An important characteristic of propositional functions is that, as statements, they are neither true nor false, but ambiguous. To find a ‘truth’ (or ‘falseness’) or a propositional function, it is necessary to “fill in the variables” and thus turn the statement into a one-valued proposition’. Any definition of Rolfing will be an ambiguous propositional function, until the variables are filled by the events that actually occur in this session on this day with this client and this Rolfer in this disposition with these skills and these limitations, etc. Our actions create the validity or ‘truth’, of the formulation.
Our understanding today, colored as it is by the ‘maps’ of science and mathematics, reveals a world of ‘reality’ consisting of processes, sequences or events, and patterns of relationship in a context of continual change, extending our faculties to perceive universes staggeringly large and vanishingly small. The ‘map’ or structure of language with which we usually think and communicate evolved from a less modern, though practical, conception of reality; i.e., a world consisting of elemental labels, instances, identities, either/or relations, and categories in a context of stasis and absolutes; solids and space, time and clockwork geometry. This difference presents daunting challenges to clear thinking.
Our founder, Dr. Ida Rolf, was a student of Alfred Korzybski’s Genera Semantics, a system function10, which can be broadly defined as the study of how we perceive, make meaning of, articulate, and communicate our experiences. When we speak, write, read or listen, what we abstract (or project), our neuro-logical” experience, is pervasively influenced by the general structuring of our language; the maps of words that we choose or are subjected to. Our conscious choice of maps can be quite useful. Our unconscious choice or comparison of different maps can be merely useless or worse-misleading. In General Semantics we can find a kind of ‘map atlas’ that can serve as a guide or overview in a discussion of ‘gravity’. In our attempts to communicate our experiences with ‘gravity’, the theories of Newton12 and Einstein13 have much to independently contribute 18, but they should not be compared, because of fundamental differences in the structure of their theoretical languages. As Korzybski writes:
“When we deal with doctrines or systems of different structure, each of which involves different doctrinal or system functions, it is of the utmost importance to keep them at first strictly separated; to work out each system by itself, and only after this is accomplished can we carry out an independent investigation as to the ways they mutually intertranslate.”15
The assumptions that underpin a discussion of ‘gravity’ will determine the outcome of the discussion: “From premises conclusions follow inexorably. “111 suggest we include life in our premises, and keep in mind the words of Korzybski’s friend and mentor, the great mathematical philosopher Cassius Jackson Keyser:
“If he contended, as sometimes he will contend, that he has defined all his terms and proved all his propositions, then either he is a performer of logical miracles or he is an ass; and, as you know, logical miracles are impossible17.”
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1. Alfred Korzybski, Science and Sanity An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, 5thedition, 1994, p. 22
2. Ibid., p. 142
3. My use of quotation marks in this essay is in conformity with the conventions of the General Semantics Bulletin:
(a) In addition to standard usage, single quotes are used as an extensional devise to mark off terms and phrases which seem to varying degrees questionable for neuro linguistic, neuro physiological, methodological or general epistemological reasons.
(b) To mark off terms used metaphorically, playfully, etc.
In his introduction to the Second Edition of Science and Sanity, Korzybski listed the following as his extensional devises: Indexes, Dates, Etc., Quotes, and Hyphens. He subsequently added chain Indexes. (Korzybski, p.lx of the Fifth Edition, 1994).
See also the quarterly publication, ETC: A Review of General Semantics, published by the International Society for General Semantics, P.O. Box 728, Concord, CA 94522, U.S.A., (510) 798-0311, http:// www,crl.com/–isgs/isgshome.html.
4. “Semantic reactions” are central to Korzybski’s General Semantics. The questions “How can gravity produce lift?” for example, implies false-to-facts qualities of elementalism, statics, absolutes, either/or relations, etc. For additional background see Science and Sanity, pgs. xvi, 15, 19ff, 32, 93, 97, 115f., 121, 135, 138, 163, and index.
5. Rabindranath Tagore, Translator, Songs of Kabir, XVI II, II. 77. S. Weiser, Inc. 1995, p. 68
6. “General Semantics” is a term Alfred Korzybski coined to describe non aristotelean systems. From his introduction to Science and Sanity, Second Edition: “General Semantics is not any ‘philosophy’ or ‘psychology’ or ‘logic’, in the ordinary sense. It is a new extensional discipline which explains and trains us how to use our nervous systems most efficiently.”
7. “Epistemics” is an interpretation of General Semantics developed by J. Samuel Bois. Editions of EPISTEMICS, The Science-Art of Innovating and Explorations in Awareness are available by contacting the ISGS (see footnote #3) or Continuum Studios, 1629 18th Street, #7, Santa Monica, CA 90404. Office (310) 453-4402 or E-mail:[email protected] and http:// home.earthlink.net/-continuummove For an explanation of “function” in Epistemics, see also Explorations in Awareness, pgs. 31-34.
8. Science and Sanity, 5th edition, 1994, pgs. 94, 136ff., 137, 144, 149, and index.
9. Ibid., pgs 93f., 430ff., and index.
10. Ibid., p.145: “In a non-aristotelian system, when we realize that we live, act, etc., in accordance with nonelementalistic semantic reactions, always involving integrated ’emotions’ and ‘intellect’ and, therefore, some explicit or implicit postulates which, by structural necessity, utilize variable, multi ordinal and indefinitely-valued terms, we must recognize that we live and act by some system-functions which consist of doctrinal function.”: p. 144: “A manifold of interrelated propositional functions, usually called postulates with all the consequences following from them, usually called theorems, has been termed by Keyser a doctrinal function. A doctrinal function, thus, has no specific content, as it deals with variables, but establishes definite relations between these variables,”
11. (See footnote #3)
12. Cassius J. Keyser, Mathematical Philosophy, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1922,p. 149, (re: Newton’s theories as propositional functions).
13. Ibid., pg. 151, (re: Einstein’s theories as doctrinal functions) see also Science and Sanity, pgs. 648-658, On the semantics of the Einstein theory.
14. Other gravitational theories are emerging; the “kinematic systems” of William Day challenge both Newton and Einstein with a fundamental redefinition of motion for light and matter. (Bridge from Nowhere Books I, II Talos Publishers, 1989: [Book III soon to be published]).
15. Science and Sanity, 5th edition, 1994, pg. 147
16. Robert P. Pula, ETC: A Review of General Semantics, V.54, #3, Fall, 1997
17. Mathematical Philosophy, 1922, p. 152