is the witness self organic or post modern?

A student at the yoga studio asked me this question about a month ago; she said she hadn’t been brave enough to search for an answer online because she thought she’d be overwhelmed by badly written blog posts.  Well, I was brave/stupid enough to do a Google search, and found nothing of interest.  Here are my thoughts on the issue, copied from an email I sent her in response:

This is a great question; it forced me to ask “What is the witness self?”, “What is organic?”, and “What is post modernism?”.  The answer I gave you on Saturday (“You’re drawing a false dichotomy between organic and post modern”) looks like a cop-out; in fact, I thought it was an elegant evasion when it first occurred to me.  The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I think this is the right answer, or at least it’s the best answer I can give.  Here are my current thoughts on the question:

The term “post modernism” (as I understand it) came into vogue in the 20th century.  It’s very, very tempting to make the leap to concluding that post modernism, therefore, did not exist before the 20th century, but I’m not certain that that’s true (any more than we can say that gravity didn’t exist before Newton).  It just hadn’t been codified yet.  I think we could think of any rejection of dichotomized or blindly context dependent thinking as post modern, or proto post modern if you’re feeling linguistically courageous.  So in this sense, we can definitely call the witness self post modern, simply because it acknowledges nuance and ambiguity without judging or categorizing (which I think is what post modernism at its best does).

But this doesn’t mean that the witness self is not also organic.  I think we can look at the witness self as an eventual (perhaps inevitable) development of self-awareness… and (ta-da!) we can say the same of post modernism.  Hence, post modernism is organic!  Surprise!

An interesting (to me, anyway) follow-up question is:  Why do we draw a line between organic and post modern?

I hope all of this doesn’t make your head explode.  Please let me know if I’m completely off my rocker here, or if I’ve just confused the issue further.

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