On Method

Hello Roy.
It is good to hear from you and to hear how well things are going very well for you. Please give my best to our friends in Mexico.

I would be happy to tell you more about my conversations with Negro about the Method. However, I don’t have much more to add, and you should remember these informal chats mostly occurred more than 30 years ago. Also you should take into consideration that I spoke much less Spanish even then I do now so usually there was a translator who perhaps added their own noise to the conversation. In any case here is what I remember and some reflections on his comments.

Since I many not have much of value to transmit let me at least give some context that you might find amusing: the first time I spoke with Silo about this subject was the first time I met him. It was in fact in Mexico in 1974. Even though I had been involved a short time I had gone to a meeting of the “Northern Zone” as the representative of Canada. We were meeting in Cuernavaca to compile the information from the “areas”, and “endo-areas” of our “zone”. In each area we had done a detailed study of certain social, economic, political, sociological and psychological factors. The format, and the questions were the same in each place so that we could combine them in a more global study. It was for that purpose that a small group of us was meeting in a farm a short distance from the city.

Besides this particular activity in Cuernavaca there was a number of important events taking place in Mexico City. Some of these were organizational. For example, it was the conclusion of the first worldwide financial campaign. But the most interesting promised to be the meetings with Silo. He gave a number of talks, some to everyone who was interested and others to specific groups to try and resolve specific issues. Since he was there for almost two weeks he also made himself available for a lot of informal chats, and so on. I managed to go on a couple of small expeditions with him (to Tula, Teotihuacán, and the anthropology museum). It was during these outings that I had my opportunities to speak with him more or less one to one, and ask him questions that while perhaps a little out of theme were of interest – at least to me. One of the themes that was of great interest to me was the Method.

At that time, as our older friends will remember, we used the Method – or tried to use it – in all our studies and works whether organizational or more internal. I was fascinated by this work, and found it both usable and productive in helping me to order my ideas and experiences. On the other hand, it struck me that our, or at least my, approach to this Method was sometimes mechanical and simplistic. I had tried going deeper studying what I could find in materials like the books “Siloism”, and in various notes that were largely composed of (to me) cryptic jottings and incomprehensible though suggestive cabbalistic diagrams. So gathering my courage, and with the help of a translator, I asked Negro for more information, or clarification or at least some advice about how I might investigate this subject further. His reply surprised me. As I recall it he said that the Method had never been explained. I was, as you can imagine, really surprised and confused by this response. He went on to say that what had been explained was in fact a simplified very external look at the mechanics of the Method and said that if I wanted to understand it more deeply I would have to study some particular aspects of logic especially modern symbolic logic, Nyaya logic (more than a system of logic it is also a theory of knowledge and one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hinduism) and the phenomenology of Husserl.

A challenging prospect, especially for those like me, who were looking for a quick answer. Over the next few years I did my best to follow those clues. Since I was a university student at the time I had a situation that favored that kind of investigation. As well I there were other clues that supported this research. I knew that he had previously mentioned the Nyaya logic in the talks on meditation that had been given in South America and were compiled in a material called “Transcendental Meditation”. I also understood that this name (transcendental meditation) referred, to Husserl and his “Cartesian Meditations”, not to the techniques popularized under that name by the Maharishi Yogi (even though his organization sent lawyer’s letters demanding we change the name of that book and destroy all existing copies – a letter we of course ignored). I knew furthermore that Silo had referenced Husserl on many other occasions and that his “phenomenology” was given as an example of how, even though they were part of the “System”, the “School” drew on the language of most progressive currents of the times to express its idea.

Of course, I tried to approach these studies methodically. I asked myself what was a method (this was related to my point of view)? How were they (i.e. what did a description of the various methods look like, i.e. minor system or composition)? How did they complement or oppose each other (medium plane, or relations)? Where did they come from? How did they develop? What was their history (greater system or process)? This meant studying other things, if you want to understand Nyaya logic you need to understand its context in Hindu thought, as well as the philosophical context in which it flourished. Or for example if you want to understand symbolic logic you want to understand the earlier “Aristotelian” logic. And it was obvious in Negro’s comments that this was all stuff he had studied in great detail. You could get glimpses of the depth and breadth of his knowledge when he would over a casual conversation explain for example things like the details of mnemonic devices used traditionally to memorize the various “moods” of the syllogism.

I know that much of my response doesn’t have a lot to do with the question. That is in terms of the Method, it is outside the logical amplitude set by our point of view (point of interest or question). However, I think it is relevant or at least intriguing. And in any case, here we are not making a methodical study but rather an exchange of anecdotes.

Sometimes I was taken back by what interested him in all this. For example, at the other pole of contemporary European philosophy from Husserl you might put the logical positivists and so called “ordinary language” oriented analysis so associated with the young Wittgenstein. On one occasion (walking in Mendoza looking for electronic components he wanted for some experiment) he started to talk with great enthusiasm about Wittgestein’s early and seminal work the “Tractatus Logico Philosophicus”. I would have thought that this would be something he’d focus on as an example of a intellectual dead end, or the limitations of the contemporary mental form. Instead he was very complementary about its rigor. He talked about how while Wittgenstein had defined a very limited world he had approached it with wonderful rigor and precision. So while Wittgenstein was able to say very little he said it so wonderfully (the Tractatus ends famously with a comment about how this very short volume has said all that can be said and “what cannot be said must be passed over in silence.” Speaking of mental form, it seems that, unlike his admirers in at Cambridge and the reconstructed Vienna Circle and all that, Wittgenstein himself understood that it was those things that could not be said within the rigorous constraints of logical analysis (that were passed over in silence) were in fact the things that were really interesting.

Over the next years we had a number of other occasions to talk about the Method as well as the “machines” as logic diagrams to support that approach. He was very encouraging of my studies and interest in these questions but would only rarely offer clarifications or insights. One particular conversation comes to mind because I felt he gave me a big clue of how to understand the relations of these things with our Method. He explained how, for example, the ideas or concerns of these other schools might appear in a certain aspect or way in our Method but perhaps not obviously or with the same names, etc. I had no idea what he meant so he very helpfully put this example about Husserl’s method and ours. He explained that on the surface Husserl’s key notion of abschattung (“adumbration” in English) does not appear in our Method but that it is in fact implicit in the first step, i.e. fixing the point of view. While that was interesting in itself (to me at least) it also opened a door for me in my attempt to understand the Method more deeply.

I hope all these scattered comments are at least interesting even if they are not of much help. I will certainly let you know if anything else comes to mind.