"States" and "Depth“
The scale of differing states makes a distinction between lower and higher states in which humans find themselves: Sometimes you're in a good mood, sometimes less. Some people grumble day by day on their emotional minimum, others are always in a good mood, and some are more or less permanently in the higher spheres of bliss. This is the scale of inner states between hell and heaven, with many gradations in between. These states are volatile and can change quickly, but most people live within a certain range of moods. Through meditation and other inner practices more permanent higher states can be reached and maintained.
This scale of states, which is described in other models as well, e.g. by Ken Wilber, is not the dimension of depth, which is explained in more detail below.
"Depth" in the sense of Freinacht is a relationship of the individual to reality as a whole, an inner quality that is often associated with wisdom. It is the ability to embrace the manifold aspects of life. The more inner states, emotions and moods someone has experienced, pleasant and unpleasant, high and low, the more depth there is.
Getting to know means not only being shaken by violent emotions or life crises, but also the conscious experience of going through such processes, in certain forms of processing. "Deep" people are therefore not those, who are always in a good mood and who can think of a joke for every situation, but people who have experienced highs and lows in the course of their lives, who have gone through and grown through crises, who have met challenges they could master.
Such experiences give rise to a profound relationship to fundamental aspects of reality in subjective experience. "Depth is the number of states that have become inseparable parts of us; integrated into our memories and personalities" (p. 282). The range of this dimension includes agony, the state of despair and hopelessness and ecstasy, the emergence from all limiting habits, and the celebration of the fullness of life, and all facets between these extremes of human existence. "Depth is a person’s innermost recognition of the greatness and/or seriousness of reality.“ (p. 283) The development of depth changes the relationship to the world and existence as a whole in the form of an "implicit knowledge", a form of wisdom that speaks from the recognition of the moment rather than from knowledge acquired from books.
This dimension of depth can be divided into three aspects, according to the classical trinity of truth (the mystery), justice (the tragedy) and beauty.
The experience of beauty is about depth in complete subjectivity: beauty is always bound to the eye of the beholder. It is a first-person relationship to reality. The gaze that focuses on beauty is in a very deep, unique way in contact with reality, ready to appreciate all its richness. It exposes the individual which, in all its variations and forms, deserves admiration as soon as the gaze on beauty brings it out of the uniformity of appearances. This gaze is the highest form of appreciation possible.
The perspective of beauty reveals insights into reality that add an invaluable quality to the experience of being human. It always sees more than the surface, even if there are apparently only surfaces to see; this special view goes into depth and recognizes the whole in detail. An image of Van Gogh or Picasso that we see in a museum can be an overwhelming experience if we engage with the profound dimension of beauty.
Not only art, but also the realm of nature and of human experience - in interpersonal and self-encounter relationships - offer access to the quality of beauty and thus to the depth of experience. Without beauty, life would be an error, to paraphrase a sentence by Nietzsche.
The search for the truth leads to mystery. There is a special sublimity in the encounter with reality created by the drive to gaining knowledge - the will to decipher the fundamental mystery of reality. The mystery is only "unveiled" in its greatness if it is a search for truth for the sake of truth.
Here the ego refers to reality as an impersonal "it" - as a third person, as an object, whose essence, however, is respected in a special way: It should not primarily serve a human purpose, but should be recognized as it works inwardly for its own sake.
Truth seekers do not necessarily need a degree or a scientific qualification. For the determination to acquire knowledge is first and foremost an existential and spiritual undertaking in which every human being can take part. Scientists and researchers are only professionals and specialists in this broad field of human mysticism.
The question of what is good inevitably confronts us with the tragedy of human existence. Human life never proceeds according to plan, in a premeditated order, but takes unpredictable and surprising, sometimes overwhelming turns every day. At times, we have the impression that we have everything under control and everything resides inside the green zone, and then it throws us around again so heavily that we hardly can find support.
This brings us to the fact of universal suffering: "There is a fundamental and logically necessary brokenness of reality itself. And before you know it, you start falling apart as you get assigned to a crash course for death. All that blooms, including childhood, love relationships and friendships (especially those), must either rot or wither away to be lost and forever forgotten." (p. 292)
Life is not a gimmick, it contains an essential dimension of seriousness that we cannot eliminate by discussion or meditation. This is the aspect of tragedy, and according to Hanzi it is precisely from this point that the impulse to take action for solidarity and shared humanity arises. From the clear realization of the tragedy of existence he concludes that there is a need for “surrender to the primacy of the ‘thou’, the you-ness of reality; the ‘youniverse’”. “Being you“ shows itself as a genuine reality in the second person: "I am nothing without you. I am born through you, and I must live, ultimately, in service of you".
Facing tragedy, then, we should enter into active charity and solidary orientation , which can never come to an end with its work, but which in every act is worthwhile and profitable for the giving and receiving part. Where there is tragedy, happiness is to grow through actions of love thus multiplying the good qualities in the world.
I would add, that acting for the higher good can also flow from states of inner freedom, as a special form of self-expression, not only from the experience of tragedy. If we are free of fear, we are not only not mean to our fellow human beings, but we help them gladly and with joy.
Freinacht closes this chapter of his book with the following sentences: "Only a sense of tragedy can drive us to work for the wretched of the earth: Loving until it hurts. ... that only broken hearts can save the world. Only broken hearts can save the world." (p. 293) Certainly it is not the one-dimensional administrators of power who, with their polished egos, can steer human destiny towards a constructive direction, but people with depth and maturity. But it will probably take some time before this insight has seeped into the depths of the souls of a sufficiently large number of citizens and voters.
Hanzi Freinacht: The Listening Society. Metamodern Guide to Politics. Book One. Metamoderna 2017