Saturday, January 12, 2013

Weak, Paradoxical Terminology

When we try to describe transcending experiences, we use words rooted in matter. Such experiences have the character of invisibility, intangibility—to others. We then insist that what we experienced was real, using a word that comes from the Latin res, meaning “thing” or “matter.” But, of course, what we assert, using that word, is the thingishness of something that isn’t—a thing.

Personal experiences are labeled subjective, a word that has a strong tinge of unreality—because experiences cannot be shared. But when we insist that, to the contrary, our experiences are objectively real, we are using the Latin for something “tangible,” placed right in front of us, visible, graspable. But others can neither see nor grasp these experiences.

In German reality is Wirklichkeit, derived from the verb wirken, “to effect, to act,” hence in English “actuality.” Now that is better than “reality” because it is more descriptive of what we experience, which is a kind of power. Is energy a thing? Or is, rather, matter a kind of solidified energy?

These thoughts arose when, greatly amusing me with its truth, I read a post by The Zenist last Thursday (link) in which he suggests that first-person (“subjective”) experiences may be defined as paranormal—because “the dictionary essentially said paranormal was beyond the range of science and recognizable phenomena.” Right on. My own view has long been that life itself, never mind Mind, is the radical discontinuity in reality. (I can’t get along without that word.)

Paradox also arises because the closest we can actually get to the real Real is by examining our own experience of being aware of being—but that is subjective and therefore to be dismissed. The objective manifestations of our selves are bodies that we’ll leave behind. And rooted here are some Sufi teachings suggesting that, in this realm, we’re upside down. We think that res makes Mind whereas, in actuality, Mind makes res. Turning things right side up, we are prior to things and superior to them. Therefore if we want to use words perversely to mean their exact opposites, that’s Okay. We are the boss.

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