Sunday, June 8, 2008

Let It Be

To be or not to be, that is the question. What does that mean - being? It is something most of us take for granted. We don't have to know or even question the nature of our being to be. Popeye's famous saying, "I am what I am and that's all that I am," may be the quintessential statement on being. What more is needed?

Contemporary philosophers tell us that the term "I am" has no meaning by itself; it must have an action or relation appended to it. Hegel distinguished between the being of objects and the being of people, but thought being stripped of all predicates is nothing.

Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) exploits the version of Husserlian intentionality by insisting that human reality (Heidegger's Dasein or human way of being) is "in the world" primarily via its practical concerns and not its epistemic relationships.

Emmanuel Levinas (1923 - 1995) in his ethical phenomenology, asks the question, why is there Being instead of simply nothing? His "first philosophy" is responsibility that unfolds into dialogical sociality and is based on our transcendence through relation with other. His "being" is the exploration of sensibility as the locus at which "inside" and "outside" merge. The exploration of the self, minus the intentional ego, through an affective complex, unfolds in a language that is best communicated through enactment. It can be likened to prophetic witness. It is as though Levinas were describing the affective investiture of a subject called to witness.

Levinas' study brings us closer to the theological view of being, like Hermetic philosophy, which relates man as microcosm to the macrocosm in a direct covenant with the Creator of life, who is defined as God. This is seemingly an abstract definition, if we take the word as it is. Its effectiveness, however, changes entirely if we see it as Creation and as force, indeed as energy in which and through which all aspects of life come into being, and man, the very crown upon Creation, is brought into being.

The Buddhist terms it Nirvana; and the period of which it is the termination is called by the Hindus, Kalpa, a word signifying Form. And they hold that the universe undergoes a succession of Kalpas, being at the end of each reabsorbed into Deity, Who then rests awhile prior to the next manifestation, reposing upon Sesha, the celestial serpent, or living circle of Eternity, the symbol of essential Being, as opposed to existence in its strict sense of manifested Being.

The Hindu Vedanta gives a spiritual interpretation of the Ultimate Reality, the meaning of creation, and the human individual. Its view of the cosmos is one of organic wholeness that includes all beings and things. Things and beings in the realm of maya are not non-existent, though they are illusory. The beings and things of the relative universe appear real because they reflect the light of the Absolute.

The Essenes believe that consciousness is being, and there is no mode of matter in which the potentiality of personality, and therein of man, does not subsist. For every molecule is a mode of the universal consciousness. Without consciousness there is no being.

What do YOU think?


Anthe said...

Interesting question, what ‘being’ means. Personally I think there is more than ‘I am what I am and that’s all that I am’, and that besides ‘being’ there is also ‘becoming’.

In astrology there is a theory about the blackmoon axis, the 'being'. There is a point in the zodiac that shows who you are. A sort of core quality.

This quality is a highly developed reflection of the sign it is in. But because it is highly developed, it is refused by the outside world. And because it does not fit in, the child manifest itself by the opposite sign. Others encourage that quality, and as a result you might think it is who you are.

The ‘becoming’ is reflected by the signs of the node axis. The sign of the south node is how you are used to act, which has always worked before. And the sign of the north node is the opposite of that. It is a fascination you are drawn to, but has to be developed.

So I think that there is a ‘I am what I am’, but it is not ‘all that I am’. There is also the potential of ‘what I become’.

Keith said...

According to scholars when God said of his name, "I am that I am," God was using language of the times and all it means is, "It is what it is." In other words, it was tantamount to God saying, "Don't bother me with that question." More intellectual, mysterious and symbolic meanings have been attributed to it centuries *after* it was first written. My favorite (and fairly original as
my own interpretation) is that "I am that I am," means God and reality IS in order for God and reality to be. Or that God created everything, (including us) because the material universe and everything else *establishes* His being.

Lee said...

'The Essene’s believe that consciousness is being, and there is no mode of matter in which the potentiality of personality, and therein of man, does not subsist. For every molecule is a mode of the universal consciousness. Without consciousness there is no being.'

This mirrors what I think.

God's proclomation 'I am' is mirrored in the Sikh's Guru Granth Sahib, on the first page, on the first line, the very first words:

'Ik onkar' Literally 'God is 1'. It is said that the rest of our holy scripture is dedicated to understanding this.

Molly Brogan said...

I would agree with that. Not only does our experience reflect to us, our being and becoming in the moment, but we reflect to ourselves our godhood, and are a reflection of the one.

Neil said...

The whole being thingy seems remarkably simple to me. We are good at being stupidly destructive arses and not so good at being peaceful over the long-term in order to being something else. This we are consumed with a gross kind of self-love that relishes human stupidity, confusing the past with something we have yet to achieve in the future by fixing the present. The rest is fiddling whilst the planet burns and evolution is all that is in being, seeking to make itself devoid of human consciousness as a chronic mistake. Even now it is weighing up which 'horseman' to throw at us and when.

Lee said...

Hah Neil,

I agree which is why God extols us to come to God. ;¬)

Alex at said...

I think that everything is being, always is expressing and reflecting part of life - there is no unconsciousness in the absolute sense.

Being, can of course also change direction - we can choose how to 'be', which is what makes it such a great topic of discussion.

Slip said...

I think God (the name we use) is the essence of all living things and all things perceived to be as in everything you see and everything you touch. When you get cut and the wound heals as if it were never there, that is God. Plants grow and some produce fruit, this is God. The clouds, the sky, the rain are all of God. Every creature large and small from the mammoth to the microscopic cell is of God. God is not a deity; man creates deities. God is all life with or without our existence in it.

Vamadevananda said...

Neil, such simplistic views just don't lead you to the truth, to matters of fact.

For instance, self - love is essential to being peaceful over the long - term ; self - love, too, is the cause behind our being stupidly destructive arses.

The limit to self - love is difficult to identify and constantly retain in our memory. The form of the two kinds of self - love is still more difficult to appreciate and know for all times to come.

To enslave the self to love or to make love subservient to self ... these are very subtle matters to know and demarcate in practice for all occasions, over entire lifetime.

I am sorry, Neil, your post was without any insight whatsoever. It was gross. And, its simplistic nature was not a virtue from whichever point of view I saw, including your own !

Molly Brogan said...

I think it is important to respond to eachother without judging what is right and wrong about ideas and falling into belittling statements like "simplistic nature was not a virtue." These are all value judgments that may or may not be shared with other participants, but clearly for arguments and have no room in respectful dialogue.

Neil brings up aspects of being that are indeed a puzzle. Why are there destructive aspects of being? Why don't we all choose more peaceful? I suspect Vam's response is a very good example. As you pointed out in a different thread, Neil, there are those of us who love to disagree and get some self worth from one upsmanship. This is a mild form of the self centered destructive behavior that concerns you. I know it is somewhere in me because it is reflected here in these dialogues often enough. Yet it may be the mirror of what I judge, coming into my experience over and over again until I recognize that I am judging this behavior in others and can let go of the judgment. If I can, it will fall away from my experience. I truly believe this.

Fiddling while the planet burns is an interesting viewpoint. I have faith that good will prevail, that the fiddling and the fiddler are part of the learning curve, and that the planet is a vital, dynamic living thing and will also prevail.

In any given moment, we can look out into the world and make choices about our experience. Can we see it with love and gratitude, or must we condemn it? In any glimpse into experience, there are many details, so many, our focus can only take in so much, depending on how narrow it is. How often do we choose to focus on the negative, and miss the splendor? How often do we expand our focus so far, that we can see the balance and loose the charge we feel on the details?

Lonlaz said...

Being is an answer to it's own question. When I was lost, and didn't know who I was and where I fit, I found comfort in that I AM. It can't be denied, at least not very effectively, anyway.

Justin said...

Re Sartre and Heidegger: Sartre's view of being was that it was "transphenomenal". He believed that nothingness "lay at the heart of being like a worm" and that the "for-itself", introduced nothingness into being in its nihilating withdrawal from the "in-itself". The meaning of being was understood as including this nilhilation hence the transphenominality. In normal terms what happens is that the situation becomes not my seeing nor me seeing but it. The "vacuum" (nothing) is established as space and the thing is then over there in the vacuum. This is the process of reification at the foundation of the notion and experience of a thing.

Heidegger believed that access to the meaning of being consisted in "thrusting aside one's interpretive tendencies" and in the "destruction of the history of ontology". In normal terms this meant going back to the Greeks and doing away with a series of mistakes in interpretation to reawaken questioning of the meaning of being directly around one. Heidegger was trying to show how it was possible to really ask what the meaning of Being was and to experience it in the questioning.

Access is gained by ceasing the interpretation involving nihilation and experiencing the fullness as fullness.

What this means today is that access to the meaning of being comes from stopping a process of interpretation and referring instead to the experience of meaning unmodified. The problem is that this "tendency" to posit objects is very hard to overcome and the vast majority of our experience once we "learn" to do it as infants, is conditioned by it. Indeed few are able to separate their "observations" from their "interpretations" and so there is a kind of self confirming illusion in which everyday observations confirm the existence of objects and thought is seen as true because it conforms to the observations that it produces. Indeed questioning the meaning of being becomes nonsensical then. We have a vulgar technical term for it in engineering... its called "drinking your own piss". The corvette after all is really there and is really red, isn't it? Only those few times when the meaning of Being is evident are we free from the contradictions introduced by Nothingness.

Complicating it are the essential stabilities that are real and are at the essential heart of the ability to perform reifications. Too often mystical awareness neglects the reality of these essential things. As the Koan says: At first I saw a tree and it was a tree. Then I saw a tree and it was the Tao then I saw a tree and it was a tree. The final state, in which the mystical is integrated with the natural essential meaning of things makes it even harder to explain. Yes the corvette is there and yes it is red but...

Today most take for granted that meaning is what is "in one's head" and reality, as opposed to meaning, is "out there" in the world. This works for a lot of things but prevents access to the meaning of being. When experiencing the meaning of being the meaning of being is being and so this separation cannot occur. That is why the experience transcends time and space and leads to descriptions that oppose its "Oneness" to the "multiplicity" that occurs when reification holds sway.

It is hard to believe that such a specialized and rare consciousness holds the intellectual key to understanding but as far as I can tell it does.

Molly Brogan said...

meaning as interpretation or meaning as observation could be the same I suppose, but not necessarily. Can we witness without interpretation? The sufi's would say so I'm pretty sure. I know that I have, but really don't have a problem with interpreting what I have witnessed. It brings understanding to awareness and allows for sharing with other. Like giving language to the logos - where does the real meaning occur - in the application of language with denotation and connotation, or the spirit of the word as it comes in inspiration. Or is there a difference?

For me, my being receives the logos and is the witness. My other aspects apply the rest like mind and ego.

Pat said...

Ahhh! You've reminded me of one of my favourite songs from my youth. 'There is a Mountain' by Donovan. Although this video's pretty shit, the song IS the song. Have a listen:

The principle's the same and I don't doubt that it was derived from your citing.

Slip said...

The interpretation of what one sees is merely identifying and labeling the attributes of what is seen for the individual understanding of it. Whether we witness it or not the existence of it stands. The meaning as interpretation would stand separate from meaning as observation as each would have separate descriptives. If a train was moving towards a person sitting on the tracks and that person's meaning was by observation without interpretation the train would run over him. If the person's meaning was by interpretation then the approaching train would mean danger and the person would move away. Meaning by observation is an integral part of meaning by interpretation as the observation precedes the interpretation. One cannot interpret without observation and I would think that is the only time they are the same. Meaning by observation can exclude interpretation.

I better go my wife is looking at me with squinting eyes. Observation and interpretation. My wife is looking at me with squinting eyes. Observation.
Just my thoughts.

Slip said...

Donovan's song:

The lock upon my garden gate's a snail, that's what it is

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain, then there is

Caterpillar sheds his skin to find the butterfly within

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain, then there is

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain

Oh, Juanita, oh, Juanita
Oh, Juanita I call your name

Oh, the snow will be a blinding sight to see as it lies on yonder hillside

The lock upon my garden gate's a snail, that's what it is

Caterpillar sheds his skin to find the butterfly within

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain, then there is
Repeat and fade

Pat said...

Sorry if I took everyone by surprise here. I've always been a fan of Donovan. Hearing this song again forced(!?) me to drink a couple of beers (Hobgoblin [5.2%] by my local brewery, Wychwood, here in Witney) and I ended up spending about 3 hours listening to various tracks of his and some of America, The Hollies, Herman's Hermits, ELO and the Travelling Wilburys. But, it's time for bed now and, I reckon, I'll have no problem getting to sleep. ;-)

Molly Brogan said...

Truly "being" in the moment. Applause, applause.

Slip said...

If a person is in a coma and experiencing a sense of energy then I would consider that "being". Being can transcend the limited levels of thought that we experience here. A tree is being, a star is being, transformation of solid to liquid to gas is being. Being is not confined to the awareness by us that something exists. Something can exist and experience being without our presence. When the tree falls in the forest it does make sound even though we are not there to hear it as does lightning striking in a remote part of the world. Being perhaps can have various attributes such as level, intensity, active or passive. The act of being, the art of being or the termination of being is something to consider.

Bruce said...

Could it be as simple as listening to each others "stories" and to allow, honor and embrace them?
Can we love each other without answering or own deepest questions?
Perhaps by discovering our true oneness, we will know what it truly is to "be".

Vamadevananda said...

Being is / can be everything, Molly, and even be / seem artful ! As Jethroe Tull says : I am a tiger ... and I'm a snake ...

Molly Brogan said...

Well, that was the one part of the Bob Dylan movie, "I'm Not Here" that I did like. It had a terrific cast, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchette, Christian Bale, Richard Gere... each played a different aspect of Dylan's character as he reinvented himself at different parts of his life. I know that I have done this as I have been called into service of the greater whole by experience to become student, drifter, teacher, wife, mother, activist, prevention specialist, social designer, corporate executive, writer...still, through each, and each seemed to have their own unique identity, I felt the heartbeat of the same essential being - the being expressed as the writer today. You may have hit it here, Vam. The art of being may just be staying in touch with the essential aspect of being while creating experience in harmony with soul and spirit.

In the movie, there was an element of suffering for Dylan as he transitioned from persona to persona. This may lend itself to Orn's idea of the lifting of the veil layers during the dark night of the soul, as the ego dies to be reborn. I suspect (from experience) that if we can learn to let go of these ego aspects with joy, (can we feel pain while experiencing joy - as in childbirth?), the suffering is unnecessary.

Universal Spirit said...

A valuable post for those wishing to understand the essential unity of all religions. Please allow to me add: Ain-Soph, The Supreme Nothingness, Tawhid, The Thing Within Itself and Agnostos Theos.
All symbolize the infinite nature on the One Reality.

Pippi said...

My personal philosophy, and my mantra, is a statement I wrote a few years ago when I was re-discovering my artistic and creative nature:


I honestly don't know what I would be, what the statement "I AM" would mean to me, if I did not create. I think the statement would be meaningless if I could not manifest into reality the visions which I am blessed to have access to.

I look around at the physical proof of my existence - my studio, my home, my body (I dance as well), and I see the artifacts that I have left in my wake. They are things of beauty (to me, anyway). Mostly I see the unfinished projects... I have a hard time remembering what I have completed... and so I say, "so, I am unfinished. I am a work in progress."

I think that is always going to be true. What's important for me is that the act of creation and manifestation helps myself and others to see who I am... perhaps, even, who they are...