This is part 2 of a series, the preceding post is located here


Basic semioticsIn understanding dreams, narratives and existential constructs in a search for truth, we have to also understand the immaterial truth as unknowable in it’s purest form. As Kant wrote, it’s unlikely that we humans are even capable of touching on the “absolute” –

 

People have always spoken of the absolutely necessary [absolutnotwendigen] being, and have taken pains, not so much to understand whether and how a thing of this kind can even be thought, but rather to prove its existence…. if by means of the word unconditioned I dismiss all the conditions that the understanding always requires in order to regard something as necessary, this does not come close to enabling me to understand whether I then still think something through a concept of an unconditionally necessary being, or perhaps think nothing at all through it. – Critique of Pure Reason, A593

Even the Buddah mocked the idea of an understandable absoulte in the early Upanishads. In the Yamaka Sutta he relates how the facts of some realities lie beyond our powers of descriptive language.

“And so, my friend Yamaka — when you can’t pin down the Tathagata as a truth or reality even in the present life — is it proper for you to declare, ‘As I understand the Teaching explained by the Blessed One, a monk with no more effluents, on the break-up of the body, is annihilated, perishes, & does not exist after death’?”

“Previously, my friend Sariputta, I did foolishly hold that evil supposition. But now, having heard your explanation of the Dhamma, I have abandoned that evil supposition, and have broken through to the Dhamma.”

“Then, friend Yamaka, how would you answer if you are thus asked: A monk, a worthy one, with no more mental effluents: what is he on the break-up of the body, after death?”

“Thus asked, I would answer, ‘Form is inconstant… Feeling… Perception… Fabrications… Consciousness is inconstant. That which is inconstant is stressful. That which is stressful has ceased and gone to its end.”

Carl Jung believed that religion, or a sense of personal spirituality, was a necessary or at least functional aspect of human psychic development, though he failed to specify or indicate that people could create strict definitions of how that spiritual world-view defined meaningfulness in their lives. This portion of our psychological development is part of the human need to create frameworks for interpreting reality and experience, or a filter to bring meaningfulness to chaos. Camus recognized that as a legitimate answer to the crisis of absurdism, although he felt that religion constitutes philosophical suicide. We can avoid this by creating our own personally meaningful religious or spiritual understanding so long as it isn’t insincere and not wholly based on the work of others.

I’m partial to Joseph Campbell’s words on the meaning of life:

People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about. – Episode 2, Chapter 4, The Power of Myth

Campbell is also reported to have said that being alive was the meaning in and of itself – this position is very attractive to an existentialist frame of mind, though it violates the basic tenet of existence preceding essence by affirming it without reservation.

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