We are opaque to ourselves. We don’t know why we do the things we do, what our deep motivations are. We just act first and explain or excuse later. It’s how it works, how we work; act first, the mind accounts for it later. Which makes sense as we were pre-verbal as living organisms for the vast majority of our evolutionary past, and we also start our individual lives with no words, no symbols or conceptions.
If thoughts were so essential we wouldn’t be able to move or function without them at all. We’d just be wide-eyed blobs waiting for that first glimmer of conception, that first word that would get us moving. But we see animals motivated and functioning, and in infancy we express our preferences and move in the world before conception is even conceived of.
It’s as Nietzsche observed, that we’re living beings before we’re rational beings. The verbal, conceptual mentation that we consider so essential to our functioning, that we mostly believe drives us entirely, and even think this layer IS us, is in fact a secondary emergent layer.
This layer certainly has tremendous functional utility. The emergence of language and symbolic representation was THE explosive Promethean moment that unleashed our unique species-level creativity and cooperation, for better and for worse.
But it’s the power of representative layer of reality that also leads us to unhappiness. When we confuse the representation for reality itself then we can suffer it. Particularly in regard to self-identity. By way of example, we can confuse our concept of a tree with the reality of a tree and not necessarily suffer that. I mean, if our conceptual idea of the tree is so completely divorced from the reality of it, then acting out the ensuing expectations might cause problems. If our notions of ‘tree-ness’ included things like permeability then we might expect that we can walk straight through one, and so we’d find that we literally ‘bump into’ the reality of the tree.
But it’s when these representations are mistaken for self the suffering really begins. If our false ideas about who and what we are include things that are vulnerable, incomplete, broken, unworthy, etc. and we believe those notions, then we suffer them even though they’re false.
This is not new, I know I’ve written about this before, about the mechanism of mistaking conceptions for reality particularly in regard to self-identity —
That concepts and symbols are a representational non-primary emergent ‘layer’ of reality, that when taken to be reality itself — aka believed — can result in the experience of psychological and emotional suffering.
Anyway, I’m trying to derive or distill and communicate the essential issues in regard to human suffering and happiness, no biggie right 😉
Now some profound thinkers in the psychological field focus on ‘meaning’ as the foundational concern, but I’m not sure that I agree. At least in regard to ‘articulated’ meaning. But it may be that the the structure of something resembling ‘meaning’ might be embodied in a pre-articulated way, that our worldviews might well be non-conceptual even while they’re structural. And therefore, stated worldviews are mere articulations of that embodiment. Something like that.
This somewhat comports with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s dictum that all states of consciousness have specific physiological correlates. But it’s important not to put the cart before the horse and say that states of consciousness DEPEND on physiology. This would be to posit physiology as first-mover when it’s only the manifestation — aka visible effect — of the unmanifest functioning of consciousness itself. To state otherwise is to mistake the cart FOR the horse.
Because the domain of phenomena is inert in a sense. That is to say it has no ‘life’ of its own, even though it IS life, it has no animating force, as it itself is the animat-ED.
It’s ironic that the REAL is in fact the very inverse of what we hold to be ‘real’ in the conventional world. The real REAL is that which is permanent, never-changing, ever-present, and here’s the counter-intuitive kicker — formless. Because all forms pass away and have no intrinsic existence or constancy, the term ‘real’ in regard to them is only relative, contingent.
But the real power and revelation lies in exploring the nature of being for ourselves. Because we can’t take anything for granted. It’s not sufficient to accept the nature of reality on faith or authority, or faith IN authority. Because it’s been my experience that for the most part many who claim to have authoritative views have not inquired or explored as deeply enough, that when pressed on their foundational axioms and ‘knowledge’ they don’t always withstand the scrutiny of inquiry. And I’m talking about the nature of ONE’S OWN subjective experiential reality, so by definition it’s something we must all do for ourselves. So take nothing on faith, or rather take nothing on another’s faith to be true in any absolute sense.
This is the way to truth, reality — we question everything, inquire into everything, and question the questions. And ultimately, or even primarily, we question and inquire into the questioner. And we don’t stop short or we’ll get stuck on some relative truth or identity. If we start down this road, go all the way.
So we don’t comply, we don’t merely comport. We dissent, we go our own way, not out of petty contrarianism for its own sake, even though that can be a powerful tool. But we inquire into the nature of being first-hand. Starting right here and right now, with ourself, with the nature of our subjective experiencing itself. What is it, how does it happen, where, to whom? What’s the nature of thinking, sensing, experiencing? What do these words even relate to?
So we look to see what is real and true, in ourself. Because where else? That’s all we’ve got, all human culture and knowledge is just an aggregate of first-hand reports of subjective experiencing. That’s it. And all the views of others are in fact showing up as OUR first-hand subjective experience. So what do we or can we know except our own experiencing? So we take that seriously, we make it our primary concern. Because if we want to make sense of reality we first have to make sense of ourselves.