World as Divine Symbol

World as the totality of all existence, both in its form and content, is nothing but a symbol. It is a symbol because it always points to something other than itself, to an origin that is itself not in or part of the world, to an origin that is itself other-worldly. Even modern science has secretly come to this same conclusion though it does not explicitly admit it: They claim that the physical world came into being without the need for something outside itself. If we ask why and how, their answer is ” according to the laws of physics!”

However, if Big Bang occurs simply due to these laws, then these laws must preexist the Big Bang itself, if not temporally but surely logically, in order to make it begin; these laws must in one way or another transcend the universe or else our world could not come into existence. On the other hand, laws of physics are not themselves physical entities; they are not made of matter and neither are they tangible worldly phenomena; rather, they are Ideal, invisible forms that can be grasped only through intellectual intuition.

Thus, we see that science too cannot help but explain the universe by recourse to a set of ideal and other-worldly beings that must necessarily both precede and transcend the phenomenal world. If modern science only apparently succeeded in omitting God from the picture it was also simultaneously forced to replace God with universal laws enjoying an absolute and Godly status. Scientists only renamed that transcendent ground of the world from “God” to “scientific laws”. Apart from the name, the traditional God of religion and the modern laws of science both have the same role and authoritative voice in explaining the phenomenal universe: Without them our universe could not be, and now that it is its every moment and phenomenon is sustained only because the Godly laws keep being what they are without themselves being in need of anything else for their existence.

It is in virtue of its symbolic character that world is a questionable phenomenon, something always in need of explanation, and it will always remain so until we realize that world as symbol cannot be explained in terms of world-phenomena themselves but only in terms of a transcendent principle.

Adi Shankara
Adi Shankara

Adi Shankara, the great Hindu philosopher and theologian of the early 8th century CE, expressed the necessity of a transcendental understanding, and origin, of the world in the following sentence:

Trying to explain the phenomenal universe without reference to the Divine is like trying to explain day and night without reference to the sun.

The advent and development of world’s three greatest intellectual traditions all aimed at understanding the phenomenon of world, namely religion, philosophy, and science, is itself the most obvious indication of the always insufficient, and hence questionable, character of this phenomenon. If world was self-sufficient and had no ground outside itself, then we would never question its being and appearance in the first place; we would simply take appearances at face value and as they present themselves to us in immediate experience without even the idea of a cause or origin, and the need for explanation, coming to our minds.

But man was never satisfied with mere appearances; he believed, and even now secretly believes, even subconsciously knows, that there is something behind appearances, that appearances must stand on something other than themselves, something itself not an appearance, something transcendent to all appearances. This is the always present but often concealed presupposition that initiates and drives all inquiries. This intrinsic referencing of phenomena to something behind themselves, this pointing-beyond which is the root cause of the sense of wonder, this referencing-beyond is always there in all phenomena precisely because this world-phenomenon as a whole is nothing but a symbol. A symbol is a pointer, and world insofar as it points to some ground of existence is nothing but a symbol. The very fact that man can raise questions, that he/she can doubt, and in general the very phenomenon of questioning, is possible only because world-phenomena-in-themselves are by their nature insufficient and questionable, and that man knows from the depths of his heart that there is something above and beyond everything that appears, and thus by his struggle to know he is in fact yearning to return to that absolute ground in which no question and no desire can creep.

Man can raise grand questions and move toward their final resolution because as spiritual being he is equipped with a spiritual instinct, the instinct to scent the truth and return to it: For man the knowledge of truth is always a matter of return to that knowledge, for if man were not somehow intimately familiar with truth he/she could not even begin to form, let alone assimilate, the idea of truth in the first place, and hence he/she could not scent and find it. Thus, man’s questioning is a sniffing around of the divine perfume that is meant to intoxicate him out of the world and into transcendence, namely deliver him from world-bondage.

If man can question the world it is only because this world by itself does not have the character and quality of a final answer. In other words, a self-sufficient and self-contained world cannot develop an organism capable of questioning the existence and adequacy of that world; a world cannot by itself develop and house other-worldly ideas.

Man questions because this world is not the answer

More precisely, world is a transcendental clue. If we take it by itself and in itself, and then set our hopes and interests with reference to world itself, whether these interests are material or spiritual, then we have missed the point. World must be viewed as a means and not as an end in itself. It should be seen as a hanging thread from which we must ascend to the divine instead of descending further down into its inevitable emptiness. A symbol by itself is always empty and devoid of meaning if we overlook its symbolic character and fail to see that it is pointing to something other than itself. The primary cause of the meaninglessness of lives in modern era is that the end toward which this world points is omitted from the picture. We have taken the symbol as that for which it stands and that to which it must lead us. Hence, our lives point to nowhere; we are not anchored in anything transcendent and permanent. We are not anchored at all.

“In the beginning there was Word.” This Word refers to the world, world as the incarnation of meaning, world as word as symbol. But a word must by necessity point to a transcendent referent if it is to mean anything at all, a meaning that is produced when consciousness confronts the symbol, a meaning that is grasped only if consciousness transcends that the word, namely the world, and enters into the realm of pure meaning, naked truth, God Himself. As a symbol without referent is meaningless, our world too without reference to the divine is meaningless: God became flesh so that flesh becomes God. In the present condition in which we are totally forgetful of the Divine Principle we have nothing to become; we have nothing worthy of becoming except what lies beneath and below ourselves; instead we see ourselves as nothing but the becoming of a chimpanzee.

World is a sacred symbol descended from above; world as a mundane phenomenon ascending from inert matter makes no sense at all, and this is so besides the brute fact that the ascent of matter to consciousness is both logically and empirically impossible and by all means an irrational position. We could all see this if we used the aid of the infallible intelligence instead of letting ourselves being bullied into irrational opinions by what is intellectually fashionable nowadays.

Facing the truth regardless of public opinion and intellectual prejudice demands courage and refined intelligence. Only a coward accepts anything stupid and irrational simply because it comes out of the mouth of academia or because it is intellectually fashionable. Being intelligent and open-minded is no synonym for blind faith in evolution and the claptrap of the sort. Being intelligent and open-minded has nothing to do with believing and babbling incomprehensible gibberish under the guise of fancy and pseudo-intellectual names and forms and theories. Being intelligent and open-minded has to do with seeing things as they are and regardless of the pressure and the judgmental squint of the prevailing untruth.

Being intelligent and open-minded has to do with seeing pure and simple.

The Tyranny of Narrative

Does a falling tree make a sound when there is no one to hear it?

Of course it doesn’t. Sound is something essentially heard. In the absence of a hearer sound has no existence of its own. The vibrations of the air that transmits sound are there, but sound is not the vibrations though it is associated with them.

The narrative in the mind that keeps telling my story to myself exists in exactly the same way: It exists so long as there is a listener; otherwise it has no actual existence though it may be associated with brain. My narrative derives its existence from me and not the other way around.

The moment my attention is withdrawn from the self-narrative and drawn towards an event, such as music or sex, that narrative ceases to exist for me and I am liberated from its reign. The Real element of my existence is not the narrative but the I: When I am not no narrative can be, but I can be without having a narrative. The moment of orgasm is perhaps the best example of being without being anyone as we are annihilated in the infinite energy of the now. The intense energy is released not from the outside but from the inside; the only thing blocking it, as is always the case, is our narrative. Thus, to get the best orgasm just fuck the narrative.

Questionable World: A Phenomenology of Wonder

Why does man raise questions? 

There are many criteria based on which man is distinguished from animal, such as language and logic. One peculiar aspect of man, in contrast with animals, is his ability to refuse to accept matters of fact, to turn away in the face of the inevitable, to act as if, to pretend, to believe in the invisible and to get away with it, to doubt and to raise questions. To raise a question entails man’s conception of the alternatives to the fact: He sees what is in front of him, the factual aspect of world; but he questions this facticity because he can conceive of it being otherwise. The question of “why this” presupposes a “why not that?” the two being equivalent formulations of man’s peculiar mode of consciousness. In other words, man is distinct from the beast insofar as the world is questionable for him.

The questionability of world for man is a questionability of world’s facticity; world being a matter of fact can always be, or appear, otherwise. Man’s consciousness of this logical structure of the world makes it possible for him to raise questions in the face of what is since he knows that nothing has to be the way it is. It is this ability of man that poses the perennial question “why is there something rather than nothing?” To be more precise, man’s consciousness of world is a consciousness of contingency. Man knows that fact is contingent; world can always be a different world, even not be. Without consciousness of contingency man would not be able to doubt or raise questions in the face of facts. Question is the backbone of civilization; it was man’s ability to perceive the contingent character of his condition and to realize that his condition can be other than what it is that pushed him to change the condition from above, to change the very conditions that condition the course of future changes; thus, man entered into a dialectical relationship with his environment. Man’s civilization defined as constant transcendence of environmental and existential conditions is possible only in virtue of his realization that his condition can always be better, a realization that entails man’s ability to distinguish between fact and essence, necessity and contingency.

Consciousness of contingency is a possibility only against consciousness of necessity. Man can know the contingency of world if and only if he understands the essence of contingency as that which is not necessary, that which is possible but not actual. In other words, man’s consciousness of contingency, being at once the consciousness of what is possible but not yet actual, is possible only where there is consciousness of the Absolute: If man raises questions it is because he is conscious that fact is contingent and that it is so by necessity.

The same is true of man’s consciousness of the relative character of phenomena. Consciousness of relativity entails consciousness of the absolute. Man would not be able to understand relativity if he didn’t know what it is like not to be relative, hence the absolute. Relativity is not possible without the insertion of the absolute. An analogy may help us here: Einstein’s theory of relativity is based on two postulates: First, the laws of nature enjoy the same form in all inertial reference frames; that is, all inertial reference frames are equally valid in their formulations of these laws. Second, the speed of light is constant and has the same value in all inertial reference frames in vacuum; that is, the value of the speed of light doesn’t depend on the particular reference frame in which it is observed and measured.

It is evident that the first postulate is possible if and only if the second holds; in other words, all reference frames are equally valid since the speed of light is independent of all reference frames, thus being the absolute criterion based on which all reference frames can be considered equally valid.

This is similar to the case of man’s consciousness of relativity. If we posit that everything is relative, then this is so if and only if there exists an absolute reference frame relative to which everything is equally valid or relative. Everything is relative relative to man’s consciousness which has to be absolute in its apprehension of the relativity of all phenomena. The consciousness that posits relativity is at once the consciousness that posits itself as the absolute, the absolute criterion for the apprehension of all that is relative.

Man is the being for whom world is finite, contingent, and relative. If man raises questions about the world it is because he is in principle capable of conceiving of what is possible but not actual, which springs from his consciousness of world’s contingent character. Man’s consciousness of finitude, contingency, and relativity entails his consciousness of infinity, necessity, and the absolute.

It is against the consciousness of the infinitude, necessity, and the absolute that man grasps his own finitude, facticity, and relativity.

World is questionable for man because it stands in sharp contrast to the intrinsic values of his consciousness, such as perfection and immortality. The most factical aspect of man’s existence is his mortality; yet this mortality is that which man cannot be comfortable with; he readily accepts the existence of improbable phenomena such as aliens or transmigration of soul but cannot accept the most certain of all things, his death. If man struggles in the face of the inevitable death, if he is always bothered by his mortality, it is because he is at once in possession of the consciousness of immortality; it is against his consciousness of immortality that man’s mortality and finitude concerns him so much, being the very basis of all religions and philosophies and art and literature.

In a world that is essentially finite, contingent, relative, and mortal, no consciousness of infinity, perfection, and immortality can possibly grow. But it is a matter of fact that man is in possession of such consciousness, for otherwise world could not possibly be questionable for him. The questionable character of world for man entails an element within him that is not of this world, an element against which this world is what it is for man, a questionable world.

Take it easy but never serious

This body and mind are there in the world along other objects of the world; they are there as the tree or the river that’s there; they have nothing to do with me; they were never mine to begin with. Traditionally we put the divide between us and the world at our bodies. The body signified my share of the world, a small piece of island in which I am isolated. How on earth did we come to assume that this body has anything to do with me?! This body is as impermanent and autonomous as any other object in the world; the mind too; I only steer these thoughts once in a while; thoughts are just there like the chirping of birds, like the street noise; they always come and go like the wind that comes and goes; yet we take them personally! This body and this mind too are parts of the world and not mine; they are far from me as anything else in this world; if that tree doesn’t offend me why should a thought offend me or even draw my attention?! There is no such division as the I and the world: There is only the world.

The “I” is never part of the world; it is not an object in the world; no one has ever found or seen this mysterious “I.” This “I” is only the subject of experience of the world; it is like the screen on which the movie is projected; but the screen is never part of the movie; it has no role in it and it is never disturbed by its events; it stands there always only as the pure subject of experience. It is not even a thing in the usual sense of the world, for our idea of a “thing” is derived from the world and its content; but the “I,” being essentially otherworldly, is never a thing. To try to grasp or understand it is like a character in the movie trying to touch the screen, or the screen trying to see itself! It cannot be named or pointed at, for it is that which does the naming and the pointing. How can one ever understand or name the screen in terms of whatever that is happening inside this movie?

The screen, the “I,” in only the ground and condition for the possibility of experience; it has no other role or utility.

The “I” doesn’t move; it only experiences motion. It is not hurt; it only experiences something that we have named “pain.” The perennial mistake of man is that he thought this experience has a subject, as if there were a he or a she behind it. But this world, this experience, has no subject at all. There is no experiencer and no experienced: There is only experiencing. This is to be realized.

All these quests and questions about existence, its meaning, its origin and teleology, are parts of this movie; they are not real or genuine questions and concerns; they are not questions at all but only supporting characters. Science, religion, philosophy all happen inside this movie. Its big bang, its hereafter or god, its history and future, that how did this come to be, are all parts of the play; there is nothing outside the play, for the very idea of “outside the play” was given and rehearsed inside the play. Do as you wish, but take it easy and enjoy the play.

None is real; none ever matters: There is no question to be asked; no question to be answered; there is no mystery. There is no origin or end; there is nothing to be known; there is nowhere to go, for we never came to begin with; there is nothing to do; there is nothing to gain, nothing to lose;  it is all experience: There is only experiencing. This is to be realized.

The Ego Vertigo, or something…

The grandeur of the world comes from the grandeur of the man who experiences that world. World is rooted in man’s consciousness.

Tree is symbolic of the relation between the inward and the outward, the outward being the reflection of the inward. The roots of a tree look like its branches. The ground is the ground of reflection. The root of a tree is reflected in the outward form of the tree, and the outward form reflects the inward root. The outward is the mirror image of the inward, as the tree is the mirror image of its root. The deeper and the wider the roots penetrate, the higher the tree reaches.

A man of depth is the highest of all men. Depth does not come by accumulation of information, as if information were the same thing as knowledge. A knife can both save and kill. Books do the same; the avid reader is more likely to turn ignorant than wise.

Truth dwells in the depths of the self; it demands inward attention rather than outward distraction. Reading of someone else’s ideas and opinions should only have a negative function; it should only show us that “this, too, is not it.”

Everything we find in the world we ourselves put there in the first place.

One who is lost in the ideas and opinions of great men cannot see himself becoming one.

The heart of a man is the root of the world in which he lives; the outward courage and nobility reflects the inward strength and purity. The noble man is detached yet sensitive to aesthetic and intellectual subtleties. Detachment and objectivity is the highest virtue: “Objectivity is the prerogative of the human state.”

The garden of the self is to be treated with utmost care and respect, for the self is a gift, not a possession. Presence is a present; to accept it is to be present.

Modern science merely restates things with a sophisticated diction; it puts them differently only with a new lure as if it had really explained things. But it is nonetheless an alternative description, pure interpretation, one which acquiring modern tone and linguistic sophistication lacks intellectual depth and rigor: It is an empty shrine with no sense of the sacred, only inviting in in virtue of its transitory lure; but it is in essence a trap for one’s transcendental dignity and integrity.

Man is not something; he is something missing.

Thought is the course of a narrative that is trying to situate man, to localize him, and thus define him one way or another; for ego must have a sense of its location so to protect itself and its comfort zone; without this sense of location, or interested situatedness, which is provided from within the narrative of thought, the ego will fall prey to vertigo, the vertigo of ego.

Metaphysics Reflected in Physics

Mass is trapped energy   

(E=mc2)

Man is trapped consciousness

(I am Brahman)

*The photo shows physicist Werner Heisenberg on the left, the founder of Quantum Mechanics, and philosopher Martin Heidegger on the right, the founder of nothing in particular.