Thursday, May 31, 2018

Appearance and Reality, Mother and Father

The marriage of appearance and reality is always present in the exercise of human intelligence, irrespective of the discipline. Not only is discernment between them the function of intelligence, but it is human intelligence that brings the distinction into being. No other animal knows of it.

You might be thinking to yourself, "thanks, Captain Obvious," but as we know, the consensus of the tenured is that we cannot know "reality," only appearances. This has been the case since Kant's division of the world into phenomena (our forms of perception or concepts of understanding) and noumena (the thing itself independent of our big ideas).

However, this is just a trick, because he's still dividing the world into appearance and reality, just calling them by different names. What he really did was divorce appearances from reality, such that instead of being appearances of reality, the appearances float before us untethered to any ground of which they are the outward expression. Properly speaking, they are no longer appearances; rather, more like inescapable illusions. Whitehead expressed it well with his gag about the bifurcation of the world into a cloud at one end and a dream at the other.

This is the proximate source of any nonsense that claims "my truth," or "perception is reality," or "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." In other words, it is the "principle" -- whether explicit or implicit -- behind any and all forms of relativism.

But again, the very purpose of intelligence -- its sufficient reason -- is to distinguish appearances from reality; therefore, relativism is a kind of counter-revolution that endeavors to abolish intelligence and return man to the condition of total stupidity. It is the first and last (anti-) word in cosmic inversion.

With this context in mind, we are in a position to understand what Schuon means when he claims that "The substance of knowledge is Knowledge of the Substance." Again, there is form and there is substance, and the latter is prior and "possesses every right." An appearance is always a form -- as Kant says -- except that it is a form of the substance, not just a futile dream about the impenetrable cloud.

In agreement with what was said above,

The fundamental nature of our intelligence... is discernment between what is substantial and what is accidental, and not the exclusive perception of the accidental; when intelligence perceives the accident it does so, as it were, in relation to the substance that corresponds to it.

Reminiscent of Helen Keller's breakthrough as depicted in The Miracle Worker, "who sees the drop sees the water." Or, in Helen's case, to feel the water is to plunge into the ocean. The rest is herstory.

How and where do we root this unavoidable union of form-substance and appearance-reality? Clearly it cannot be anchored in form, or appearance, or contingency, because if it is, there is no exit: again, one is sealed in permanent ignorance and tenure.

Maybe you don't like the word "God." Fair enough. Let's just call it "O." O is not something you can ever avoid and remain human. Rather, the essence of the human station involves the ceaseless dialectic between O and what we will call Ø. Now, Ø is not the opposite of O -- that way lies Manichaeism and other cosmic nul-de-slacks -- but its complement, or consort, if you will.

And certain mytho-metaphysics do indeed see her as consort, most notably Vedanta, in which there is the complementarity of Purusha and Prakriti. Purusha

is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic and Upanishadic times. Depending on source and historical timeline, it means the cosmic man or Self, Consciousness, and Universal principle.

Conversely, Prakriti

refers to 'the material world, nature, matter, physical and psychological character, constitution, temper, disposition.' Purusha is the principle of pure consciousness, while Prakriti is the principle of matter.... where Purusha is the masculine in every living being as consciousness, Prakriti is the feminine and substrate which accepts the Purusha.

Is there an equivalent in Christian doctrine? I don't know if there is a direct one, but allusions, hints, and clues are tucked away and scattered everywhere. To take the most obvious example, God and Mary. Or, prior to this, in Proverbs we have numerous references to wisdom as divine consort, and she is conspicuously female.

The Church too is regarded as the female consort (in a manner of speaking) of Jesus, or how about going all the way back to the beginning, in Genesis 1, where God is "hovering over the face of the waters." Suffice it to say that water is quintessentially feminine. We'll leave off with an illuminating passage from Joseph Campbell's Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake:

Earwicker has a wife, the psyche of the book -- bewitching, ever-changing, animating, all-pervading. She appears typically under the name of Anna Livia Plurabelle [ALP]. Just as Earwicker is metamorphosed into Adam, Noah, Lord Nelson, a mountain or a tree, so ALP becomes by subtle transposition Eve, Isis, Iseult, a passing cloud, a flowing stream. She is the eternally fructive and love-bearing principle in the world.... the entire book, in fact, is but a dreamlike emanation of this "untitled mamafesta memorializing the Mosthighest."

.... But above all, Anna is a river, always changing yet ever the same, the Heraclitean flux which bears all life in its current.


julie said...

Again, there is form and there is substance, and the latter is prior and "possesses every right." An appearance is always a form -- as Kant says -- except that it is a form of the substance, not just a futile dream about the impenetrable cloud.

This brings to mind the way that light interacts with various materials. Glass, for instance, whose substance is essentially rocklike, but whose form is also transparent; clear glass (or ice, or water, etc.) is only properly perceived when obscured in some way or when touched as opposed to merely seen. Conversely a cloud may block the light quite heavily, but even so can barely be touched, much less grasped.

doug saxum said...

Always enjoy your comments Julie 🤗

Van Harvey said...

I'll second that. :-)

julie said...


Gagdad Bob said...

It occurs to me that this post might be confusing, because in the past I've used the Ø pneumaticon in a way that implies the opposite of O instead of its complement. I need a better symbol for appearances-of-reality....

Allena Conrad said...

The eyes have it 👁