Symbol And Being: A Serious Study

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Important notice(s): Both analytical and philosophical, studying this essay was a pleasure to me, even though it was amazingly hard work at times, considering my limited knowledge when it comes to Greek, Heidegger and mathematics. It seems that, even though quite logical in nature, the conclusions outlined in this essay are still extremely meaningfull for an adept, even more so considering the importance Myatt gives to the wordless in his post 2010 writings. I do have a certain incomfort with this essay as I sometimes feel that there are apparent philosophical convulsions to try and explain the unexplainable, the wordless. Such things can only be discovered by walking the path of personnal anados (ἄνοδος)… Bear in mind that as always, my conclusions and analysis are fallible… I also want to add that I did not add the references at the end of the article because of certain alignment issues but they can be found easily in Naos, page 116 or Naos new edition, page 125.

Abstract: Using Heidegger’s interpretation of Being and Seienden as starting point, the being of man is shown to be derived from being change and a new interpretation of man’s being is achieved – that of the acausal. This concept of the acausal, and that of change, as explained in terms of both Heidegger’s philosophy and that of the Pre-Socratics. Using the acausal, thought, language and man’s individuality are explained. The paper continues with an analysis of the foundations of mathematics, since mathematical thought, reinterpreted in the light of the acausal, is shown to be of fundamental importance for an understanding of man’s being. The paper concludes with a brief examination of Art and modern physics.

1) Introduction – The Acausal: Since Being is an issue for man, man interprets causally because everyday Dasein, the Dasein which takes time (2), can be characterized as causal, or that interpretation of Being as beings which is the ‘there-is’. However, man interprets other than causally: this other interpretation, which is prior to the causal by reason of its existence, may be termed ‘acausal’ (a-causal: with-out the causal) – and this acausal is what Homer, in the “Iliad”, speaks of when he says Calchas is the most wise seer because he understands all that is, was and will be. Heidegger understands this as revealment and concealment (3) or, elsewhere (4) as un-hiddenness, and the ‘primordial time’ of his “Sein und Zeit” is akin to this acausal or potentiality of man’s being, so that what he terms ‘building’ and ‘dwelling’ are implicit within it. In a sense to be established later (Section ‘3’ below) it is physis, φύσις, an unfolding.

Commentary: Calchas could also be compared to Teiresias ( Τειρεσίας), the blind prophet of Apollo in Oedipus  (Οἰδίπους), one of the three Theban tragedies written by Sophocle.

“When they see Teiresias approaching, they speak of him as a ‘godly prophet, in whom alone of all men truth lives by nature. Oedipus, for his part, greets Teiresias as one who, ‘grasps everything, things that can be taught, and things that are unspeakable, things that are in heaven, and things that walk the earth.”

In other terms, Teiresias/Calchas perception could be said to be primarily acausal in nature, since they are prophets of the Gods. Normal beings and occult innitiates could be considered to have a primarily causal perception of the world, using magic to stimulate the acausal “intersection” that lies within. Finally, immortals and spiritual masters that attained some sort of enlightenment (Satori) or the abyss as described in the tradition are essentially beyond false dichotomies. The dualistic nature, (sinister-numinous) which seems to be taken for granted by causal beings is surpassed and understood as not something separated but rather united.

Oedipus/Practitionner: λ > ϕ 

Teiresias/Calchas: ϕ > λ

Immortal/Individuation: λ ∪ ϕ = Sans titre.png

Further, acausal may be suggested as an interpretation of Anaximander’s αδικία – it is through τό χρεών that δίκη becomes much later, λόγος. Understood thus, δίκη suggests causal. However, these correlations are, at best, hints concerning the nature of the causal and the acausal – their true description, and thus that of Being and being as beings, can only be, as will be shown later, symbolic, through mathematics.

Commentary: Anaximander’s αδικία could be understood as “lawlessness” instead of the very popular “Injustice, Unfairness, Abuse…” In this regard, the acausal could be lawless, that is, from the human observational capacities. But there is also a Heideggerian interpretation that alters the possible meaning slightly. Thus, αδικία becomes δίκη which can be understood as: Un-Fuge, dis-jointure, and interpreted as sheer continuance, insistence instead of “justice”.

τό χρεών is referenced as synonymous to “change” but if interpreted from a late Heideggerian stance could also be: “necessity”, “To reach for” or “to presence”. This is what he concluded seeing how τό χρεών comes from the Greek word: χράω.

Again, δίκη from a strictly Heideggerian interpretation would be: “giving-into” or even “letting belong”, “continuance” instead of the very popular “custom, usage, justice…” Which as stated right after, would be fitting for the causal being imbued with ψυχή (soul). Myatt, in the commentary section of his translation of the third tractate of the Corpus hermeticum prefered the word “fairness”.

Finally, λόγος being logos, the proper definition could be anything associated with logic, reason or knowledge. I prefer the usage made by Heraclitus:

“Logos provided the link between rational discourse and the world’s rational structure”. -The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

So if we put this together: The acausal is a continual, perhaps lawless phenomenon that can be reached for or presenced by beings. This acausal energy is imbued into “things” which then creates life in the causal. Since human beings are, for a time, stuck in a causal manifestation, we use and create certain human-made worlds (tools) to try and understand both the causal and the acausal. These tools are all part of the great ensemble of logos.

Yet, by distinguishing in this manner between the causal and the acausal at the outset of the inquiry into Being, it is possible to arrive at a clearer understanding of being, since this duality, expressive of the nature of Seienden and disclosed in man, enables a hermeneutic to be established which is at once more accessible and clearer than the methodology of phenomenology or the hermeneutic of thought achieved by the ‘later’ Heidegger. It will be shown that this new hermeneutic is mathematical because of the nature of the acausal.

The fundamental characterization of the causal is consciousness, that of the acausal, the unconscious (1). This conscious horizon may be expressed, in terms of the history of Being, by thought and feeling, the unconscious by sensation and intuition, where these terms are to be understood, for the moment, psychologically (6) ontologically, they are derived below (section 3).

The beginning of the unconcealment of Being is, however, not something that can be said, as Heidegger maintains (7), but rather something that can be experienced, numinously: ένέργεια, activity as the early Greeks understood it (8). This experiencing is the symbol from which word derives. For man, thought is part of this unconcealment – intuition the other, since Being possesses as potentiality in the change that is man not only thought but also symbol, and this symbolic perception of Being, this experiencing of Being as the One, as that which presences or transforms, is explicit for Western philosophy in the Pre-Socratics. As Tao, this perception is today becoming understood again, and with Heidegger the task of its understanding is begun.

Commentary: ένέργεια stands for: energies and activities but also supernatural action(s), cosmic force(s) and the active principle in Aristotelian ontology.

As discourse may be said to be a fundamental expression of man’s being in the world (9), so may symbolism be said to be a fundamental expression of man’s being or essence. As the potentiality of thought may be expressed as discourse, so may the potentiality of the symbol be described as sensation, and the symbol is both prior to thought and beyond it. As it is projected externally by the process that is Being’s change, it is abstracted and loses part of the numinosity that is characteristic of it as an essence: when it is wholly external to man’s being, as appearance or an existent, it has become a sign. Change, which unfolds Being as man, is, for Heraclitus (10) conflict or discord, πόλεµος. An essence, as that from which something emerges (άρχή), (11) is an archetype (12), when seen optically.

Commentary: Looking at this sentence: “As discourse may be said to be a fundamental expression of man’s being in the world (9), so may symbolism be said to be a fundamental expression of man’s being or essence.” I might be bold saying that both Sophists and Platonists alike would have find agreement in this statement but I trully believe they would have. Indeed, the famous words by Protagoras came to my mind: “Man is the measure of all things”. Are symbols perfectly accurate representations of the numinous or are they merely a vapid, regurgitated alteration? It seems way too easy to assume such a thing and yet, platonists believed that, following the right path, truth could be grabbed. They held this view, for Mathematics also:

“Platonism about mathematics (or mathematical platonism) is the metaphysical view that there are abstract mathematical objects whose existence is independent of us and our language, thought, and practices. Just as electrons and planets exist independently of us, so do numbers and sets. And just as statements about electrons and planets are made true or false by the objects with which they are concerned and these objects’ perfectly objective properties, so are statements about numbers and sets. Mathematical truths are therefore discovered, not invented.” -Platonism in the Philosophy of Mathematics.

What I believe is meant by:  “And the symbol is both prior to thought and beyond it” is that symbolism is a human way to attempt to express the wordless. Hence why, from an esoteric perspective, symbols and sigils are so important. Since everything is ever-moving and changing from an Heraclitean point of view, a symbol is also not limited to a single emotion, definition or concept. It becomes an archetype that encompasses the “essence” of something greater. So another way to see it, is that the symbol also changes. Perhaps we could also say that a symbol is also a nexion… From a platonist perspective, if we go along with the views they held for mathematics, symbols would be discovered and relating to a universal structure. So symbols are perfectly expressing a certain “tonality”, just like concepts are according to Plato.

άρχή means: “first declension” or “beginning” or “origin”.

This gradual withdrawal of experiencing is the beginning of language and thought, and the intentionality of consciousness that Husserl described results from this withdrawal. As experiencing declines, projection increases. Individuality is itself a consequence of Being’s change, and this change is already present in Being as the process that is abstraction is present as a possibility within man’s being – the realization of this possibility, through change, is itself the history of Being.

Commentary: Consider the following: “Individuality is itself a consequence of Being’s change, and this change is already present in Being as the process that is abstraction is present as a possibility within man’s being – the realization of this possibility, through change, is itself the history of Being.” This is why this article is important for any adept to read, for this realization, slowly accepted by the soul, is what leads to the end of dualism, ultimately leading the practitioner beyond false dichotomies. It could be qualified as conscious evolution to return  to the source.

Since the symbol, as symbol and sign, is prior to thought and, authentically, beyond it, it alone can explicate man’s being. This explication takes the form of the mathematical where by the mathematical is meant the primordial (λόγος) that exists by virtue of man’s subjective participation in the world, and it is from this λόγος that logic, as reasoning, develops through the change of Being. A symbol is beyond thought because authentic existence, the returning and reclaiming of ένέργεια through questioning, is a return to the unity of causal and acausal, a unity existing as άρχή.

Commentary: What I said above. I also suspect that a mantra fulfill this role of being beyond thoughts and have been used for thousand of years to focus authentically on God or such concepts. The practice of meditation along with a focus on the chakras (चक्र) also comes to mind. Since causal and acausal are united, the way they intersect in beings could be explained by chakras. I do have a certain problem with these perspectives because they imply that the causal is ever-changing but the acausal (symbols, numinosity, energy…) and how it acts on the causal seems like very fixed phenomenons.

2) The Fundamental Symbols – being and Change: The most fundamental symbol is being; from Being there is change. The abstraction of change (as a consequence of man’s being) is the idea of extension which leads to the concept of transformation or potentiality. Potentiality itself is implicit within Being, and through man’s existence this potentiality becomes the striving toward authenticity.

Commentary: According to this, the oldest and primordial symbols of the world are the closest in terms of authenticity to the being or the origin of things. So symbols such as the spiral or the primordial “OM” lead to self-honesty or evolution. Again, we find in beings potentiality a propensity to go “back” to a certain source maybe.

Mathematics, as will become clear, being a learning of things as they are (mathesis, µάθησις) is the abstraction of the essence through the process of intuition and thought. Thought abstracts Being’s change and this abstraction takes the form of ideas and concepts, ίδεα as Plato understands it (13). Historically, there is a symbol, often 2 This is explained in more detail in section (3) below. 118 ‘a priori’ as Being itself can be understood, through abstraction, as an ‘a priori’ symbol, then thought forms this symbol into an idea through the separation of φύσις and the limiting of ’άπειρον, the limit-less (14). Intuition is the perception of the symbol as symbol in its numinous essence, a letting-be that participates in the unfolding of being, and this perception is both a participation and an identification, where identification is the transforming of an idea, by thought, into its original essence (cf. the phenomenological method), and accordingly, mathematics, which is both this intuition and thought as process because of man’s being, embodies an authentic hermeneutic, representing (re-presencing) the causal.

Commentary: It should be noted that Platonists believed that concepts were tangible and floating-like things that could be grasped if humans reasoned properly. According to Jean Grondin, a canadian philosopher and an expert on metaphysics which I had the privilege to have as a teacher,  ίδεα and εἶδος are similar if not one and the same. εἶδος means: “to see, apprehend”. This also correlate with the fact that mathematics were considered to be highly important in Greek philosophy. Many thought mathematics to be a “modus” of the universe. So for the platonists, an idea/concept is something that could be “seen”, it was not a subjective thing.

“Plato asserted, for example, that ideas or forms (“eidos”) are not simply images that exist in the mind, but they are permanent extra-mental forms with which Demiurge, the divine crafter, created the cosmos. Those ideas or forms are, according to Plato, also inscribed in the soul prior to experience. Medieval scholastics understood those ideas as the forms within God’s mind by which the Creator created the universe. Modern philosophers since Descartes, however, interpreted ideas as mental images that exist within the mind of a cognitive subject. Ideas were often understood as representations of objects outside of mind. This concept of idea as a mental image is still held today.” -New World Encyclopedia.

 

An idea is not an essence – the symbol is essence which thought abstracts or covers up, and each idea has its foundation in a symbol. Mathematics, as understood today, is the result of thought, an axiomatic project according to Heidegger (15); that is, mathematics has become divorced from its intuitive foundation in the symbol and a return to that foundation enables mathematics to describe man’s being more authentically than either phenomenology conceived as a methodology or logos understood as a re-collection by Heidegger (16). Through mathematics, re-founded, it is possible to achieve not only the uncovering of an idea to reveal its essence, but also authentic existence: Heidegger’s questioning of being begins the task of authenticity, it does not achieve it. This authenticity is possible through the use of an ontologically guaranteed mathematical symbolism instead of language as a means of uncovering Being.

Commentary: On this matter, it is important to add the following:

” In terms of epistemology, Myatt suggests that this acausal being – that is, the nature (or physis, the “identity”) of living beings, including ourselves – can be discovered (known) via developing our faculty of empathy, and that this “acausal knowing” is different from but complementary to the “causal knowing” discovered (known) by observing, in a scientific manner, Phainómenon and then, using denotatum and theoretical models (including mathematical ones), explaining such Phainómenon.” -Kything the O9A MSS.

Personally, I agree that the acausal knowing, which is wordless in nature, is complimentary to the causal knowing, which is objective. However I do not believe mathematics to be superior or inferior to language. It is just as fallible but in a different manner when it comes to explain certain phenomenon. The advance of technology in future aeons will most likely change this considerably. Here is an excerpt of Goodman and Quine working on their “constructive nominalism” and tackling the problem of mathematics:

“The gains which seem to have accrued to natural science from the use of mathematical formulas do not imply that these formulas are true statements. No one, not even the hardiest pragmatist, is likely to regard the beads of an abacus as true; and our position is that the formulas of platonistic mathematics are, like the beads of an abacus, convenient computational aids which need involve no question of truth. We regard the sentences of mathematics merely as strings of marks without meaning.” -Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy.

 

The idea of the essence that is the symbol change is extension: the idea of the essence that is Being is unity, and the idea of change leads, through abstraction, to the concept of transformation, άλλοιιοσις, or duration. This duration, by identification with man’s terminality, embodies time, and accordingly time is understood as implicit in man’s being, projected onto the world as an idea. Abstractly, this duration is the continuum and the concept of number: thought’s perception of change as it issues in man through apprehension of individuality. Only change exists for Being, not time or number. Further, the concept of ‘set’ derives from that of continuum and number, since intuitively a set is a totality or aggregate.

Commentary: According to this, Heraclitus was right: “The only thing constant is change.”

3) Individuality and Authentic Existence: Man exists because Being, precensing, is transmuted (17) – that is, because of change. Man, as change of Being, is a transforming, an evolution; historically or causally, this process is the history of Being, conceived by Hegel as a dialectic. Yet this history has as its goal the very Being from which it is derived – the returning of man to the unity of Being. To return necessitates disclosure, the revealing of Being through authenticity. Authentic existence, being the drawing toward unity of the causal and acausal interpretations (what Jung (18) has described as individuation) is a home-coming (to use a term of Heidegger’s), a re-living of symbols and a re-participation that involves the withdrawal of projections from the idea to the essence.

Yet it is only a transition, a stillness and a non-transforming, such stillness revealing itself through mathematics, as logos. As such, it reveals άρχή as τό ’άπειρον.

Man as a disclosure of being, is primordially a participation in Being: for this disclosure of Being there is no logos in Plato’s sense, only an identification. There is possession by symbols and their possibilities (the ‘unconscious’) and not yet possession of them as occurs when logos transforms through ιδεα into ‘reason’. Before this transformation there is no individuality because individuality (as a condition of Being) is the process of abstraction that transforms θύσις into λόγος as reason. Collectivity is primordial: through Being’s change, grounded as man’s dichotomy because of such unfolding, this becomes individuality, the consciousness of identity, as idea, has replaced it. In speaking about individuality one is already speaking about the change of λόγος – from participation to the Word. Θάσις through πόλεµος has become νοΰς (mind), and there is διαλεκτική (19). This change is already foreshadowed in Heraclitus, as the genesis of the Aristotlean opposites (20). With Anaximander, this transforming is not yet evident: participation in the One, although subject to change, returns – άρχή is still the limit-less, τό ’άπειρον. There is no separation, no opposition between Being and existents. For Anaximander, therefore, there is no geographer, or meteorologist, or historian – only knowledge (participation) of all as it is. And it is because of change that abstraction must be returned, through mathematics, to this participation: change has caused the separation and change will re-presence the separated. Such a return is authentic existence.

Commentary:   Being honest, Θάσις remained a mistery for me, no matter how hard I searched, even with the references. I suspect it to be a typo and is in fact θύσις but it could also be a derivative from theos (Θεός).

Here a fascinating excerpt that explains θύσις:

“My hypothesis about the function of this middle “part” of the soul is that it neither calculates nor desires, but coordinates the conflicting movements within the soul, naming them calculations or desires on the basis of what seems good to it. It is, in effect, the means by which the soul takes hold of itself through forceful or persuasive logos and directs its own activities and dispositions. Paradoxically, it is not only the means by which this “self-reflection” occurs, it is also the “self” that results from it.” – Athens victorious: democracy in Plato’s Republic.

Ultimately, what the other references (19 & 20) lead you to understand is that, denotatum is useless, and existence itself is a form of enantiodromia but without separations or opposition. All we do as beings is appropriate with logos and when doing this, we are in someways, getting further from the origin (άρχή) of what “IS” and this is what we have to return back to. I am against the idea that this return is made with mathematics, I feel that this is a forced explanation to be more concise but most likely incorrect as I do not believe mathematics to be a universal principle. Perhaps I am wrong.

Also note that, in his commentary of the third tractate of the Corpus Hermeticum, Myatt emphasize that νοῦς can mean mind but he altered it to “perceiveration”.

This participation to the world takes the form of the change of Being through intuition, sensation, feeling and finally thought, all of which are conditions of man’s being in the world, or how Being first shows itself through its unfolding. Intuition is unconscious (acausal) perception, sensation the conscious perception which arises when participation becomes transformed to identity. Feeling already implies idea – as value, judgement and finally ‘truth’ θύσις has become λόγος, the word.

Commentary: What I said above about appropriation. In a way, our human set-up/software could be interpreted as some sort of determinism of appropriation.

Optically, language may be said to consist of words or signs in the form of propositions, where a proposition may be defined as the substance of what is asserted by means of a combination of such words or signs, either true or false. The words or signs, as abstractions resulting from symbols, are placed in combination by thought either through identification or participation. For the latter, they are primordial, and this primordiality takes the form of poetry which is ‘true’ insofar as it is experienced and re-present the symbols of Being from which it is derived, through words, thus revealing Being. Abstractly, through identification, such combinations are propositions, true or false because of logos as into objective truth (or falsity) by identification, through idea to the essence: what is as appearance, and how what is abstracted is denoted by such appearance. That is, truth itself implies, through denoting.

4) Art and Mathematics

Art: As Being unfolds through participation to discourse, existents, as appearance, predominate and the sense of Being that is a characteristic of the numinous is lost or covered up. From being a questioning, man has himself become a subject of thought. This abstraction takes the form of technics (q.v. techne, τέχνη), the construction, through a wresting away from Being, of tools and things as existents deriving from them, not immediately possessed of participation, that is, capable of manual production from naturally occuring substances and materials, and with technics potentiality, as an uncovering, is itself lost in place of abstraction. There is organization beyond the authentic participation that characterized the first unfolding of Being. In language, also, the process of technics occurs, logos as appearance, and the captivation of beings (21) synonymous with the organization of the ‘they’ (22) through the goal of inauthenticity. The works of art which still possess the numinosum do so in spite of this organization or denotation (23), as a drawing down of Being. Such works are archetypal, participating in the symbols of Being by unfolding Being through those symbols of transformation.

Through these works (but not only them) authentic existence becomes a possibility since, as a looking forward to and a looking back, they realize partially the unity of causal and acausal, participation and abstraction, that is authenticity for man transformed through technics. This authenticity is not just a returning (as Heidegger believes) but also a rising up because it is built on and dwells in Being as an unfolding. Hence the necessity of understanding the history of Being as a record of this unfolding and concealment through mathematics.

Aesthetically, a work of art is ‘true’ if it symbolically preserves Being as an unfolding and looks forward to authenticity: if it re-presents Being and anticipates it. As a representation of Being, mathematics is the true work of art which reveals Being and beings as Being, to man.

Mathematics: Modern science, starting with Galileo, takes the process of abstraction further, into things themselves. Heidegger (24) claims mathematics makes this modern science possible, and, in a sense, this is a true, if limited, appreciation of mathematics. The learning that is ‘mathesis’ is not merely a causal learning, an analysis of things as they appear, but, equally, the things as they are, as intuition understands or knows. Intuition, however, understands them as symbols of Being, and this kind of knowing is already implied in the Greek concept of mathematics. For Aristotle, the potential for motion in a body lay in that body itself – it was already present, as a kind of knowing as well as describing the motion in relation to others, as a transforming. With Galileo and Newton, this intuition or knowledge of the unity, had receded, leaving abstraction predominant. Yet this intuition never actually disappeared as the ‘a priori’ it gave substance to scientific laws and provided the basis for much mathematical development.

Modern physics particularly has tried to dispense with this mathematical knowing and as a consequence has established a body of facts that reveals only what is projected, not what is revealed by things o existents as they are. We say ‘space-time is curved’, for example, without fully understanding that we project curved space-time, as abstracts, onto what we have abstracted as ‘space’ and ‘time’, these abstracts supposedly existing independently of man, as ‘facts’. Yet, ultimately, these abstracts are established from symbols – and it is in the symbols, as opposed to the projections, that knowledge resides. Should this knowing replace the ‘knowledge’ of ‘facts’ or projections, a revolution of thought will result, and what is noble in man will be returned.

Commentary: This perspective, while slippery is maybe just one other of the many wordless apprehension that we have concerning the structure of the acausal. Again, as a Goodmanian, I do believe that everything is man-made and this includes symbols and thus, mathematics. However, our created symbols can still “wordlessly” connect us to a higher apprehension that is closer to the origin (άρχή)… I believe that this quote is a good conclusion to this analysis and also, in some ways, a summary:

“The story ends with an anticipated discovery: that the penultimate stage (however named: Magus, GrandMaster, GrandLadyMaster) of that life-long genuine Occult journey which begins with initiation (of whatever kind: hermetic, ceremonial, self) is the same whether one began on, and thence followed, what has been described as ‘The Left Hand Path’, or whether one began on, and thence followed, what has been described as ‘The Right Hand Path’. For in the context of beyond The Abyss, such designations based on such a dichotomy become, and are, irrelevant because without sense and meaning.

That is, the ‘outer secret’ of the inner, the real, the living, alchemy is that the end and the result of both our apparently separate journeys is the same; the same place, the same understanding, the same knowledge. For wisdom is undivided, the same for all of us, whatever we believed or assumed when we began.” –Lapis Philosophicus.

-Beldam, 128 yf


 

Primary sources used: 

1 –thinking and thoughtlessness

2-Athens Victorious: Democracy in Plato’s Republic

3-Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

 

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