Arangham, Chennai, India
Arangham, Chennai, India
‘Is there a ‘God’?’ This indispensable question of every sane man and woman is premature and presumptuous.
The proper question, prior, proximate, more modest in its reach is:
‘Is there a ‘Man’?’ Is there a creature called ‘Me’?
‘God’ is a very man-made idea [as is ‘Man’]. And the Lady doesn’t like being called names. And He might not have the least resemblance to what you think It is.
But what you can be absolutely certain about is the absence of ‘You’.
A Modeled-World, that is a world built on the presumption of a ‘Self’, is fundamentally absurd, tedious and violent.
Zeno, the favorite of Parmenides [‘Venerable and Awful’], pioneer of the logico-mathematical paradox, describes his new treatise to Socrates:
‘It is…a defense of Parmenides against those who make fun of his ideas…this book is a retort against those who assert a Plurality…pays them back in the same coin with something to spare.
For it shows that on a thorough examination, their own supposition that there is a Plurality leads to even more absurd consequences than the Hypothesis of ‘The One’.’
This and all other excerpts from Plato’s Dialogues are from the Hamilton and Cairns, Princeton, ’61 Edition.
The Parmenides is considered the most difficult of the Dialogues. That’s because Parmenides, uniquely among his peers, was alert to the Self-Loop, and to which his modern interpreters are conspicuously innocent.
You will have more luck getting a roomful of Biologists agreeing on a definition for the word ‘Alive’, or Logicians for the word ‘Reason’, than you will with a roomful of Shrinks defining the word ‘Self’.
The Techie knows that it is simply a Computer-Chip atop the neurons and between the firing synapse. The Geneticist sneers at this simplification at what is clearly a Gene [imminent in its discovery].
We won’t even broach the Mystics for now. But a particularly famous one from India is: ‘The sense of ‘I-ness”, which means whatever you want it to mean.
We go low-tech. We ask the Grammarian. ‘Self’ is a complicated idea; so we start with ‘Subject’.
‘The Subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing, or idea that is doing or being something. It is what acts or is acted upon.’
Ego is Latin for ‘I’. The Cambridge definition reads: ‘Your idea or opinion of yourself’. Note the loop.
Shūnyam is True Nothing, Absolute Absence [not to be confounded with its modern avatār, the Concept of Nothing, the Idea of Absence, an altogether-different animal].
It is the terminus of ‘The Backward Step’, behind all Object[s] confuted as Subject, and behind all interpretations of Subject fabricated in intricate, diaphanous, reflexive loops, what we call ‘Self’.
Infinite Regress pursued without blinking or winking arrives and settles at True Nothing.
The sighting of Shūnyam is accompanied as confirmation by the self-scuttling sight-insight [‘observation-understanding’] on the very nature of sight-insight. The effecting of the full self-scuttle with no remainder.
There is nothing there at True Nothing, which is why it is called True Nothing. Make a something out of this True Nothing and you are back in the models of ‘Self and World’.
In this business, you miss by a millimeter, you miss by a mile.
Why ‘Observation-Understanding’? Two aspects most closely associated with the presumption of a ‘Self’ are: ‘I See’ and ‘I Understand’. [See: Cogito Ergo Sum]
True Nothing is an artificial construct, the point of ejection from the limit of abstraction. It is a synthetic, self-destroying device that self-destructs once its work is done. Until then, it remains an idea. Just like the idea of a ‘Self’.
Subject and Object are mutually supporting modeling artifacts surviving only in partnership. The recurring act of an undead Subject is to name an Object that in turn reflexively gives it life.
The erection of Object is emphatic confirmation of an incomplete self-scuttle, the residue of unfinished man-made views.
If you are still groping for an Object, you are not yet done with the Subject. Pick any theological text and be awed at the sweep of reckless excess [we look at over 40 of them in later Posts].
Where you thought there was a ‘Self’, there you will find True Nothing.
None of this intuition should be unfamiliar. Shankaracharya’s Object was Nirguṇa Brahman, literally: ‘That without expressible attributes’. To re-present Allah is the first blasphemy, which can get you hung in Pakistan and jailed for life in Indonesia. Orthodox Jews take the vowels out of [YHWH] to prevent presumption of nameability, and so on.
‘From the first Nothing is!’ roared Hui neng [638-713 CE], a founder of C’han-Buddhism, later Zen as we know it. The story goes that the illiterate Hui-neng awoke to this conviction upon hearing the Diamond Sūtra recited just once at a public-square.
A recent, widely-publicized survey solemnly titled: ‘The most important unresolved question of all time’, came up with Martin Heidegger’s query [itself, a variation on Aristotle’s ‘ti on’]: ‘Why is there Something and not Nothing?’
Smart people say the darnedest things.
Martin Heidegger is part of the small crew of modern philosophers who did intuit the analytical perils of the Self-Loop seeking as he did an entire new vocabulary to talk about it. We’ll get to his work in later Posts.