Between Sound and Silence
Or, between the devil and the deep blue sea, as it may be.
First of all, on this New Year’s Day, let me extend my best wishes for the coming year to all the wonderful readers of The Chrysalis. May you all increase in strength and vigour, courage, faith, and wisdom over the course of the new year. May your “tribe” increase, therefore. For these are the true foundations of prosperity and nothing else is. Prosperity without nobility is for the damned.
This morning, we pay our respects to Janus, the god who represents, in some ways, the coincidentia oppositorum which is the symbolic meaning of this day, for it is simultaneously an end and a beginning, made co-present as the god peers backwards into all past towards origin and peers forwards into all future towards destiny.
Janus represents the time-axis of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”. Here, time is depicted neither as an arrow nor as a circle, for time expands in two directions, into the past and into the future. And in Janus, Origin and Destiny intersect and become co-present. Janus is the time-binder. This power to embody the stress of the apparent contradiction of past and future, Origin and Destiny as coincidentia oppositorum is, of course, why Janus was considered a god, as it was earlier believed that only gods could embody that paradox and that contradictio oppositorum without disintegrating.
In Rosenstock’s terms, then, one face of Janus, looking back, represents the trajective, and the other, facing forwards, the prejective orientations or moods. These terms correspond to the usual subjective and objective orientations we assume towards the spaces of reality, and were coined by Rosenstock-Huessy to complete the cross of reality. Here-and-Now, we live in a fourfold relationship comprised of two times and two spaces — trajectively, prejectively, subjectively, and objectively — and the human task is to coordinate and balance them. The central point where the two axes intersect is the “Here-And-Now”, is called “the vital centre”, and is, in fact, the very thing that Gebser named “the ever-present origin”. We are always at this intersection, which is called “Now” or “the present”. That is the meaning of all similar mandalas. We live at the crossroads or crux of all time and space. Time and space unfold from that eternal now like the petals of a flower.
(This “eternal now” is called “the Realm of Permanence” in Percival’s Thinking and Destiny, but I do not particularly care for that phrase even if it has some validity)
In the last post, we described the process by which man builds or forms a bridge “between the worlds”, as it were, through articulated or grammatical speech. By such articulated speech, the transcendent is made immanent, the potential is made actual. The process of realisation was described as a fourfold or four-phasic process of articulation in which a transcendental impulse or imperative is realised or fulfilled only after passing through all four phases of the “cross of reality”. Therefore, man is less satisfactorily described as “the rational animal” or even as homo sapiens than as homo grammaticus. Man is a translator.
And more often than not, a mistranslator.
Consequently, it is not entirely sufficient or satisfactory to speak of the human as “embodied being” so much as envoiced being. This re-conceptualisation of the human role has the potential, even, to establish social science on a firmer footing than presently, where it is constantly borrowing its own foundations from physics or metaphysics — a bastard science, as it were. The human does not fundamentally live between subject and object states, or even between origin and destiny, but between sound and silence, or, to put that slightly differently, between the manifested and the unmanifested.
The revaluation of the human as primarily envoiced being, rather than embodied being, overcomes many difficulties of self-understanding. As embodied being, the life world and the cosmos itself came to appear ultimately meaningless, pointless, and without inherent purpose. But when the creature man is revalued as envoiced being, the actual spiritual character of the human activity is revealed, and it is quite impossible to think of that activity as meaningless, pointless, or purposeless, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing” (although, in an ironic sense, there is a certain truth to that). The human task is to make the unmanifested manifest. It is realisation.
The act of speaking, and what is actually accomplished by grammatical speech, has been overlooked or radically misconstrued by our eye-based, sensate culture where “seeing is believing”. Even the great Silence is translated into “abyss” and “the stare into the abyss”, in Nietzsche’s terms, although in Rumi the Silence is called “emptiness.”
Essence is emptiness.
Everything else accidental.
Emptiness brings peace to your loving.
Everything else, disease.
In this world of trickery emptiness
is what your soul wants. — Rumi
The exaggerated and lop-sided emphasis on “embodiedness” has resulted in many personal and social problems, not least of which is the decay of Sensate or quantitative culture. Man is, in fact, less “embodied” than he knows, or than the human can actually be. But because the human believes that all true reality is physical, he drives himself to realise himself exclusively in such spatio-temporal terms — to become as fully embodied or physical as possible, somewhat like Pinocchio, who in some ways he actually resembles in his present state.
Because Man’s understanding of reality is deficient, and solely understood in terms of embodiedness and the corresponding attempt to fully identify or realise self as embodied self, he attempts to achieve a sense of existence or being by pressing himself ever-more intensely into material or physical form, and to impress his existence upon physical reality ever more forcefully and even ever more violently. It results in what is called “sensationalism”, narcissism, and in all kinds of debasing and degrading indulgences.
Because what is “real” is defined solely in terms of what is visible or physical or sensual, what is not fully embodied in the human form necessarily feels itself in those terms as “unreal” and non-existent. Consequently, “self-realisation” takes on a perverse aspect. “To be is to be perceived”, and to be perceived in this context is to become ever more physical and embodied, which leads to wide-spread frustration and anxiety — a sense of being a “no-body” (an interesting word, in that regard).
A re-evaluation of “human” as envoiced being, rather than embodied being, has the potential to overcome many personal and social deficiencies, including the present problems of a decaying and disintegrating sensate civilisation. For, as Rosenstock once put it, “society lives by speech, dies without speech.”