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.

Rosenstock-Huessy: Cross of Reality -- Multiformity of Man

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.”


16 responses to “Between Sound and Silence”

  1. amothman33 says :

    Abo Saiid AL-bastami a sufi was asked, how did you come to know god,he said by his embodiment of the opposites and recited ,the first and the last ,the visible and the invisible.I wonder why the quran considered the jew as mistranslater of truth,I also wondered why the human has been given the faculty of expressing himself and to bear witness.Does this has any affinity to your envoiced being.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I don’t know, Abdulmonem, but the grudge against the Jews might have come about because of the failure of the Jewish commune at Medina, as agreed to in the Constitution of Medina, to come to the aid of the Ummah when the oasis was attacked by the Meccan forces.

      I have heard of al-Bastami. Another Sufi I need to get to know.

      The word “witness” is very old, and comes from the word “to be aware”. To “bear witness” has the same meaning as “why hide your light under a bushel basket”, which is an odd saying. (Why a bushel basket — a thing for measuring grain?) “Bearing witness” would have the same significance as a-waring.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    I’ve finally finished reading everything I had missed since before Christmas. Yeahhh! Woo hoo! 🙂

    Happy New Year to you, as well, Scott. Thanks infinitely many times for creating and keeping this lighthouse.

    When I was trying to understand your description of “Logos” — this word that has been puzzling me at least since TDAB — in your essay entitled “The Four Ages of the Spirit”, suddenly what the word represents began to make sense to me in the context of “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    Your interpretation of “Logos” as “essence” has finally solved the puzzle for me, I think, because in the beginning, “Word” was pure and uncorrupted and so it could be thought of or equated to the “essence” of things. So, in my mind, I rewrote that statement from the gospels as “In the beginning was Purity, and the Purity was with God, and the Purity was God.” Or, we can also say “In the beginning was Essence, and the Essence was with God, and the Essence was God.”

    But then — after this Beginning — we came along. And humans corrupted the Word or Essence that was given to them and “deformed” it (like a potter with free will) from an “inspiration” that was pure and uncorrupted into “mythology” and “theology” and all the way to “ideology” as you explained it. This corruption and deformation in our own hands, perhaps, can be peeled away by making an effort to live and focus In The Now.

    When I focus my eyes intensely in the center of the Rosenstock-Huessy’s emblem (in the “Here-And-Now” part), the arrows disappear. A Gestalt effect, I think it is said of this optical result. But isn’t in this “Here-And-Now” where we should find Divinity and the Divine, where subject and object cease to exist in time-lessness?

    Interpreting “Logos” as “essence” also clarifies, it seems to me, why Seth called himself an “energy personality essence.” In a way, I think, he is stating that he is a subcategory (a branch) to the holder of the “essence” which is “All That Is”, because a “personality essence” stems from “essence” — a typeless or unitless source.

    Revaluing humans as “envoiced beings” rather than “emobodied beings” is quite ingenious and it has far reaching implications, methinks.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Modern philosophers have typically quarreled about the dialectical relationship of “existence” and “essence”, making this essentially, so to speak, a squabble between idealism and materialism, or mind and body, or spirit and matter. Sartre and many existentialists, following Marx, insisted, for example, that “existence precedes essence” as against those who took the opposite view that “essence precedes existence” (for example, that the eternal “archetypes” or “Ideas” of Plato are the model for the phenomenal entities, and therefore the phenomenal entities (the “embodied”) follow from their archetypes).

      But you will note that these arguments are presented in terms of “after” or “follow” or “before”, and that this is a controversy, unconscious, about time and time’s succession, and of a linear relationship of cause and effect. This is not even a controversy for Blake, who considers it insane, or for those who held the view of “coincidentia oppositorum” — essence and existence are not opposites but polarities, and relate as quality and quantity relate. “Heaven in a Wild Flower” and “Eternity in the hour”, in Blake’s terms, is not about one preceding the other, but the identity of essence and existence. Even the body is an image of the soul, in Blake’s terms, and the soul is an image of the body.

      “Therefore God becomes as we are so that we may become as God is.” This would be totally unintelligible to those who argue which comes first, essence or existence.

    • Scott Preston says :

      By the way, Rumi’s statement “the whole world is an image of truth” has the exact same meaning as Blake’s many references about the same. The problem with our “philosophers” is that they think “essence” and “existence” belong to separate worlds — the hangover of Cartesian metaphysical dualism. Once we appreciate the meaning of “coincidentia oppositorum” and also its counterpart “contradictio oppositorum”, all that lop-sided thinking will change.

      For the co-existence of the “coincidentia” as also “contradictio” is also coincidentia oppositorum or coincidence of opposites. Therefore, it is fairly easily understood why (some) Buddhists can say “nirvana and samsara are the same” or “Heaven in a Wild Flower and Eternity in the hour”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Coming to appreciate how “coincidentia” and “contradictio” can be one and the same, and therefore, essence and existence are one and the same, or Being and Non-Being — this will make your head crumble like a dry cookie. But that’s a good thing.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Another “by the way” — when your head begins to feel that it might be crumbling like a dry cookie, it really means — however uncomfortable that might be at the time — that you are emancipating and liberating yourself from “the foreign installation”.

        Thought I would just add that. Only when your head feels that it is crumbling like a dry cookie, are you experiencing “apocalypse”, which is the shock of the real.

        • amothman33 says :

          That reminds me of a sufi saying which states that you can not be conscious unless you are knocked into unconsciousness.

  3. tony says :

    I’d like to add to the praise for the last few posts. I’m not sure I full agree with all of it, or fully understand all of it for that matter. I suppose it’s the pantheist in me which doesn’t feel confortable with the clear distinction between man and other sentient beings. Nevertheless, it’s extraordinarily thought-provoking.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Disagreements are craved by The Chrysalis. Please feel free to disagree.

      However, there is no implied boundary between man and sentience, whether that of the universe at large or as it becomes expressed through creatures. It is not so much that the human in particular is envoiced as it is that what is envoiced becomes “human” (although not necessarily “humane”), and that it is sentience itself which discovers and discloses itself through becoming envoiced. The present assumption that man exists first, and “invents speech” is quite nuts, and even evolutionary science is now beginning to wonder what actually came first, the human or language — whether speech invented man, or man, speech. For it has been noted that since the beginnings of speech, human “evolution” has accelerated an hundredfold or more, as they reckon these things.

  4. amothman33 says :

    In the quran language preceded the creation of the human, this is the same as the word is in the begining .The story of Adam and the names is wellknown.We are all wanderers in search of the truth ,that is god. in the quran god is truth,truth is the pure word, pure needs pure heart to contact.Earth is god earth and whereever i am i.
    am in god earth and donot get bothered by the human classification.I belong to God not to geography or race.

    • tony says :

      Thanks Scott and Abdulmonem, I’m reading too literally.
      I’ll leave it at that for the time being, I need time to digest all of it.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Oscillation between silence and sound is the pendulum-like movement that is also the oscillation between what we formerly discussed as Framework 2 and Framework 1. In Blake, this is eternity and time. This is also the oscillation we find in Castaneda as between “nagual” and “tonal”, respectively, and somewhat corresponds to the Aristotelian notions of potens and actus. In Rumi, the silence is called “emptiness” or even “Non-Being”, even though Rumi assigns special meanings to these — not so much “nothingness” per se as the infinite plenum or fullness of all potentiality. This is the realm of power. In fact, that was the title of one of Castaneda’s books The Power of Silence.

        In Castaneda, the bridge between the nagual and the tonal is formed by “intent”, which is approximately the meaning of “intentionality of consciousness” in Phenomenology. This also appears in Rumi’s poetry in quite stunningly expressive ways. This power of intent becomes especially expressed through the human in the act of naming or nominating. It may simplify things considerably if by “In the beginning was the Word” is understood what in Castaneda appears as “intent”, which is a general power that permeates the universe and which sustains it as form. This is equally what Gebser calls “ever-present origin” for as “origin” it is not just the source of intent, but this intent itself.

        This power of intent is all-important when it comes to understanding the mystery of propaganda, perception management and the role of “the foreign installation” in the psyche — for the aims of these and other such technologies of social control is the control, regulation, and manipulation of this intent or intentionality, so that it shapes the reality in conformity with the aims and purposes of the manipulator. As Orwell pointed out, ingeniously, this necessarily involves the manipulation and perversion of language. It is, of course, what we call necromancy or black magic, for it is basically enslavement — slavery of the most fundamental kind. The foreign installation therefore corresponds to Freud’s socially constructed “superego”. The Superego or foreign installation is both God and devil, for it is experienced as a tyrannical power, as though being ridden or driven by a god or a devil, or the feeling of having devil’s or angel’s whip on your back driving you out of Eden, or as though one was a dry leaf being blown about by the winds of chance events. That is the work of the foreign installation. It is the work of the foreign installation to bring about or effect self-estrangement or self-alienation and so, in effect, to prevent self-realisation or what is sometimes correctly called “discovering one’s own voice”, which is also called the authentic, the genuine, or the sincere.

        Perhaps a comment was not the proper place for this.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That, I would say, is a pretty good description of the global soul. Maybe even of Tielhard de Chardin’s noosphere — (but I can’t really comment on that as I’ve not yet read his books).

      • Scott Preston says :

        Hell… this comment was supposed to be directly below Abdulomen’s that heads this thread. It somehow became displaced — a widow and orphan. It should be connected to amothman’s header comment.

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