“Being” is a very strange word. I suppose it would be called “an abstract processual noun”. English speakers, in any event, tend to treat “being” as a determinate form or species — something definite and fixed, as having boundaries, and consider “being” even the antithesis of “becoming”. We speak, perhaps, of the many “beings” or even the Supreme Being.

“Being”, used in that sense of “thingness”, as it were, is a hypostatization, or the “fallacy of misplaced concreteness”, or a reification in the negative sense. It is not a thing, but a dynamic, a process in much the same sense as playing, sleeping, driving, eating and so on. And in that sense “being” and “impermanence” are practically synonymous terms. But we have abstracted “being” from its meaning as identical with a mode of existence to something that “has” a mode of existence. But that isn’t what the word means.

Being is an energetic process, a “bodying forth” as we might call it, or a continuous process of self-manifestation or self-articulation or self-formation. It’s a mistake to think of “a” being as some fixed or static form. That’s the hypostatisation of an abstract idea. We have, in consequence, the idea of being, but have lost something of the actual experience of be-ing as this continuous process of what we call “self-actualisation” or “self-realisation”.

In some languages, according to some linguists (and as noted in an earlier post) it is quite impossible to speak of “a tree”, but only of a “treeing” and so on. Everything is in a process of becoming, one life essence prismatically manifesting in a countless number of modes of being. “Treeing” may seem like a strange way of speaking, but in structure it is no different than the word be-ing, and not as something accidental, but intentional. Everything is in the process of self-articulation or self-manifestation — at least, until such time as it reaches the limits of its possibilities of further self-manifestation, or its mode of be-ing. The human is simply one of those modes of being, no less or no more important than the other modes of existing. Being is, in that sense, a pathway. Being and those processes that we call self-realisation or self-manifestation or self-articulation or self-actualisation have pretty much the same meaning.

And so, we come upon a peculiar fact that the Latin word for being — existence or ex-stare (to “stand out” or “stand forth”) is cognate with the Greek ek-stase — ecstasy. So, to speak of “ecstatic existence” is something of an oxymoron, in those terms.

“Being”, as such, is fundamentally therefore an energetic issue, and “Energy is Eternal Delight” as Blake put it. Energy and vitality are practically synonymous terms, so enhancing the flow of energy in and through the human frame is pretty much synonymous with vitality and self-realisation. And that’s also pretty much the whole secret of practices like yoga, tai chi, or even Castaneda’s “tensegrity” or the “magical passes” — to enhance the flow of energy through the human frame.

Animism, vitalism, spiritualism, mentalism (or psychism) are names for different modes of be-ing in that sense — where, in the human form, the energy or vitality is concentrated. It functions effectively for a while, but also becomes an inhibition through overspecialisation in time, manifesting as “neurosis” (as Manly Hall mentions in his remarks on astrotheology). When the flow of energy through the human form becomes inhibited in any part, it turns destructive. “The standing water breeds pestilence”, as Blake put it. When the flow of energy becomes stuck or inhibited (suppressed or repressed) or denied, it typically becomes violent and destructive, either internally or externally.

And that is pretty much the whole teaching of William Blake.



9 responses to “Being”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    I am sure you are familiar with my favorite Whitehead who emphasis in his philosophy the move from discrete thing to processual event. All things are processes, thank Scott to remind this world who has lapsed in a collective amnesia, that nothing stays put, even death is a process of transformation. Sometime I wonder, does it make sense to have all this abundance in thoughts and ideas and all these attempts to understand, then die and that is the end. I can not digest such idea. It is against the principle of processes, against the principle of truth and justice to equate between the criminal and the good,between those who know and those who do not.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “It [“Being”]is not a thing, but a dynamic, a process in much the same sense as playing, sleeping, driving, eating and so on.”

    It is truly so! And “Death” is dissolved in that description as just part of being, and therefore “Being” does not end with death. Only that death is just one subset event of Being.

  3. Steve Lavendusky says :

    Google – “Corbin on Monotheism & Polytheism” A letter Corbin had written on this very subject. You got to read it. Steve

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes Steve. Thanks for pointing that out (and the website). That’s a very good letter, which gets to the gist of the matter. And Corbin’s homage to ibn Arabi should please our Sufi friend abdulmonem!

      So Corbin was a member of the Eranos circle (as was Gebser, Jung). It has been quite influential — a very successful and fecund “we” group in that sense.

      • Steve Lavendusky says :

        I really recommend all of Tom Cheetham’s books. I reach for them constantly from my bookshelves.

        • Steve Lavendusky says :

          Also check out Aaron Cheak’s web-site for a magnificent essay on Gebser called “From Poetry to Kulturphilosophy.”

          • Scott Preston says :

            Yes, it is a very good essay. Much there to elaborate on too (which I won’t do here). Could have easily also posted a link to this for my recent post on “Near Death Experience” too.


            From the essay,

            “In the final essay from Standing the Test, Gebser likens the contemporary epoch to the near-death experience in which life as a whole is said to “flash before one’s eyes”. Just as one’s whole life is grasped in a split second when one is on the brink of death, so too is human consciousness and civilisation at a similar juncture: ‘Humanity finds itself today on hair’s breadth, the border between life and death’. [82] As a consequence, the raising to consciousness of humankind’s “childhood” (archaeology, palaeontology, ethnology), along with the discovery of its unconscious drives and archetypes (depth psychology) are indicators for Gebser that human civilisation as a whole is at an intensification point—a death-like ontological rupture in which the limitations of the perspectival world are crumbling away to reveal the glittering Diaphainon: the transfiguring lucidity “behind” perspectival “things”, which renders both “light” and “darkness” present. The cultural death is thus an ontological metamorphosis: a katabasis that initiates human consciousness into a deeper, more integral structure of reality.”

            Which is why I posted about NDE, and it’s worthwhile I think to view some of the testimonials on YouTube in that connection (although, as mentioned in my post, some are hoaxes and some are hallucinations, and some are just for proselytising or propaganda. Some, however, are the real deal.).

            The anecdote about Gebser and Jung, and Jung’s remarks to Gebser about not wanting to become too attached to the beauty of the world following his (Jung’s) heart problem is quite interesting. Jung also had an NDE, which is recorded in “Memories, Dreams, Reflections” and would have preferred not to have come back from it. He was “sent back”. That’s the background experience for his comments to Gebser.

            Thanks for pointing out Cheak’s essay. It is very, very good.

  4. alex jay says :

    Is it a verb or the noun? Reading through the post, something gelled in this semi-ossified brain of mine … and eureka! It recalled a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Chris Hedges that I was entertained by several years ago. And after an half- hour of Sherlock Holmes-like googling powers, I found it.

    The gist, of course, is that God (The “Be-ing”) is a verb from Hedges around the 25 minute mark (the whole debate is worth a listen):

    • Scott Preston says :

      I haven’t read Hitchen’s book “God is NOT Great”, but probably something I should do. I don’t think Hitchens has a good understanding of what he calls “religion” though. In fact, it’s no better than the understanding of those who he dismisses as the “religious”.

      As noted earlier, what we call “religion” arose from an existential sickness — the human sense of itself having lost connection with the sources of its being — from alienation and estrangement, in effect. And as mentioned, the whole meaning of “religion” is contained in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and Hedges should have brought that up, really.

      The point is that ego consciousness and religion grew up together. Hedges actually touches on that in his defence of religion (monotheistic kind) as having made individuality central. It’s a two-edged sword, in that sense. It reinforces the estrangement by its very structure even as it pretends to be the cure for that estrangement or sense of apartness for separation from the All. Or, as Nietzsche once put it — the priest makes you sick with sin, and then he holds himself out as the cure.

      I touched a bit on that in my recent post on “Near Death Experience”, how religious imagery provides a map, but the map isn’t the territory.

      When religion becomes ideology, it becomes idolatry and therefore pernicious. Ideology is abstraction. But that’s the very thing Hitchens represents — the ideological. So in some sense, he’s boxing with his own shadows. As noted earlier, there’s not much that separates the bigot and the fanatic, and likewise not much that separates the reductionist from the fundamentalist.

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