Tranquillitys Secret Contemplation Inherent vs Intrinsic

Intrinsic is defined as “belonging to the essential nature of a thing; whereas Inherent is defined as “involved in the constitution or essential character of something.” The difference is subtle, and these two words are frequently seen as synonymous. However, the Latin derivation of each makes it clear that there was a difference between them:  inherent: is to hang on something, adhere to something, stick to something, (L. inhaerens); whereas, intrinsic: means within, or remaining within, and thus immanent (L. intrinsecus, "within").

To better understand this important distinction between “intrinsic” and “inherent” we must look closer at the word “within”, because it does not mean “in”. It is, rather, a pointer to a profound understanding.  The 14th Century mystic, philosopher, and theologian, Meister Eckhart, gave a sermon about this difference. In it, he uses an allegory of wine, a barrel, and the wooden staves (sides) of the barrel,  in order to explain the difference between secular things and spiritual beings, which he casts here as a “vessel”.

Every vessel has two properties: it receives and it contains. Spiritual vessels are different from physical vessels. The wine is in the cask, the cask is not in the wine. And the wine is not in the cask as it is in the staves, for if it were in the cask as it is in the staves, we could not drink it. With a spiritual vessel it is different. Whatever is received in that is in the vessel and the vessel in it, and it is the vessel itself. Whatever the spiritual vessel receives, is its own nature.¹

Meister Eckhart ended that sermon with the statement that if you understand this meaning, you have no need of any further sermons from anyone — it is that profound an understanding. If we carry this understanding back to the word “intrinsic” we see a much more profound and enlightening meaning in that word. No longer should “inherent” be confused with “intrinsic”.

So, one could say that the formal appearances (that which we take to exist and can experience) are inherent to, but are not intrinsic to, reality. These formal appearances are inherent because they are the manifestation of activity which is real, which we might recognize, distinguish, and understand; but these appearances are contingently natured in response to extant conditions, and thus, are not intrinsic to the real, but merely “inhere” upon the real. That is, the wine is not changed by being in the barrel, nor by having permeated the wooden staves of the barrel.

Instead, what is real is the intrinsic naturing of all being — as the essential nature of all formal appearances — and this is the Totality of Reality.

This naturing activity, which we can only know through the evidence of these formal appearances (because they are intelligible), can be seen to have three indivisible aspects: 

(a) that there is no entity anywhere, neither as a real thing, nor being, because that which is real can only be said to be the active principle of the essential naturing of the formal appearances within this Totality. These formal appearances are not other than this naturing

(b) that this active principle is cognitively aware (cognizance), because that is the essential character of this activity: knowing through the genesis of form (sciomorphogenesis). This is neither Idealism, nor Realism — it is beyond the scope of both;

(c) that this naturing is responsive to that which is actual, what is potential, and what is possible: in a spontaneously creative reconfiguring of the appearances in discrete, entangled, quanta with a constructed coherent continuity.

This  omninclusive coherently responsive activity is all that can be veridically said to be real, and we can only comprehend this activity via the intelligible formal appearances that are informed

However, on an emergent meta-cognitive level —  because of fastidiously training our mind — we can discern this naturing (however briefly) directly within a state of meditative absorption (Sanskrit: samādhi) in which our normal focus on the intelligible formal appearances is shifted into (absorbed within) the activity of their information, rather than the intelligible appearance itself. This state can be spontaneous and short-lived, or may become permanent, depending on the level of absorption one attains via a meditation practice.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།


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