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The singular influence that turned my attention towards the meaning of words, and their ever-morphing meanings, was Owen Barfield’s “History In English Words,” published in 1926. I mention this because quite a number of my readers have noticed my exactitude toward being perfectly clear in how I am using words.

Barfield’s book made me realize that words have no fixed meaning — over time — other than that which the hearer already understands, and this makes writing a very collaborative affair. But it also showed me just how far we (English-speaking) humans have strayed from an older way of seeing ourselves and our world, that preceded the mechanistic view that is au courant today.

There is just so much history in the word-prefix “auto-” that it provides us with an evidential trail for the murder of humanity. I am not referring to our collective humanness, but rather, our benevolent humaneness which has been reduced today to jerks of machinery.

Let us consider the word automatic. The Greek ‘automatos’, which meant ‘self-moved’, was Latinized in the form ‘automatus’ at about the beginning of our era, and automatous — now obsolete — is actually found in the works of the seventeenth century writer, Sir Thomas Browne. This old adjective had the sense of “spontaneous”, “of one’s own free will”, and was used of the animal and vegetable worlds as opposed to the mineral, or of events which came about “by chance”; While in Plato’s philosophy the distance between that which is “self-moved”, and that which can only be moved by something outside itself had been taken as the very antithesis between spirit and matter, between eternal and perishable.⁠¹

This is an encapsulation of the genesis of our many difficulties today. That sounds hyperbolic, but let’s read on a bit:

We drew from out of our own bodies, it would seem, the sense-experiences of force and pressure and the like, on which mechanics are based; then we externalized them in tools and machines, and turned them into abstract “laws”; finally, we proceeded to re-apply the “laws” to the familiar objects from which we had first extracted them, and the result was that we turned our previous notions of these inside out. For the typical intellectual position towards the end of the nineteenth century was exactly the reverse of the typical Academic position. Plato had deduced the sense-world from what we have called the inner world, and, while he had worked out an elaborate and wise knowledge of this inner world, with its moral impulses and aspirations, his philosophy had remained admittedly bankrupt as far as detailed knowledge of the mechanism of the outer world was concerned. Nineteenth-century science, on the other hand, deduced the inner from the outer; it had mapped and charted the mechanical part of Nature to a tenth of a millimeter, but it was well-nigh bankrupt as far as the inner world is concerned. Huxley invented the word agnostic (not-knowing) to express his own attitude, and that of many millions since his day, to the nature and origin of all this part of the cosmos. One of the few things about which practically all “men of science”, as the phrase now went, besides all those laymen who took the trouble to follow out the various scientific discoveries and to listen to their metaphysical reverberations, were agreed upon was that his senses and his reason had succeeded in placing men in a material environment which appeared to bear no relation whatever to his inner feelings and moral impulses.⁠²

I look around me and I don’t see a material universe, I see a formal universe — everything informing Now. So for me these ontogenetic forms that I call sæcula when they are informing are all the various kinds of beings, including those that we do not today recognize as living. They are the activity that one can notice everywhere and in everything — if only we stop looking underneath and behind them to find the mechanism that must ‘surely’ be there.

I call this activity naturing simply because it has no beginning, and no end, but is always only happening Now. This naturing is always responsive, sometimes in a creative way, to the potential of my living form — yet always maintaining the coherent continuation of what is actual now. As well, I note that what I pay attention to, what I intend to do, and what I desire is taken into account. I don’t know how to categorize this, other than as concern, because the naturing of what arises next takes my affective responses in every moment into account. And in my most poetic moments, I call it Love.

The question comes to mind, as it does for everyone at some point in their lives, what is this? What is my place in this world, in this universe? I would like to repeat the quote from Sir James Jeans that caught my attention when I was very young, and moved me to type it out on an index card, and carry it folded within my wallet, where it still rests, over half a century later:

Is this, then, all that life amounts to — to stumble, almost by mistake, into a universe which, to all appearances, is either totally indifferent or definitely hostile to it, to stay clinging onto a fragment of a grain of sand until we are frozen off, to strut our tiny hour on our tiny stage with the knowledge that our aspirations are all doomed to final frustration, and that our achievements must perish with our race, leaving the universe as though we had never been?⁠³

This question has been my lifelong preoccupation. For whatever we can say about reality, our presence here in our lives, and the path that we are on, Sir James Jeans’ description of the futility, aloneness, and meaninglessness of our lives has never, ever been apparent to me. I have been blessed by an early introduction to a profound technique of meditation that has in-formed my life with a fullness, beauty, presence and possibility of progress in every moment.

That question — for me — was a constant reminder of how much suffering there is in the world because of our disconnection from it, and from each other, and most of all, from the naturing that is dancing everywhere, all around us, and within everything. So you can understand my devotion to this project of sharing that reality that I know.

And the biggest and most difficult hurdle that must be overcome to do so is the inculcated view of reality that moved Sir James Jeans to pose his question, and Owen Barfield to search out its origins in our language.

So where to start? Well, at the most obvious, and yet most mysterious, the center of it all!

Here is how I have come to understand Eternity. This is not an intellectual abstraction for me. I have not read it in a book, nor heard it from a teacher, nor happened upon a conversation that I overheard somewhere. And I spontaneously experience my life through this understanding.

First, I need to say that the word Eternity has nothing to do with anything. My point is that any name, any conceptualization, is just as non-applicable, as any other, to that which I have decided to call “Eternity” for the moment, because of its inclusion of the idea of being unlimited, whereas, the expression that might make more sense: the Totality of Reality has the unfortunate implication of “right now,” and “delimited,” so it’s instantaneous and constrained, and thus extremely limited.

This understanding that I wish to talk about arose from my meditative and contemplative practice over more than half a century, and is based on actual insights that have informed my life. Working out the wording for this understanding was a matter of trying to be crystal clear by removing all the unfounded assumptions, polymorphous meanings of words, and implicit paradigmatic ways of thinking that my direct meditative experiences have called into question, or undermined outright.

As well, I have sometimes found that the original meanings of some necessary words are better adapted to transmit the meaning I want to communicate. The word and its variants: “inform, informing, informed, and information” used in the last paragraph is one such case. While this word has a modern meaning of ‘give facts or information’, in this work its meaning is recast back to its original etymological sense in the 14th century of giving material form to something, or to make known in an actual sense, rather than a conceptual one. If you reread the first sentence of the last paragraph, perhaps it will be clearer now as to what I meant.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

So to begin…

That of which nothing can be truly said (Eternity), and thus, which is neither directly knowable, nor intelligible, is evidenced by the ‘presence to’ the existing actual things that we identify with.

We talk a lot about ourselves and our self, and I want to make sure you see the connection between that now natural understanding we have and this presence to ‘ourselves’ and ‘self’, ‘our life’, ‘our experiences’, etc., because this is not evidence of an independent self reality, nor an observer, nor anything else of that ilk, but simply our confusing the perspective of the presence to that which we intimately identify with, as being our presence. This creates our dualistic understanding of everything, or rather, is the result of our dualistic understanding — and usually both are true, because they draw on each other and amplify each other.

You see, because we understand the world to be made up of, and inhabited by, separate material entities, that understanding is the structuring force of habit for all of our experiences. Thus, when we do become aware of this presence to that which we identify with, our understanding of separation makes it impossible for the ‘presence to that which we identify with as ourselves’ to not be on the same side. ‘Obviously’ they are together as one whole — me! But this is backwards, and reinforces our belief in a world of separate entities. If these are one whole me, then I must be separate from everything else because there can be nothing that is part of me, yet also part of another. It’s perfect circular reasoning, which is a telltale give-away for unfounded ideas.

In the absence of the structuring force of the habit of believing in a world of separate entities, we can see the world different. For example, there are quite a few practices in Buddhism and Hinduism — even modern yoga practices — where you place your awareness in various parts of your body, so that you are not ‘in your head’, and this is a relatively easy thing to do. You can also place, with more difficulty, your awareness into other beings, usually animals, in a rather uncanny displacement of your center of being. It’s not like you have ‘possessed’ the animal, although it seems to be that the animal notices what you are doing, and gets uncomfortable. It’s just that you have moved your perspective so that it originates elsewhere. ‘Near death experiences’ of floating above your body is a good example of the character of the perspective displacement I refer to.

I call this ‘presence to’ “Now”. We can go down a rabbit hole here, but I prefer to stay above ground for the time being. Now has nothing to do with Time as we all know it, instead, it is more like a theatre in which all the action takes place. Normally, we so identify with the action — and the actors — that we turn that perspective around and make it personal. But that’s an error that cuts our transcendence short, as you can imagine.

So if you can effectuate those displacements of your awareness, then the ironclad necessity that the ‘presence to’ is welded to that which you identify with — your body, in other words, or your thoughts — then you can notice what that perspective of the ‘presence to’ is: The Now. And since the Now is not a thing, nor a time, nor anything else — in fact it is only a perspective upon what is informed — it is on the side of that of which nothing can be truly said. I often refer to Now as the ‘event horizon’ between the knowable world of intelligible activity and that of which nothing can be truly said, which is not separate from that intelligible activity — (it) is evidenced by that activity.

How do I justify asserting that this ‘presence to’ entails that the actual things that appear to be cannot exist on their own?

I justify this assertion because of the insight of the non-separation of naturing and knowing (knowing being the immediate impersonal cognizant recognition of the naturing). As I have shown already, that which we call ‘consciousness’ is simply the abstraction — or better yet, vivisection — of the recognition of what is happening as the activity of information informs the ontogenetic potential of each sæculum. There is no justification for, nor evidence that, this other structure of distinction into separate activities is true, and it introduces multiple necessary entities into what truly is free of them completely.

As well, there is the often overlooked logical necessity that for there to be the appearances of separate things at all, then reality must be a nondual whole. Plato set out this argument⁠ in his Sophist dialog, but nobody seems to have understood what he was saying — some even going so far as to say that he was just showing off, as he attempted to justify his theory of forms.

Thus, the ‘presence to’ is the recognition of what is happening — what is being done — and this is inalienable from the actual naturing of that activity. This point is extremely important to understand. The activity and the recognition are not two aspects of one thing, they are the only veridical activity. This activity is not personal because there is no self-originating entity. And this is the key point that distinguishes truth from magical thinking. This is a case in which both scenarios have exactly the same factual evidence, but one confuses the perspective involved because of an unfounded belief.

All well and good, but what about the things that we are not aware of, that are veridically part of ‘our body’?

For example, the majority of the activity that takes place in our bodies is not perceived by us, yet we identify even with this unknowable activity. We lay claim to it, when we hear about it from scientists, or our doctor, since it is ‘our’ body; but truly it is impersonal activity that we are not privy to, for the most part. And in the case of so much of our unexplained mental processes, we give it a name that has become the deus ex machina for all opaque processes: the subconscious. So there is an issue of ‘obviously’ distinguishable parts of that which we identify with, and this I will explain shortly.

To recap: First, that which is intelligible is everything that exists — actual, rather than ‘real’ — and the Now is the ‘event horizon’ of the recognition of that activity as it occurs. Second, The activity of naturing is on the side of the intelligible world — and ‘us’. The recognition of that activity as it is natured is on the side of that of which nothing can truly be said. While we are our bodies and thoughts, etc., we are also other than that — which is beyond description. I am not using “are” in its identity meaning in that last sentence, but in its active mode that denotes being. And while there is an ‘event horizon’ that is the liminal delineation between what is and the informing what is, these two are not separate — and if you change your definition of “knowing,” from ‘having knowledge’ to ‘performing what you capable of doing’, then you will have a better sense of what I mean.

It is the performative nature of knowledge in its active sense that I speak of here — in the context of Responsive Naturing — that is the autogenous in-forming that is the ontogenesis of complex life.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།

A human being is an example of an ontogenetic form. A human heart is an example of an ontogenetic form. Cells within the heart are examples of ontogenetic forms; Organelles within a cell are ontogenetic forms. Molecules within an organelle are ontogenetic forms. Atoms within the molecules are ontogenetic forms. Particles within an atom are ontogenetic forms. Subatomic particles are ontogenetic forms. A photon is an ontogenetic form, etc., all the way down — and each is a sæculum as it is being informed.

What is not an ontogenetic form is a building, a metal tool, a computer, a wood or stone carving, a metal or stone statue, a painting, these words expressed on a page and the conceptual understandings they point to… So the term we normally use for such things is “artifact.”

These artifacts use materials which are themselves either simple or complex material structures, such as stone, or the remainder of once living things, such as wood, or other ontogenetic forms, such as molecules of iron.

Each ontogenetic form can (and usually is, in all but the simplest cases) itself be a deeply-nested and recursive organic structure of other ontogenetic forms — as well as material — and can be nested within a “higher-level” ontogenetic form. And because all ontogenetic forms have such an “organic structure,” all ontogenetic forms are life forms — there is no distinction that can be made between an atom of iron and a human being other than its complexity and depth of recursive structure.

Thus everything natural is alive — a statement that broadens the meaning of “Life” to include all ontogenetic forms.

There is a need here to be exact in what I am saying. Do I mean that an electron is alive? Yes, it has an ontogenetic informing, and thus a ‘lifespan’. Does this mean it is conscious and thinking? No, there is only an impersonal recognition of the state of the electron — the perspective of Now, which is the presence-to the activity is the ‘electron’. Note that the perspective of Now, being the recognition of the activity, is clearly not that of an entity in this simple case. The evidence for this is impersonal perspective is that an electron can have a spin of +1/2 or -1/2. While a physicist will argue that it’s not ‘really’ spin, which begs the question why they use the word, the positive and negative enantiomorphism of the value is actual — and enantiomorphism in all its polymorphous manifestations of ‘handedness’, polarity, etc., involves a perspective, and that perspective is the ‘presence-to’ of the Now — not ‘consciousness’ as that word is normally used, because it is not separate from the activity.

We do not tend to think about the fact that enantiomorphism is an evident aspect of presence — even when we find it to be fundamental to physical structures and biological systems — simply because it complicates our thinking. The ideas that we use to describe this world are always representations of our current understanding of the world, thus they are estimations of the truth only. Moving on…

Artifacts are not living. A car is not alive, nor is a vivisected cell — even if the organelles within it are continuing to unfold ontogenetically (and are therefore still living).

So if I say that all things exist “in time,” I mean it the way you do: all things come into being, change, and then cease to be. The particular passage — the ontogenetic informing — is different for each thing. A sub-atomic particle of matter may exist for only the briefest of moments. A mountain made up of an uncountable number of such sub-atomic particles exists for a very long time compared to our human life. The Sun exists for an even longer time than the mountain, and consists of an even greater uncountable number of sub-atomic particles. The mountain and the Sun, however, are not informed as a sæculum, even though, each of the molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles do have a sæculum. The mountain and the Sun are subject to what we now call physical causal laws, as is a sæculum during its lifespan — you and I will die, if we fall off a mountain.

Yet, by “time” I mean the durational potential life of each sæculum, and not some imaginative construction such as a “river of time,” or a separate and eternal container in which things happen. So when I use “time” in relation to a mountain or a sun, I am referring to a relative time — relative to some naturally arising phenomenon, which can be the informing of a sæculum, or a physical phenomenon. Historically it was based upon cosmological movements. Today, we use the electromagnetic radiation of cesium atoms cooled to temperatures that approach absolute zero. Cosmological movements are the result of physical interactions. Cesium atoms are sæcula, however.

And the organizing principle of each ontogenetic form, that plays out in the “laws of nature” and the organizational structuring of forms, is the responsive naturing that is the activity of Eternity.

Thus, Eternity is “all forms of being” because it manifests all ontogenetic forms. Time is said to be always local to an inertial frame of reference — to an observer, we can say more casually — and this is not other than what we mean when we speak the word “awareness.” Thus, Eternity is filled with forms; not “time.” And the “glue” that adheres it all together is the presence of Eternity that we call the “Now” and in which all ontogenetic forms in-form.

Form as deeply-nested recursive organic structuring, is a matter of relation, not physical interaction. Relation is informational, not physical. It is the ‘knowing’ of Eternity — the realization of form — and that is the only true basis for relation.⁴ Since there is no word for this, I use the neologism, sciomorphogenesis, ‘knowing through the generation of form’.

Complex beings are more stable because complexity of structure and relation restricts the possibilities of spontaneity. This is because sæcula are comprised of deeply-nested recursive organic structuring of sæcula, each with its own intricate in-forming, yet also, potentially very deep levels of entanglement (relation). Thus, these beings have much less entropy, which decreases over time.

This is the origin of the ‘holding together’ of complex life — its inertia — that the old paradigm of mechanistic materialism, which says that random interactions over long periods of time give rise to order, cannot actually explain, because what random interactions cause, they surely can undo over long periods of time as well — but this is not the case.

In fact, we always see the opposite, and it is manifold. Similar structures arise, yet by polymorphous paths — and these structures arise autogenously, not as a intricacy of ‘external’ relations, but via the in-forming of ontogenetic possibilities that exceed what they originate as. A human child, for example, starts out simply as an ‘egg’ that is ‘fertilized’ by a sperm — and DNA are recipes for raw materials, not architectural plans.

Henri Bergson said something similar to what I am saying, in his book “Creative Evolution”:

But it (Mechanism) also holds that nature has worked like a human being by bringing parts together, while a mere glance at the development of an embryo shows that life goes to work in a very different way. Life does not proceed by the association and addition of elements, but by dissociation and division.

And this brings me to my last point, and it is a rhetorical one. If there is God, why would God work as a human being does by creating the universe and everything in it separately and arbitrarily? It seems to me that God would create something in a God-like image: a plenum of potential blessed beauty actualizing with a marked singular concern for what happens in a responsive way.

ཨེ་མ་ཧོ། ཕན་ནོ་ཕན་ནོ་སྭཱཧཱ།
👈 || UNSAYING | CONTEMPLATION | TRADITION | MEDITATION | DISCUSSION | BACK MATTER || 👉

Footnotes:

¹ “History In English Words,” by Owen Barfield,” Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1926, pgs 169–70

² Ibid. pg 178

³ “The Mysterious Universe,” Sir James Jeans, 1930, Cambridge University Press, pg 13

⁴ See FH Bradley’s “Appearance and Reality” on the ‘unmeaning’ of relation; i.e. the lack of any inherent possible meaning to the idea of relation, when you deeply analyze what is being communicated when it is said of a thing or things that they are related.

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