Footnote to “Ritual”: Matter and Meaning



This is a footnote to The Epiphany of No Purpose and to Ritual.

“[T]here is a universal flux that cannot be defined explicitly but which can be known only implicitly, as indicated by the explicitly definable forms and shapes, some stable and some unstable, that can be abstracted from the universal flux. In this flow, mind and matter are not separate substances. Rather, they are different aspects of our whole and unbroken movement.”
― David BohmWholeness and the Implicate Order

A Place for Words

I’m hoping the word “epiphany” carries a bathetic meaning. I hope it signifies a “ludicrous descent from the exalted to the commonplace.” But in this case a descent from the high horse of a ludicrous certainty to the banal wisdom of uncertainty. Being dis-illusioned in the best sense.

The epiphany doesn’t have a pedagogic purpose either. It’s only a moment without resistance to one’s folly. A receptive mentality. But not a proscribing or self-help mentality. Therefore without ulterior purpose. Banal in its own way. At least from the standpoint of conventional wisdom, which tends to picture a dumb blankness in the absence of words and ideas.

This prejudice causes amnesia. It makes us forget that words provide faded snapshots of the kaleidoscopic or fluid perspectives of an immersive moment.  We don’t often trust the material world to reveal its own inherent order. To manifest its own intelligence. But what need is there to describe relationships that are already being tasted, touched, heard…?

In the absence of a narrative intermediary, the whole body is in communion with the world. And then we’re privy to a thousand conversations, the weaving together of trees, clouds, birds, storms and shadows.

Privy also to one’s own shadowy motives before they escalate into a cumulus of folly.  This is easy when there’s no separation between an inner and an outer world. Reflex thoughts are part of the whole conversation. The incoherence of assumptions of separation can be felt long before they tear an alienating rift within one’s own perceptual field. There’s no chatter of a mind divided on itself. That low-grade schizophrenia that passes for normalcy is absent.

Knowing this, some people dismiss these words by saying “those who know do not speak, and those who speak do not know.”

But we’re still embedded in a pyramid of conventional thinking that is incoherent with what those moments reveal. The verbal dismantling of these pyramids of conventional assumption are an enjoyable extension of the epiphany itself.

I think words play an important, but secondary role: To identify the structures of conventional wisdom that are incoherent with a more immersive and less schizophrenic perspective. To make the implications of that moment explicit.

Magnification, Not Abstraction

The word “implications” seems to drag us off into an abstract landscape. But that doesn’t have to happen.

A bear is immersed in his woods and mountains, and reads the meaning of his landscape. This doesn’t make bear an abstract philosopher, but a real bear, not a zoo bear isolated from the world. Implications enhance bear’s immersion in the world.

If we look deeper into matter, we find meaning itself. Even physicists are discovering this. A deeper magnification of matter itself reveals not only fields of energy, but even more subtle fields of “information.”

There’s a triple equivalency here of matter, meaning and energy that was perhaps unconsciously reflected in the male-centric metaphor of the Christian Trinity: Meaning as the Father; Matter as the Son; and energy as “the Holy Ghost.”

But in any case, meaning is not an abstract realm, not something separate from the material world. It’s not a heaven or a hell floating free of base matter. Matter itself is the beloved body of meaning.

It’s that sneaky viral meme of separation that makes this commonality hard to notice. We can’t seem to help assigning separate realms to matter and meaning. It’s an old prejudice that blinds us to a simpler vision.

Lab-coated observers try to remain separate from the matter they study. But it’s not possible. Their own meaningful analyses are part of the study.

The perception of meaning in the material world is not abstraction, but magnification. A deeper magnification can read the mind of our landscape, and it’s not a severed mind. It’s a mind implicit in the dirt itself.

Bears, too, perceive subtle meanings. As do all animals. The ability to read the intentions in body language, in physical manifestations of whimper and growl.

And just as a bear is a specialist in smells, and a bat in sounds, we are specialists in sensing the meta-level implications within matter itself: we have the potential to feel and see matter as a manifestation of meaning, and to distinguish subtle currents of meaning: how prejudice influences perception; the difference between thought and thing; the difference between proprioception and thought.

However, this potential for direct perception of the meaning of matter does not initially take the shape of ideas, or words. It’s not any of this that you’re reading. This is a descriptive dance, that’s all. In a moment of epiphany, meaning is not intellectually removed, but felt, heard, tasted, in the surroundings. When the wound between observer and observed is healed, and the bleeding of one’s own thoughts stop, the whole bleeding structure of consciousness can be felt, seen, and tasted. Because the fragmentations of society stand out in stark contrast to the unfragmented moment itself.

I mean, the material world itself displays this non-verbal meaning, in the same way that the ruined earth reveals the shape of human suffering.  One feels an alienating objectivity in all the divisive structures of this culture, the highways, the stores, the relationships. One sees an unrequited love for the world in pinched and brutalized faces.

We see and feel and know all of this without words.

The implications are grounded. This dance of language doesn’t deliver actuality itself. Like the dance of bees, it infers only the instructions for where to meet this meaning. If we believe that our comprehension of the dance is sufficient to “understand” then we have completely misunderstood what is being communicated.

“The mind, with its cunning arguments, is not everything. There is something vast and immeasurable beyond the mind, a loveliness which the mind cannot understand” (Krishnamurti).

So reading, writing and comprehending are only half the work. We have to learn to fly into what it means. Deeper and deeper into the material world.






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