Philosophy and Culture: Symbols & the Psyche

To preface what this writing will entail, I’d like to describe my methodology for constructing language. The manner in which I think is referred to sometimes as abstract or idealistic, and other times as analytic or principled thinking when I am acting practically. There’s some debate about the fundamentality of rational thinking in the connection between the veracity of reality’s perception by consciousness and objective truth itself. In other words, granted that it’s possible for reality to not present the absolute truth as it hypothetically could be known, to what degree does reality constrain the perception of the truth by consciousness (us living body/minds)? Language is a tool of culture for communication among its members and related others. Considering that what is being communicated is what can be conceived and conceptualized, language is an incredibly clumsy and inefficient means of communicating abstract ideas and aesthetically oriented systems of value, ie. theoretical frameworks and perspectives. Even though philosophies can be constructed and theories can be developed, shared, and implemented through conscious behavior, if we assume that language is generated with an unspecified margin of error represented by the ideas that are not defined or conceptualized within that particular cultural use of the language, we cannot communicate anything wholly accurate to the truth, including the specific constructs of words and idioms themselves. So take what I write with maybe a few grains of salt. It is difficult to tread through waters and libraries of many minds and retain any semblance of concrete understanding of reality. At best, our models and theories point to the truth. It can only be known for itself. But if it seems as if I’m not talking out of my ass, I’d ask that you consider for a moment the internal continuity of ideas as an experiment to manipulate the mechanism of understanding and perception, for its own sake, because you can. I’ll do my best to describe.

Philosophy is the language of the psyche

What unites or underlies both the internal, or psychic, and the interpersonal aspects of our experience is the embodied existence represented in reality. It’s in believing ourselves to be these living organisms that allows us to suppose that we are some concentration of life, spirit, or mind inside of it, and it is in believing that humans have internal realities that are distinct and “beyond” the physical body that allows us to suppose personalities and subjectivity between each individual. These are all metaphors for aspects of the truth too complex to be anything but felt in some of the least common and hardest to maintain states or perspectives of consciousness. One of the benefits of philosophy is that it gives a notion of comprehension and definition. How many times have you or another found some philosophy that was new to you and upon reading thought “this is it, this says what I feel but lack the words to say”? That feeling is a resonance between the perspectives where for about a moment you could reasonably say that you know and understand the same complex thing. It can be inspiring and reassuring to know that you are not alone in some metaphysical space, and that others share your conditions, aspects of your own internal/external being. It could also mean absolutely nothing to you.

The constraints of our minds are the beliefs we impose upon ourselves and the judgments and behaviors we make and commit. In order to make sense of the perceptions and feelings, to have thoughts and words by which we can relay what we understand, we conceptualize abstract ideas into systems and arguments that reflect a supposedly internally coherent way of perceiving reality. These translations of personal realizations can be circular aesthetic visions with extending or implied, practical, linear methodologies. They can be imagined as structures of claims and suppositions that form the boundaries of what a particular perspective of consciousness can accept without running into computing errors. Jung desired to uncover archetypes of meaning and symbol-making so that he could derive the characters or foundational elements of understanding, but characteristic of the limits of human conception, he found that while there were many ubiquitous cultural images, myths, and symbols, the reality expressed through these mechanisms of meaning was greater than that which represented it. This is not at all unlike the notion that reality itself is not as great as that which gives it being, though such a notion implies that the greatest aspect or quality of being is not being necessarily. Why are some things real and others not? Is chance an acceptable answer? Is it really true? Is it practically true?

In the thousands of years that humanity has been trying to answer the question of “what’s going on?”, we have found only that we cannot agree on what we perceive. Why then do we assume that we all believe that the words we use have standard meanings that are commonly known to users of the language? Isn’t there something to the fact that some people would rather communicate through other means, be it imagery, sound, or physical expression? The farther into abstraction the mechanism of translation is, the more accessible it is to culture, but the less applicable it is to what’s “concrete” by comparison. So, the mind uses its persona and the self’s behaviors in the same way, to convey to reality and other consciousness the state of being and maybe the intentionality of the “speaker”. Our words and philosophic constructions about how to describe the meaning of our experiences gives others and ourselves a symbol representing that state of perception and what it entails and knows. If you were to try to give someone your understanding, it’d likely be in the form of some creative work embodying the reality you perceive as an attempt to recreate what’s real through another medium abstracted from reality.

This, for example, is why it is impossible to find such concepts as “the self” as objects in reality. You can take it to refer to one’s organism, or by extension to what one incorporates into one’s self-concept, or to some underlying fact about consciousness and its relationship to reality. “Self” can mean all these things and more, but the experience that inspired the realization of and conceptualization of Self has nothing to do with the word. The word could only have come after finding the reality/knowing of self in subjectivity itself. This is what Hegel meant when he stated that self-consciousness existed for itself and in itself. It is it’s own cause and effect; the knowledge of self inspired the conception of self, which in turn inspired in others the pursuit of self, which reaffirmed the knowledge of the limits and totality of self and selfhood. So much meaning is held within that one concept, it requires an entire personal experiment to fully understand. To a degree, culture aims at inspiring this realization in its practicers, but it often ends up serving as a conceptual or behavioral replacement for the contemplation and understanding of such a concept where people neglect to investigate its reality. Believing in the philosophy of the word rather than the reality of the being, people of culture, symbols, and philosophy then make their instruments impediments to realization and understanding of what they outwardly claim to value. The Tao that can be said is not the eternal Tao, yet this too had to be said.


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