An Essay Featured In (Re)constructing “A is A” by O.G. Rose
On Thinking and Perceiving
Resurrecting the Body
Thinking and perceiving are not the same. If I look at a window and think about my grandmother, I perceive the window, but I do not think about it. However, the moment I stop daydreaming and realize ‘the window is dirty’, I am now both perceiving and thinking about the window. Perceiving is ‘processing through body’, while thinking is ‘processing through mind’. ‘Mind’ and ‘body’ are unified when I both perceive and think about the window, but the ‘mind’ and ‘body’ are separate when I perceive the window and think about my grandmother. When what I am thinking about and what I perceive match, mind and body (or brain) are one, though they are apart otherwise. When I perceive the window and think about the window, I am not ‘dualistic’; when I perceive the window and think about grandmother, ‘dualism’, in a sense, is true. The human shifts in and out of being Cartesian.
It’s not the eyes, nose, hands, ears, or tongue that perceive, but the brain ‘through’ them, as it is isn’t the tires, axles, etc. that make a car run, but the engine ‘through’ these parts. Though, without a windshield, it would be hard to drive the car well, even if it had an engine. Likewise, one can still perceive without senses, just not well. However, if the engine in a car gives out, the whole thing breaks down, even though the tires and other parts of the car may work just fine. Likewise, if one’s brain is destroyed, all their senses give out, even if their nose, eyes, hands, etc. remain undamaged. If perception came from the senses, rather than the brain, a body would smell even after it died. That said, one can be born blind and learn to adapt. Likewise, if there were no tires, a car could be invented that worked like a hovercraft. However, no matter how a car is reinvented to deal with the changing of the times, cars will always need some kind of power source, as a human, no matter how sensually capable or incapable, will always need a functioning brain. Though the characteristics may vary, there will never be a car or human entirely without a source of animation.
All animals perceive, but not all animals may think. The human can perceive and think, and separate his or her thinking from perception at will. In the moment a human perceives without thinking, a human is no different than an animal; when what a human perceives and thinks about matches, a human is hard to define from an animal. A human becomes distinct from other creatures when his or her perception and thinking do not cross. In other words, a human doesn’t always have a mind. If ‘soul’ and ‘mind’ are terms used as similes, one could say a human only has a soul when he or she thinks.
The mind causes thinking as the brain causes perception, yet the brain also causes the mind. All animals have brains, but not all animals may have minds. However, a human doesn’t always have a mind like he or she always has a brain. A human is a ‘mind and brain’ (or ‘mind and body’) when thinking and perception don’t cross, a human is a ‘mind/body’ when perception and thinking merge, and a human is a ‘body’ when he or she perceives without thinking. A person is constantly an animal, but sometimes also human. A human is most human when thinking and perception are distinct. Considering this, a human isn’t always human. Sometimes, a human is just an animal. However, a human is always deserving of being treated ‘humanely’, for a human, even when ‘just an animal’, can always (re)enter into ‘human-ness’. An animal though can never will ‘human-ness’, and in this sense humans are distinct from animals, though humans can be ‘just animals’. Animals, hence, are not deserving of being treated ‘humanely’; rather, animals are deserving of being treated ‘respectfully’. This is not to say animals are to be abused, but to say animals should not be treated like humans and vice-versa. In other words, a lion should not be charged with murder for eating a zebra, while a human should be charged for cannibalizing a neighbor.
‘Eat food’ could be a perception, a thought, or both. Driven by the body, a person can eat food without thinking about it. A creature doesn’t need to think ‘eat food’; rather, a creature can just ‘do it’. This is called an ‘instinct’ or ‘appetite’, and there are many more actions that creatures can do without thinking where perception is enough. It is easy to confuse instincts with thinking, and it’s hard to imagine action without thought (for that act would be to consider non-thought through the lens of thinking). However, the difficulty is alleviated once the distinction between thinking and perception is fully grasped.
Perception and thought are like two streams that cross and merge every now and then before going their own ways and crossing again elsewhere. If I am looking at a window and thinking about my grandmother, I am a human. If I am looking at a window and thinking about the window, I cannot easily be defined apart from an animal (I am ‘human/animal’). If I am looking at a window without thinking, I am an animal. In a way, ‘I am’ when looking at the window and thinking about my grandmother, I cannot define my ‘I’ when I look at a window and think about it, and ‘I am not’ when perceiving the window thoughtlessly. The identity of a person is in flux. As a human only has a mind in contemplation, so too a person only has an ‘I’.
Perception that leads to thinking is ‘animal-like’, while thinking that leads to perception is ‘human-like’. To be lead into thinking by perception is to be ‘like an animal’, while to be lead into perception by thinking is to act freely. I perceive freely when my perception is guided by my thinking, and I ‘don’t think for myself’ when my perception guides my thinking. I am more definitely myself when I think then perceive, rather than perceive and then think. Yet when I think, I cease to be present to the world that I perceive. ‘I am not what I am’: I can only be myself in a world that isn’t real.² Though a sensualist may live like an animal, a thinker lives like a ghost.
I can perceive a window until the moment I notice that I am perceiving the window, then I am thinking about it. If I begin perceiving and thinking about the window, out of the corner of my eye, I may also perceive a small bird and a car passing by outside, though I am not thinking about these two, other phenomena. At any moment, I may be undergoing many sounds, sights, feelings, etc. and yet not be thinking about any of them (or only thinking about one of them). In a moment in which thinking and perception cross, there are still other phenomena I am experiencing relative to which perception and thinking do not cross. It is as if those entities are invisible when I am thinking, and when I think about the window, I act as if the window is all I perceive. I hence abstract myself from the world of my senses: I act as if my scope is smaller than it actually is. As to think about one’s grandmother while perceiving a window is to slip into a kind of ‘daydreaming’, so too is it to think about the window.
If I perceive the window and think about it, I act as if I perceive the thought ‘window’ instead of the phenomenon window. I put myself ‘toward’ a thing that I am not facing. If I think about anything, I do not contemplate what I perceive. If I think about the window, I do not think about the birds and cars in sight. It is never possible to think about the sum of what one perceives, only singularities (or ‘cut outs’) of it. If one tries to think about the entirety of all that he or she perceives, that individual’s mind will freeze up and that person will cease thinking. If one tries to tell their self ‘I am thinking about the window, bird, and car’, the person may actually be thinking more so about the words (or the words coupled with their corresponding phenomenon), and the individual may fail to recognize that he or she isn’t thinking about the sky, flowers, colors, etc. Even if an individual did manage to think about each individual phenomenon he or she perceived, that person couldn’t think about them all simultaneously as he or she actually perceived them, nor would such success, even if possible, apply to any other frame of spacetime. Thinking can never encapsulate perception: perception always exceeds it.
Yet, though thinking generates singularities, thinking also fails to individualize as does perception. To turn the window I perceive from ‘a window’ into ‘my window’, I have to think about it. Upon being thought about, the window could now be ‘any window’, for ‘any window’ could be mine. However, no other window could be ‘the window’ I perceive: only that window occupies that particular space and time. Likewise, to think about ‘the window’ I perceive ‘lifts’ the phenomenon up into a mental network where it relates to all other ‘windows’ I have experienced and the idea of ‘window’ itself. ‘The window’, in this respect, becomes simply ‘another window’: it’s ‘one-of-one’-ness is lost. If one thinks about a window while not perceiving one, one starts from the mental network and never thinks about ‘a window’, per se, only ‘another window’ or ‘an idea of a window’. Through a singularizing effort that seems to make ‘the window’ individual as ‘my window’, thinking, ironically, makes the window unremarkable and unparticular. Perception does not violate or generalize ‘the window’ as such; it passively accepts its particularity. ‘A is A’ — ‘a window is a window’ — until I think ‘A is A’. While perception observes the world, thinking changes it.
Furthermore, perception is faster than thinking: I perceive a window before I think about it. If I never think about it, my perception wins by default. Granted, I can think about a thing before ever perceiving it, but in such a circumstance, perception and thinking cannot be compared. To determine speed, perception and thinking must race on the same track. My perception cannot race against my ideas ‘in the mind’ as my thinking can race against my perception ‘in the world’. Therefore, speed must be determined ‘in the world’, where both perception and thinking can race, and there perception always wins. When I think about my grandmother while perceiving the window, my thinking veers off track.
Lastly, it should be recognized that thought and perception never completely cross or merge; rather, they only ever meet ‘in part’. Since I cannot think about the window and everything within my scope simultaneously, my perception and thinking cross only there, not in full. Consequently, though relative to ‘the-meeting-of-the-perception-and-thought-of-the-window’ I am hard to tell apart from an animal, I am still human relative to the phenomena upon which perception and thinking do not meet. I only forgo my humanness when I cease thinking all together.
My will determines if and how thought and perception meet, and though I cannot choose whether or not I perceive the window, I can choose whether or not I think about it. I may even start thinking about it without realizing that I chose to do so, but I still can choose to stop at anytime. Thinking expresses will, and free will expresses free thinking (though, the term ‘free will’ is a redundant version of the term ‘will’). I only will to perceive a window insomuch as I choose to think about it; otherwise, I simple perceive it, and do so because of mechanical and chemical complexes of the body (or at least it cannot meaningfully be said that I do so for other reasons). If I take a seat near a window because I think ‘I want to sit here’, I act freely; if I sit at the window because I see the chair, I act like an animal.
I act ‘freely’ when I think to do something contrary to the ‘prison’ of what I perceive, and I am free whenever I ‘will’. To will is to be free, for ‘to be free’ means ‘to be willful’. Otherwise, the term ‘free’ means ‘to follow instincts, perceptions, chemical mechanics, bodily functions, etc.’, which isn’t to be free, but to do whatever one is propelled to do. Without thought, one cannot even recognize his or her freedom, so in ‘no sense’ would that person be free. Thoughtless, to christen something ‘free’ is to add an ‘unnecessary superstructure’.¹
Since I am never forced to think about what I perceive, I always have a chance to be free. When I think about my grandmother while perceiving the window, I am free; when I think about the window I perceive, it’s hard to define me as free, as it is hard to define me as human. When I perceive the window thoughtlessly, since I do not exercise my freedom, in that act, I am indefinable from an animal. Likewise, whenever I follow my instincts, mere causality, or simply perceive, my freedom and humanity become indefinable. Every moment I do not think is a moment I am not definably free. Since a human is that ‘which perceives and thinks’, humans can be free, for humans can think. Animals are not definably free, for they are not free to divide themselves from their perceptions.
Yet, every moment I think is a moment I live abstractly: it is a moment in which my scope shrinks and I am ‘toward’ a world that I do not perceive. In this sense, I can only be free ‘in the abstract’. The person that wishes to find proof of freedom ‘in the world’ will not find it, for the person searches by perception for that which can only be found in thought. More ironically still, the person will find ‘evidence’ that freedom doesn’t exist in failing to find it, and so become confident that he or she isn’t free.³ The same logic applies to the ‘self’. To try to find freedom is to give it up; to give up is to finish searching. The cost of freedom is the real world. Man is split. Whole.
The nature of thinking is to lead to perception as perception gravitates toward thinking (assuming the perceiving creature has a mind to think). Thinking and perception never have to cross paths, but they often do, because thinking often seeks perceivability to confirm it is in reality: just try to think of something without also ‘seeing it’ (possible, but hard). Perception stays like a straight river while thinking is a curving stream that runs in and out of it at whim. Thinking often thinks to achieve perceptibility, but perception doesn’t as often perceive to think, it’s existence being more stable and ‘given’. Perception may seek to be thought about, but it does not seek to become thinkable as thought seeks to become perceivable. What is perceivable is thinkable already, while what is thinkable doesn’t achieve perceptibility until ‘created’.
Reading, which is an act of perceiving black marks on paper, especially when it comes to fiction, is often also an act of ‘thinking-seeking-perceptibility’. Because a reader thinks about ‘Frodo’, a reader picks up The Fellowship of the Ring and begins reading. The person then reads the word ‘Frodo’ (consciously or unconsciously) in hopes of achieving perception of him. Because ‘a movie’ begins playing inside the reader’s head upon reading, in some strange way, the person succeeds, yet doesn’t. ‘The thought of Frodo’ seems to fight against invisibility in hopes of being seen, and this struggle creates a difficult to explain sense of him. As one cannot talk about perception without shifting into thinking and so failing, so it seems one cannot explain this ‘movie-like’ phenomenon without talking about something not present.
If I think about Frodo, I do so (as if) in order to perceive him, and though I achieve some ineffable sense of him, I fail to actually perceive him. If, on the other hand, I think about a cup, I may do so to perceive it, and may succeed if that thought leads me to opening a cabinet and beholding it or going to a store and buying one. A real entity is a thing that ‘a thought of’ has the possibility of intersecting with ‘a perception of’, while an imaginary entity is a thing that ‘a thought of’ has no possibility of intersecting with ‘a perception of’.⁴ The fact that a human can think about imaginary entities makes humans distinct from animals. Even if an animal could imagine something, an animal couldn’t imagine that which the animal has never beheld (while a human can think about Frodo from the word ‘Frodo’). At best, an animal could perceive the word ‘Frodo’ as the word ‘Frodo’, but as far as we know, an animal could never think about ‘a character named Frodo that is part of a movie playing inside its head’ from the word ‘Frodo’.
That said, just because something is imaginary doesn’t mean it is irrelevant or lacks any relation to the real world. Take the number 2: there is no chance that perception will ever cross the thought of the number 2, but the number helps me relate to phenomena in my real life. Even if I draw the number 2 on a piece of paper and look at it, I am not perceiving the number 2, but a mark on a piece of paper that makes me think about the number 2. I have probably convinced myself that the number 2 is this mark, but a self-deception of the same kind as making myself believe that the animal I refer to as ‘cat’ is in fact a ‘cat’ (a word).
Thinking asserts that it has ‘relation’ or ‘relevance’ to the real world in striving for perceptibility (often through creation). While what is perceivable is only ‘toward’ conceptualization if so ‘willed’, thought is perhaps always ‘toward’ perceptibility (again, try to think and not ‘see’); hence, thought constantly seeks to ‘be’ (created into perceptibility). What is perceived is present in the real world, while what is thought often seeks presence. Thinking does this while simultaneously shrinking perception into singularity and abstracting the perceiver from the real world.
In writing this paper, I am perceiving ‘taste of coffee; keyboard on fingers; sight of words on screen; smells in air’ while thinking about ‘what I am writing’. However, I am acting as if all I perceive are ‘the words on the screen’, and so abstract myself from the real world. I am not present here: I am elsewhere, somewhere much narrower. In the act of writing this paper, I make my thinking perceivable: I create. A creator makes his or her thinking perceivable, and a creative person does this intentionally and often. Whenever thinking strives to be perceived, a will strives creatively. It is thanks to thinking that I can create, but it also thanks to thinking that I am abstracted from the world for which I create.
As I read over my paper, I think about it as a consequence of perceiving its words. As I read, my thinking is constantly trying to ‘be’ perceivable. When the ‘movie in my head is playing’, my thinking falsely acts as if it’s my perception. Thinking and perception intersect at will, so when I will to read over my paper, my thinking and perception cross so many times that they seem to become one. When the crossings happen consistently enough, like a Kinetoscope gradually speeding up, I begin to see ‘a movie playing in my head’. I then see ‘images’, yet don’t. I see something I don’t see: I see what I am thinking. Yet ‘uncreated’ thoughts aren’t perceivable, so what do I perceive when I read?
I see my will, my thinking — myself. When I read The Fellowship of the Ring and see Frodo in my mind, I am looking at myself. I am Frodo when I read about him, as you are me when you read ‘me’ in this paper. The mind simply makes you think you are thinking about another, for this ‘you’ goes by ‘Frodo’ or ‘me’; there doesn’t seem to be a resemblance because you don’t perceive either. In reading, you long to be ‘created’, as does Frodo and ‘me’ when read (reading often inspires writing for this reason). Whenever we write, say fiction, the created character may go by a different name, but it is our self. The character I make in a story or in the paper I write is more so me than my body, for my body isn’t a manifestation of my will as is my ‘me’. In this sense, Tolkien was more so Frodo than he was Tolkien.
I am my thinking, so when I think about Frodo upon perceiving and reading ‘Frodo’, in that moment, I am Frodo, as I am my mother when I think about her. My body, of course, doesn’t become my mother, but ‘I’ do, for my ‘will’ does. Suddenly I then become my father upon thinking about him, as suddenly I become a character in a book, then a musician on the radio.
I am my scenes.
Though, as The Fellowship of the Ring (movie) isn’t just a single scene, but the whole of all its scenes, so a self isn’t a single scene, but the sum of all the scenes and/or thinking of one’s whole life. However, as The Fellowship of the Ring ‘is’ a given scene during a given moment in which it is being watched, so too a self ‘is’ the scene within one’s mind at a given moment, though the self isn’t ‘just that’. Though I am my thinking, I am also ‘just’ my body in a moment I am thoughtless (or only thinking about my body), and my ‘I’ doesn’t exist at all when I perceive without thinking. ‘I am’ what ‘I think’, and since all thought is ‘thought of’, ‘I am’ signifies ‘thinking am’, and that implies ‘I of’.
If one doesn’t believe in the existence of the self and seeks to find the self, the individual will not find it, and so conclude, rationally, there is no such thing as a self. Rather, the individual will only find ‘scenes’ of ‘Frodo’, per se, or other images. One can never find a self, only scenes which constitute the self. Likewise, a character within the film can never find The Fellowship of the Ring, only experience the scenes that compose the whole.
The moment I try to think about my ‘self’, I am doing so independent of any ‘scenes’ or ‘thinking’ which constitute it. It is as if I have begun making a movie about a movie. The movie’s plot is the movie itself, which is ultimately nonsensical. Consequently, I cannot find my self, for in the moment I think about the self, I lose it. The moment I give up, concluding I do not have a self, my self returns, a comedia.
Since ‘I am’ my thinking to some degree, when my thinking becomes perceivable, so too becomes my ‘self’. I create I. My body isn’t my thinking as perceivable; rather, it is a perceivable entity in and through which my thinking occurs. I am not my body when I don’t think about it, though I am always in it, yet what I create is always myself. Though what I am may forever escape conceptualization, this paper will always be me. To know this paper is to perhaps know me better than had we met.
Each thought seeks perceptibility as each person seeks to be known.⁵ Each person seeks to be known for who they really are and to be accepted for being that person: each longs for love. Yet who a person is changes with every thought, so it is not possible to love people for who they really are. In fact, it is only possible to love if one knows that the beloved will change, that the beloved is unreliable. One can never love people for who they are, only for who they are becoming: only a thing can be loved for what it ‘is’. A person is a becoming, and once a person gives up trying to define a loved one, a person achieves love that is actual — love of ‘a changing’ — ‘true love’.
The question ‘how do I know ‘my perception of the window’ is the same as the window?’ is different from the question ‘how do I know ‘my idea of the window’ is the same as the window?’. Since my thinking or ‘I’ is always in flux, I have reason to doubt that what I think is identical to the objective world outside of myself. However, at the same time, I have reason to believe that the world that I perceive is the world that’s actually there. Also, since all thinking seeks perceptibility, and not the other way around, there is no reason to believe that thinking changes my perception in such a way that my perception ceases to identify with actuality. On the other hand, it is logical to believe that my perception influences my thinking in such a way that makes it ‘more like’ the actual world than not.
I am not thinking about the window in front of me; rather, I perceive it (or so I did until I wrote this sentence). I have no reason to believe that my perception of the window isn’t identical to the window’s actual being. Though a statement like ‘I’m perceiving the window’ is never true (for the moment I utter such a sentence, I am now thinking about the window), it is the case that I truly perceived the window until I realized I was doing so. In this sense, it is impossible to talk about the actual world, but it isn’t impossible to experience it through perception. The actual world and the perceived world can match, though perhaps not when contemplated.
When I think about the window, there is a divide between my subjective experience of it and the objective window. However, when I only perceive the window, that divide breaks down. When I am both thinking and perceiving the window, some part of my experience is subjective, while the other is objective. Which is which would take thinking to determine, which ironically would make my experience of the window even more subjective and unreliable, and hence the determination more difficult to make. When I simply perceive the window though, I have no reason to believe that my subjective experience of it isn’t ‘objective’ (enough) until evidence is offered that falsifies my thesis. As Karl Popper made clear that we have reason to believe in scientific laws until they are falsified (thus addressing Hume’s devastating critique), so we have reason to believe perception and objective reality are identical until our thesis is falsified.⁶
Gravity always works until gravity doesn’t, as my perception of the window always is actually of the window until it isn’t. Furthermore, even if gravity were to once be experienced as ‘not working’, this would only establish that gravity didn’t work as gravity normally did ‘relative to that moment’. It would not mean that gravity would forever forth cease to work or that it never worked. Such an occurrence would only establish that gravity cannot be said to always work, which couldn’t be established in the first place (as noted by Hume). Gravity can never be established as a ‘natural law’, only a ‘natural probability’, which was already the case before the instant in which gravity didn’t work (a momentary phenomenon commonly called a ‘miracle’). Natural laws cannot debunk miracles, for there are no natural laws, as a miracle cannot debunk natural probabilities. The same logic applies to the perceived world and the world-unto-itself. Even if there was an instance in which perception didn’t match actuality, this would simply establish that perception didn’t match actuality ‘relative to that moment’. It wouldn’t mean perception never matches actuality, only that perception doesn’t always match actuality, which couldn’t be established in the first place. Despite such a ‘miracle’, it would still be the case that perception ‘probably’ synchs with actuality.
The ‘world-unto-itself’ is practically the same as ‘the-world-perceived’. Until our perception of the world is infringed upon by the way we live our lives in the world, we have no reason to doubt our perception. When and if our practice is disturbed, we can doubt our perception not entirely, but in regard to the way our practice was impeded.
The burden of proof has often lied on the shoulders of those who asserted that their perception matched the objective world outside of themselves. In drawing a distinction between perception and thinking, the burden of proof now shifts to those who claim that the world outside of our consciousness isn’t the same as the one inside of it, considering that our practical lives suggest synchronization. As those who doubt a scientific principle are responsible for falsifying it, so too are those who doubt the objectivity of the perceived world.
To think about my grandmother while perceiving the window is equally as ‘unreal’ as thinking about the window. To perceive without thought is realistic, but perception without thought is meaningless. Since the world is meaningless unto itself, thoughtless perception depicts the world. Devoid of meaning, perception grasps the world, while thinking, which adds meaning, changes it.
‘The world of full perception’ is ‘the world-unto-the-world’, though since humans can only engage in ‘pure perception’ (as defined and limited by their mental and sensual capacities), a human can only engage in the world-unto-the-world to a relative degree (though it is possible for a human to determine at least somewhere to the degree he or she doesn’t engage with it, as shall be expounded upon later). While thinking divides the world of experience from the world of actuality, perception unifies them. It is when I think ‘window’ that my perception of the window ceases to engage with the window-unto-the-window (to the degree it is capable). The world of full perception is the world itself, while pure perception is to engage with a degree of that actual world. When the world of my experience doesn’t match the actual world, in recognizing it is thinking, not perception, which divides them, I have a standard by which to determine ‘how’ to go about making the world of my experience more like the world that actually exists. There is a significant difference between claiming the world is totally different from experience and claiming it is different in determinable ways. If I hold a finger in front of my nose and my finger splits in two (to allude to Hume), I know my subjective experience of the world is different from the actual world because I am holding a finger too close to my face. Once I stop, my perception will again match actuality. If I know there are atoms I cannot sense, I know how my perception is incomplete. Unlike thinking, perception doesn’t divide; at worst, perception is incomplete.
To ask ‘can you ‘know’ a thing-unto-itself rather than just your perception of it?’ is as illogical as asking ‘can I fly without being able to fly?’. To know something is to experience it consciously. There is no ‘knowing’ without senses, and though perhaps not completely, if one doesn’t know a thing in its actuality, the person doesn’t ‘know’ it at all. There is no world beyond our senses, for the world is sensible, though perhaps the world is more sensual than our present senses can handle. There is no such a thing as a tree without space, time, color, etc. — such a thing is not a tree, but something else. Relative to the world, there is no such thing as a ‘tree’, only the phenomenon to which the term ‘points’. Something that doesn’t have space, time, color, etc. — sensual representation — isn’t a phenomenon in the world, for all phenomena have these configurations. The term ‘tree’ is, in meaning, without space, time, color, etc., but the phenomenon to which the term ‘points’ cannot be void of these calibrations.
Therefore, to ask ‘is there is a tree beyond our perception of a tree?’ is to ask if there is something in the world that isn’t in the world, which is similar to asking if a person can be both inside a room and outside it at the same time. Perhaps ‘Schrödinger’s Cat’ can, and perhaps a thing in the world, like a tree, both occupies a space in which it is itself and one in which it Transcends itself. A thing in the world can most certainly be simultaneously occupying different dimensions than just the three/four humans can conceive, but it can’t occupy zero dimensions. It is only possible that there is Something/something that is ‘more/less sensually a tree’, not lacking sensuality all together. The expression ‘beyond senses’ is only meaningful to the degree that it doesn’t signify the removal of the senses, but rather their transformation or amplification.
If I am looking at a window and shut my eyes, considering that perception matches actuality, doesn’t this mean the window is ‘black’? Not at all: the objectivity of the window hasn’t changed; rather, I’ve changed. The window still has shape, color, etc. — I am just acting ‘as if’ it doesn’t, ‘as if’ I’m capable of miracles. But shutting my eyes is not the same as splitting the sea. In closing my eyes, I know ‘how’ my perception no longer matches the objective world: I am not helplessly stranded from knowing the actual world. In recognizing that my perception doesn’t match the world ‘because I have closed my eyes’, I can establish how to achieve objectivity again. If I was born deaf, blind, without the ability to smell, etc., I could carry out a similar process of reasoning.
There is a significant difference between being unable to know objective reality and being able to know how one doesn’t know reality objectively. Humans know that they lack the echolocation abilities of dolphins, the capacity to perceive the entire color spectrum, and the ability to see atoms, just to give some examples. Yet, though I may not be able to perceive all the dimensions that comprise the ‘image of the window’ before me, that doesn’t mean my perception isn’t objective; rather, it simply isn’t as objective as it could be. Through knowledge acquisition of the biological world, humans can establish ‘how’ our perception is lacking, and from this information, suppose what ‘full reality’ is like. Again, just because we lack full perception doesn’t mean we have inaccurate perception. To not experience the entire color spectrum affects the objectivity of the outside world that I experience no more than does closing my eyes. My perception is still reliable, and in the ways that it isn’t, I know exactly how it isn’t.⁸ Knowing that we lack a fullness of vision, we can determine the nature of ‘full reality’, even though our perception is incapable of reaching or experiencing it. Therefore, we are capable, through knowledge and study, of knowing even ‘full reality’ accurately. What isn’t needed is less perception to achieve objectivity, but more of it. Ironically though, determining how to achieve this will take thought, the practice of which can divide me from actuality.
We have no reason to believe that perception is any less complete and reliable than whatever other modes of perception we know (from studying animals, etc.) that we lack. In knowing how human perception and our reality are incomplete, we know how we can rely on both. As one who wants to claim a natural law is wrong is responsible for falsifying it, so too one who wants to argue that perception is incomplete to any greater extent than we have evidence to believe. When I close my eyes, the window in front of me doesn’t lose space and time, and though I cannot perceive the atoms that make up the window, that doesn’t mean the window isn’t objectively present as a window. When I close my eyes, I know ‘how’ my perception is infringed, and though I cannot perceive atoms, I know I cannot. My perception is reliable, and when it isn’t, it is either because my thinking is abstracting it or because I lack certain sensory capabilities. In being able to identify ‘how’ my perception is strewed, I can make it reliable again.
It is the world that gives rise to biology and biological functions; even if we were created by God, it was ‘from the dust of the earth’. There is no basis to believe that the world would give rise to a creature that would not perceive it accurately. Perhaps a given creature doesn’t perceive it fully, but this doesn’t mean the creature perceives it wrongly. If I am looking at a painting that is halfway covered and I see two women, when the cover is removed, the two women don’t vanish: they are joined by two more. Likewise, though the world may give rise to creatures that only hear, feel, etc. their vehicles of perceptions are still reliable. Incomplete perception isn’t the same as unreliable perception.
There is no world beyond our senses: there might be something more sensual, but not something devoid of sense. If the word ‘spiritual’ is meaningful, it signifies a more sensual state of being, for there is nothing without sense. In becoming spiritual then, in a way, humans become more physical. Humans most certainly can be part of a spiritual dimension that is ‘more sensual’ and ‘more physical’ than what humans perceive, but this is a state of being that humans are part of presently, even though they may not ‘fully’ realize it.
Highest objectivity is highest spirituality and highest physicality. Since we know there are animals that can perceive dimensions of the physical world which humans cannot, we know there is a world that is more sensual than our own.⁹ Therefore, the spiritual exists. In contrast to the work of theologians who search for disembodied spirits, evidence for the spiritual is found among the animals.¹⁰
The word ‘spiritual’ needs to lose all association with ‘disembodiment’: it means ‘highest sensuality and physicality’, not ‘the opposite of physicality and sensiability’.¹¹ Considering spiritual being as ‘fully sensual being’, to some degree, the whole world is spiritual, for everything is physical. In the ways that the world isn’t spiritual, humans have the capacity to determine how to go about recognizing and/or changing that, using perception as a reliable guide.
In contrast to thinkers who believe senses oppose our experience of the spiritual, it is actually our senses that give us the potential to access it. Thinking threatens spiritual existence with abstraction, while perception recognizes it. This may sound in opposition to religious ‘contemplatio’ traditions and as if this paper is in support of thoughtlessness, but rather this work hopes to trace out how humans cannot avoid irony. It takes thinking to realize that thinking threatens to abstract us out of the actual world, as it takes thinking to realize the difference between it and perception. Thinking awakens us to reality through the very act that veils it. Thinking makes perception meaningful while infringing on its reliability. Irony is human.
There is a tremendous difference between a cessation of thinking caused by an attempt to embrace all one perceives, and a cessation of thought consequence of an attempt to nullify thinking. The first is an act that climbs to the spiritual, while the second descends toward nothingness. Considering this, your dog could be closer to the spiritual than you. Since animals don’t think, their perception naturally embraces the actuality of the world in a way humans don’t. This is a reason why animals are worthy of respect and care.
As far as we know, animals cannot ‘will’ to keep their thinking from infringing upon, or conflating with, perception (and so it cannot meaningfully be said that animals think, since their thinking and perception cannot be defined apart). In willing to unify thinking and perception, a human can will ‘spirit’.¹² While an animal is forced to engage the world through perception, a human can choose to engage with the world in this way freely. This perhaps opens the human up to possible experiences of the spiritual not meaningfully accessible to animals.¹³ At the same time though, as humans have the capacity to recognize, and perhaps even be, what is spiritually ‘higher’ than animals, they also have the capacity to be ‘lower’. Their superiority is not a given, and while one individual (who chooses to climb toward higher spirituality) might be more than an animal, another (who chooses to descend toward nothingness) might be less.
Though animals engage in pure perception, they don’t necessarily engage in full perception (as don’t people). For example, a dog is colorblind and lacks a sense of the full color scheme. Though the dog’s engagement with the world isn’t infringed upon by thinking, the dog doesn’t have a higher perception than does a human (at least in this sense). Though it may be purer and even more accurate, it isn’t fuller. Also, though it has pure perception, an animal cannot ‘purify’ its perception into fullness because it cannot think abstractly like humans to figure out how.¹⁴ Ironically, thanks to thinking, a human does have the capacity to orientate pure perception toward full perception, but a human doesn’t necessarily have pure perception.
Though thinking infringes upon perception, paradoxically, a human who doesn’t think isn’t capable of freely separating his or her perception from thought. Such people are indefinable from animals, and consequently, cannot access spirit as meaningfully as one who comes to embrace perception by choice and in freedom. Yet a thinker is likely to devalue pure perception, as a perceiver is likely to not grasp the importance of thinking. The first struggles with pride, the second ignorance; both must learn from the other. Neither can meaningfully engage spirit by his or her own power alone. The one who naturally perceives over thinking ceases thinking through nullification; only the thinker can freely cease thinking by attempting to embrace all he or she perceives (an act which takes thought and/or awareness). Paradoxically, though the thinker is likely to separate his or her self from the objective world through thought, it is the thinker who is able to meaningfully embrace spirit. The perceiver, on the other hand, who isn’t troubled by the mind, is more likely to descend toward nothingness, but isn’t so destined for pride and abstraction. The fact that humans beings are in this ironic situation is perhaps what it means to say that humans are ‘fallen’.
An individual is more physical in spirit, not less. ‘The world’, to use a religious term, is a ‘low physicality’ in comparison to spiritual ‘high physicality’. A spiritual person, then, is not someone who is less embodied, but more embodied. Spirituality that tries to erase physicality is as spiritually-negating as any kind of ‘daydreaming’ mentioned before. Increase in perception leads humans to spirit, and how one achieves higher perception requires wisdom. Wisdom requires focused thinking, and the fact that humans require thinking to achieve full perception is, again, perhaps what it means to say that humans are ‘fallen’.
Hold your hand before your face: you are looking at your spirit. If you fully become your body, you fully become your spirit. To fully grasp your body, as such, you must think hard, yet in thinking you separate yourself from your spirit further. To ‘arrive where [you] started and know the place for the first time’, you must depart.¹⁵ If you do not think, you cannot embrace your body freely, and so it will always alienate you. However, if you think, you risk separating yourself from your spirit.¹⁶ No value is created without risk. When you stop thinking, ‘your I’ becomes ‘your body’, and so you engage in spirit. However, you can only ‘stop thinking’ if ‘you think’; otherwise, you simply ‘don’t think’ (like an animal). If you ‘don’t think’, though you will engage in pure perception, it will be meaningless, and though this will mean your subjective experience synchs with objective reality, you will descend toward meaningless nothingness rather than ascend toward fullness.
As a tree is a tree even if my eyes are closed, the body is spirit even if the mind is closed. It is completely spirit, as a drop in the ocean is completely water. However, as the drop doesn’t equal the ocean, so too my body doesn’t equate the whole of spirit. As with the body, ‘the physical world’ is a small ‘framing’ of ‘the spiritual world’ (a ‘zooming in’, per se). Yet ironically, as a result of this ‘zooming in’, we can universalize particularities, abstract ourselves from the actual world, and meditate upon abstractions. In full spirit, assuming it is a possible ideal, thinking ceases to abstract or universalize; in a way, the term ‘thinking’ vanishes all together. It becomes inseparable from perception (as ‘thinking/perceiving’) and then is always ‘of what is’. One is not spiritual when he or she is abstract: a person is spiritual when a person is real.
Ultimately, physicality is particularity: the terms ‘spiritual’ and ‘physical’ signify ‘particularity’. It is not particularity which is a quality of the physical or spiritual, but rather physicality or spirituality which is a quality of the particular. Particularity is the substance; spirituality or physicality, the accident. Spirituality is ‘hyper physicality’ which is ‘hyper particularity’. The more spiritual a person becomes, the more that individual transcends universal relations and becomes ‘one-of-one’.¹⁷ As a great piece of art cannot be fully described separate from the experience of it, so too a spiritual person. The more spiritual humans become, the more humans become works of art.
As an individual becomes more physical in spirit, so too a person becomes more individual. To be physical is to be particular, while to be unphysical is to be universal. With particularity comes spirituality. Paradoxically, the more particular entities become, the less divided they are. Recognizing the uniqueness of each entity, humans cease to feel threatened by ‘the other’. All become one ‘in particularity’. Beings become secure in their identities, and realizing the ‘one-of-one’-ness of each thing, humans are unified by art. Beautifully. The expression ‘all is one’ means ‘all is particular’.
Let us draw this journey to a close with a review.
Thinking starts in the brain and ‘loops’ back to where it started without ever leaving the brain. Perception, on the other hand, starts in the brain, goes ‘into the world’ and ‘loops’ back to where it started from. One could call ‘the mind’ self-contained brain activity, while ‘the brain’ consists of brain activity that is ‘out reaching’. Though one needs a brain to have a mind, one doesn’t need a mind to have a brain. When a person doesn’t think, that person has no mind. If one would prefer, the term ‘soul’ can be used interchangeably with the term ‘mind’, though this paper has mostly stuck to ‘mind’. There is no such thing as a mind independent of thinking, though there is a brain even when there is no perception or even thinking. When a person is thinking, he or she has a mind; when a person isn’t, the person doesn’t. A person’s dualism comes and goes.
Assuming it’s possible, when thinking and perception harmonize, mind and body harmonize, and full spirit is achieved:
Then, where the mind begins and where the mind ends cannot be defined; hence, it seems as if there is no mind. In fact, the mind has expanded to the point that all is included in it. Highest perception, in a strange way, is also highest thought. In spirit, thinking and perception, once opposed, unite.
My body perceives; I think. My body isn’t my spirit to me when I think about it; my body is my spirit when I perceive it fully. Likewise, everything around me is spirit when I don’t think about it. However, when I simply cease thinking, I lose my I. On the other hand, when my thinking expands to try to grasp all that I perceive, my I becomes my body. When I lose my I, I become an animal; when I become my body, I become spiritual.¹⁸
Each of us, being a body and an ‘I’, is a thinker and perceive: each of us is a ‘split-divider’, a ‘walking contradiction’ — an irony.
I must confess: from the moment I put perception into words, I have engaged in thinking. Consequently, this entire paper is ironic; I have failed to avoid hypocrisy.¹⁹ In this sense, I have ‘fallen’, and for that, I ask forgiveness. Yet, to my defense, this hypocrisy is necessary, for perception requires thought to be embraced meaningfully and freely. A body without a brain cannot be spiritual to itself. Hence, the question of whether or not one has a spirit without a brain is nonsensical. The spiritual is physical, as the physical is spiritual. In spirit, a person has more of a brain than ever before. In the end, there is only life after death if there is a resurrection of the body.
¹Allusion to Nietzsche.
²Allusion to Othello by William Shakespeare.
³A point expanded upon in “Self-Delusion, the Toward-ness of Evidence, and the Paradox of Judgment”.
⁴Keep in mind that an imaginary entity can become real as a real entity can become imaginary. Before the airplane was invented, it was imaginary; then, suddenly, it was real (and so was always a ‘real entity’, though it couldn’t be realized as such until its invention into ‘present’ spacetime). Likewise, a civilization can vanish from historical records, and so become imaginary (and so seem to have always been such). What is truly a ‘real entity’ and what is truly an ‘imaginary entity’ can only be determined relative to the whole scope of spacetime (which is incomprehensible by finite beings).
⁵Even if one were to try to think about the pure idea of ‘cup’ without seeking any perception of it, the very fact that it would take effort to stop oneself from seeing a mental ‘movie of’ a cup is evidence that the nature of thought is ‘toward’ perceptibility, though the perceivable isn’t ‘toward’ thought unless so ‘willed’.
⁶However, though this means we can have assurance in scientific laws, we still can never establish them as ‘laws’, only ‘constantly consistent conjunctions’, per se (which are, in practice, ‘laws’). Likewise, though we have no reason to doubt the reliability of perception, we still cannot establish what we perceive as objective reality. In other words, we can establish certainty so much as we can notice what is yet to be falsified, though we must always, humbly, be ready to accept ‘come what may’. In practice, what we consider a ‘scientific law’ versus a ‘constant conjunction’ is equivalent, though the distinction is still important to make.
⁷Also, ‘not knowing’ objective reality and ‘not having’ objective reality are quite different.
⁸To know how one is uncertain is to establish certainty; to know how one’s judgment is false is to acquire true judgment.
⁹Furthermore, considering ‘spiritual’ as has been defined and what we know about animals, it is rational to look into ‘spiritual’ and/or theological questions.
¹⁰It would have done humans well to tend to them, as suggested by Genesis.
¹¹However, this doesn’t mean the spiritual isn’t Transcendent, for higher sensualities are Transcendent relative to lower dimensions.
¹²Schopenhauer was on the right track.
¹³For one, humans are able to determine the ways they aren’t spiritual and perhaps change.
¹⁴Though a dog may seem to ‘learn how to sit’, a dog rather remembers how to respond ‘rightly’ (as defined by humans) to certain, perceivable stimuli. Unlike humans, a dog cannot teach another dog how to sit, what the word ‘sit’ means, nor can they think about not thinking.
¹⁵Allusion to Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot.
¹⁸In a sense, I am the voice within me, but the body is what my voice longs for. I am a love story. My voice woos my body, and my body woos my voice. They are estranged; they belong together. I am silent, but my voice is calling me back to life. In spiritual terms, I am not a voice inside a body; I am occupied by a voice.
18.1What I have been looking for has always been in front of me.
¹⁹In being ironic, this paper opens up ‘the question of being’, which will be addressed at another time.