How we come to know a thing is a curious amalgam of experience, perception, interpretation and its assimilation with what we believe we already understand. Though we assume our world view to be comprised of astute observation and cool rationality, it’s just as likely to be the product of magical thinking about how do the car keys teleport themselves into the fridge or mitigating factors like why one attracts more than their fair share of idiot drivers on the way to an important engagement. Some theories posit that there is an absolute reality that we can come to know in its basic forms, like time, space and energy. This view suggests that these forces intersect and reveal some representation of “reality” to us. Scientists sometimes refer to this act as “unlocking the secrets of nature.” That is, the world shows itself to us if we are paying attention.
Yet other views suggest that it is our biases and predispositions in our encounters with the world that determines not only how we come to know, but what we know. So, for instance, if a person is raised in the countryside, they may view city life as chaotic even though urban centers typically accommodate much larger groups of people in a much smaller spaces than rural areas. In this view, we project our own biases onto the world. “Reality” is a product we manufacture in our mind and culture. As the New Age gurus say, “You will see it when you believe it.”
In order to integrate these seemingly antagonistic perspectives, we must re-view them in the context of each other. While we may safely assume the existence of an objective world it is at best difficult to comprehend it in its totality given our precarious subjective experience of swimming in the middle of it. Conversely, to assume our own subjective experience determines the reality of the objective world is to believe that we may walk on water just by believing it so. What is needed is a way to integrate the subjective with the objective – our Self within our world and vice versa. Let us suppose that both are in perpetual process of being and becoming from evolution to revolution. While our world is in such flux and flow that we may not step in the same river twice we may represent these dynamics with fixed and eternal structures to describe and define them: Numbers, directions and physics. These oppositions or pairs of contrary properties, North or South, East or West, are not the unified reality of the world in itself, but they do provide us with the ability to make maps and make sense of our journey in it. They guide us from here to there.
We name the imperceptible forces that move through our world and describe them with structure and rules but they are not tamed as such for we have limited powers to make them better or worse. We give these ambiguous and ubiquitous forces names like the Market, the People, and the Spirit of the Age. The enigmatic philosopher Hegel called this creative power geist, a German term that roughly translates as spirit-mind, because self aware it progresses through the acts of Man across history towards its own freedom. We characterize these forces as anthropomorphic because we experience them living and conscious presence in our lives. When this view is taken too far, the result is necromancy or primitive superstition where everything appears to be a sign and faith and folly become indistinguishable. But when tempered with reason, we can discern the authentic patterns and energy that flow around and within us.
The Ancient Greeks called this essence or underlying reality hypostasis, meaning the stable order below the surface of all that changes. This foundation is apparent to neither eye nor ear and can only be contemplated in the curio of the mind. While we may never know the essence of these implicit forces, we can discern some of their key functions and attributes and apply them to our own development. More so, we can seek out situations where growth is most favorable and apply practices that are most appropriate. Growth is a complicit progression from demand to expand from sought to wrought. That is what we will endeavor here.
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