Posted On 17 Aug 2021
What are you? Are you a person? Are you a sage?
It’s an important question. Our identifications create our stories and our stories create our surrealities, which are the worlds we inhabit. Your life will likely be very different if you identify with a local gangster rather than a world-renowned sage.
We typically take ourselves to be making the judgments that create our stories. We typically take ourselves to be persons. Are we really?
It’s the primary (logically first, initial, primitive) applications of the concepts of identity and existence that create our understandings.
However, there are no criteria at all for the primary applications of these concepts. [See, Panayot Butchvarov, Being Qua Being, p. 80.]
This is always true in the case of the primary applications of, for example, ordinary color concepts such as red or taste concepts such as the taste of pineapple. How could such criteria be other than trivial? Unlike identity and existence, though, those concepts are not world-making; there can be worlds without color, tastes, or other ordinary qualities.
It’s an extraordinary and underappreciated fact that there are no criteria for the primary applications of the concepts of identity and existence.
They somehow just get applied!
How? How is it possible that that occurs?
For example, does a person apply them? Do I apply them? If not me, who?
Of course, about my own situation I could simply think or say, “I apply them.” Indeed, that’s what I would say if I were committed to a theory of personal agency. Why, though, be committed to such a view? Is it even intelligible? What is the concept of personhood being used? How could such a concept be sufficiently fundamental?
Somehow or other, they get made and revised. That’s puzzling.
We might ask, “What causes them to be applied?” The problem with such a question is the presupposition of causation. What is a cause? Are causes real? Even if they are, causes would be insufficiently fundamental in this context.
Some philosophers deny that there is any causation.
In our embarrassment, we might adopt the familiar tactic that many thinkers adopt when they need a global explanation of some kind, namely, “God applies them.” The problem here would be the presupposition that God exists. What or who is God? Is the concept of God even intelligible?
There are familiar conceptual difficulties here. For example, is God temporal, eternal (nontemporal), or both? If both, that’s contradictory. If temporal, then God is subject to time and cannot have created it. If eternal, then God is removed from being an agent, which renders God impersonal.
Many philosophers deny the existence of an impersonal God. Many find the concept of a personal God even more dubious because the notion of an eternal person seems to try to combine incompatible qualities, namely, the quality of being timeless and the quality of being a person. What sense does it make to claim that an eternal personal God does anything?
Think of any simple material identity judgment. Suppose I’m both seeing and touching a maple leaf. The visual object is the tactile object. It’s a real leaf. It’s a judgment that I so take for granted that the notion that it has anything to do with a God seems utterly farfetched.
Who makes judgments like this visual object is this tactile object? If you ask people, they’ll just tell you that of course what they see is what they touch. Expose them to skeptical arguments about delusions or dreams and they’ll still find it difficult to disassociate from such identities. (If you then tell them that God must be making such identifications, they’ll likely think you crazy.)
We’re aware of making judgments all the time about, say, our preferences. That’s quite a contrast to the case with primary identity judgments. It’s just not plausible that we’re making them. They seem automatic. We simply have no experience making them. We take them for granted. They are so natural that it’s difficult even to think of not making them. What would it be like not to make them? It’s even difficult to think fundamentally enough to understand what they are.
In fact, they are not personal. They are impersonal.
Those who are scientifically inclined might try to explain them by simply saying that our brains make them for us because they have proven their worth in evolutionary terms. Any such causal explanations or stories, though, would be insufficiently fundamental.
My purpose is to encourage you to question the assumption that you are a person. I do not believe that our essential nature is to be a person.
Do not confuse a being with Being. A being is just an object (a form, something “singleoutable”, something limited). Mountains, clouds, thoughts, rivers, trees, emotions, and tigers are all beings.
By way of contrast, Being is the limitless domain that includes no beings. It’s too simple to conceptualize in the sense that it’s like the background of all beings. It can be directly experienced or apprehended but it’s not singleoutable.
It’s a bit like the black background of the stars at night. The stars in this analogy are like beings. We can see them directly; they are singleoutable. We are able to notice them without thinking anything, without doing any conceptual work. They are singleoutable by noticing them standing out from their background, which is like Being. We are able to see the void behind the stars, but what is it to single it out? It seems to be nothing, emptiness, void. There’s seems to be nothing else to say about it. Of course, that’s just an analogy.
Being is usually (and wisely) described negatively in opposition to Becoming. The reason is that, although it can be directly apprehended, it cannot be singled out and, so, cannot be conceptualized.
Attempts to describe it positively don’t work well. We could say it’s the “fecund void” or “pure energy” or “shimmering with love” but such phrases are mere pointers that don’t work well.
The great contemporary sage Eckhart Tolle puts it this way: “All things are vibrating energy fields in ceaseless motion” [from A New Earth].
However unintelligible this question, could it be that Being is the source of primary identity judgments?
Are you familiar with David Hawkins’s Map of Consciousness? Everything real has a minute energy vibration that can be detected and plotted on that Map, which is a logarithmic scale from 1 to 1000. [To understand it well, read his trilogy of books in order: Power Vs. Force, The Eye of the I, and I. Cf. Chapter 4 in my How to Dissolve Unwanted Emotions for a short, simple explanation of it.]
At every moment each of us has a personal calibration. This calibration can increase or decrease until death, which is the point at which it becomes fixed.
What’s interesting in this context is that anyone whose personal calibration is between 600 and 1000 is a sage. Nobody is a sage whose personal calibration is between 1 and 599 – and that’s about 99.6% of human beings. In that sense, personhood calibrates at 599 or lower and sagehood calibrates at 600 or higher. Sagehood is experienced only by those who have spiritually awakened.
At each of the major levels of that Map, content is recontextualized. Truth is relative to the level of consciousness. Furthermore, at least below 999, not everything even sages believe is true.
What they believe, though, from their own experience is true about personhood: sages have transcended personhood. Although they can fall back into their egoic selves, anyone with a personal calibration of 600 or higher lives beyond personhood.
I myself am not a sage. I am just judging by what they say. For example,
Hawkins writes: “Below 600, self is experienced as ego. Beyond 600, self becomes the Self of the Love of God” [from I].
What’s it like to be a sage? We nonsages cannot clearly understand it. Furthermore, there are different degrees of sagehood as sages from The Buddha to Hawkins have pointed out.
Sages and nonsages share one critical characteristic. The essence (whatness, core) of every being is Being [cf. Chapter 7 of my Are You Living Without Purpose?].
Since Being is conceptually unintelligible, the statement in bold in the previous paragraph itself is conceptually unintelligible (and, so, neither true nor false). However, Being can be directly apprehended. [That statement calibrates at 956 on Hawkins’s Map.]
That’s the critical difference between sages and nonsages: only sages have directly apprehended Being. That’s spiritual “realization” as opposed to just trying to conceptualize Being. As all sages agree, although it can be directly experienced, Being cannot be conceptualized.
Being is unlimited. Being is impersonal. It is the ultimate source of all primary identity judgments, which are beings.
What if these statements are true and simply calibrate higher than your personal calibration at this time?
Would it really surprise you if Being were the source, the root and ground, the wellspring, of all beings?