Appendix: Towards a Rectification of Names
Confucius advocated “The Rectification of Names” as the foundation of an healthy society:
A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior human considers it necessary that the names she uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior human requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect.
Words are vessels of meaning; denotations of ideas. In material science, recourse to physical measurements ensures the appropriate dimensions of our containers, and will “rectify” any discrepancy. In a science of the spirit, however, only our own initiative will ensure their standard quality. Words without tangible referents are frequently employed in a vague or equivocal manner. It is characteristic that I wrote this entire consideration without bothering to define such terms as “soul,” “spirit,” “mind,” and “consciousness.” In fact, “definitions,” per se have only a provisional place along the road to knowledge, since a definition unnaturally fixes a word a single valence and thereby preempts more comprehensive understanding. For this reason, I prefer to “characterise” each of these words in the hope that this will encourage precision without sacrificing scope. To undertake a Rectification of Names in regard to imponderable phenomena deserves far more consideration than an appendix of an entry on Ye Lizard-presse can offer. Still, in some ways the latter itself represents precisely an ongoing effort to accomplish this. Perhaps, therefore, given infinite time and an whole legion of typewriting monkeys to undertake this task, one could approach a satisfactory characterisation of these essential terms. In this spirit, and in the spirit of Confucius’ admonition, I will offer the following stipulations:
The brain is a physical organ located in the cranium.
The mind is not located in the brain, nor any where for that matter. Indeed, it would be more accurate to conceive of both the brain and the cranium as “in” the mind insofar as they can be cognised. Mind is synonymous with the Aristotle’s “dianoetikon” as well as his “nous pathetikos” (Aquinas’ “intellectuspossibilis”). Mind might also indicate the aggregate of patterns of attention.
Spirit is the active principle of the mind. It is, in one sense, synonymous with Aristotle’s “nous poietikos” (Aquinas’ “intellectusagens”). It is also synonymous with “pneuma.” It is self-known or self-luminous: as a flame doesn’t need to light itself, so the spirit knows itself by being itself (e.g. an idea knows itself by being itself). Meister Eckhart describes this phenomenon under the name “God”:
It must therefore be known that to know God and to be known by God is the same. We know God and see Him in that He makes us to see and to know. And as the air which illuminates is nothing but what it illuminates, for it shines through this, that it is illuminated: thus do we know that we are known and that He causes Himself to know us.
Soul is synonymous with the Greek “psyche” and the Latin “animus.” It present the intellectual aspect of mind under the colouration of emotion valence. It includes Aristotle’s aesthetikon (“sentient soul”) and orektikon (“affective soul”). It represents the spirit as individualised by a body, just as the moon individualises the light of the sun. “Spiritual development” consists in the soul coming to embrace increasingly universal concerns, as a lagoon might open a channel to the great ocean. Higher and lower “self” represents the degree to which the soul has rendered itself transparent to the spirit.
Experience is the present-moment synthesis of the soul’s contents, which also includes purely spiritual aspects according to the nature, condition, and development of the being in question.
Consciousness is that aspect of experience that is rendered into memory. Con-sciere (i.e. “knowing with”) also implies the subject object distinction, which (under the typical intentional disposition of the human being today) arise as two poles of pure experience, which relation is often misconceived as separation.
Awareness is the unformed substance of spirit.
Attention is focalised awareness, as the sunlight may be concentrated under a magnifying glass.
For further inquiry into this subject, one is referred, above all else, to the work of Rudolf Steiner, the unrecognised Aquinas of the twentieth century.
Many thanks to the great thinkers of history on whose shoulders we all stand, to the ingenious Chris Manvell for the painting below, and to my dear readers who have managed to make it this far.
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