As far as you know

Self is arrayed as the whole world.

Dogen, Uji (Cleary 1986, 345)

What you are aware of, or conscious of, is the entire universe, as far as you are concerned. Can you point out one thing in the universe that you are not aware of?

No, but you can surely think of things or events that you became aware of, things that surely existed before you were aware of them, events that you did not foresee, places you have never been, situations that did not concern you.

So you are aware that there is more to the universe than you are now aware of, or will ever be aware of. You also know that some of your beliefs about it have turned out to be wrong, which leads you to believe that some of what you now “know” may also be wrong. The universe of your awareness is infinitely incomplete. Does that concern you?

Charles S. Peirce was thinking along these lines in 1913, a few months before his death, when he wrote that

what I am aware of, or, to use a different expression for the same fact, what I am conscious of, or, as the psychologists strangely talk, the “contents of my consciousness” (just as if what I am conscious of and the fact that I am conscious were two different facts, and as if the one were inside the other), this same fact, I say, however it be worded, is evidently the entire universe, so far as I am concerned. At least, so it would seem. Yet there is a wonderful revelation for me in the phenomenon of my sometimes becoming conscious that I have been in error, which at once shows me that if there can be no universe, as far as I am concerned, except the universe I am aware of, still there are differences in awareness. I become aware that though “universe” and “awareness” are one and the same thing, yet somehow the universe will go on in some definite fashion after I am dead and gone, whether I shall be the least aware of it, or not.

— Peirce, EP2:472

Life flows on within you and without you.

— George Harrison, 1967

Charles Peirce and George Harrison are both dead and gone now, and life flows on without them. It flows within you too, the little current of awareness, the entire universe as far as you are concerned, yet a drop in the Big Current of Okeanos. Are you aware of that?

Nothing is hidden

Whatever i am saying now, it may be true or not, but there is no doubt that i am saying it.

Whatever you are seeing now, it may be real or not, but you are really seeing it.

The same goes for whatever appears in any way at any time to anyone.

This whatever appears was called by Peirce the phaneron. There is nothing hiding behind it; it does not signify something else; there is nothing else. It appears to none other than the primal person; there is no one else.

It may be called the buddha nature.

Thus, all are buddha nature. One form of all beings is sentient beings. At this very moment, the inside and outside of sentient beings are the all are of buddha nature.…

Buddha nature is immediate, and there is no second person, just as it is said, “Cut through the original person beyond knowing; action consciousness continues without ceasing.” Buddha nature is not the being of imaginary causation, because “Nothing is hidden in the entire world.”

“Nothing is hidden in the entire world” does not necessarily mean “The entire world is full of beings.” To say, “The entire world is self-existence” is a crooked view held by those outside the way. What is not hidden is not original beings, as it encompasses past and present. It is not an embryonic being, as it is not affected by even one speck of dust from outside. It is not a suddenly emerged being, as it is shared by all beings. It is not a beginningless being, as it is “What has thus come?” It is not an embryonic being, as “Everyday mind is the way.”

Know that in the midst of all are, sentient beings are hard to find. If you thoroughly understand all are, all are will be penetrated and dropped off.

— Dogen, SBGZ ‘Bussho’ (Tanahashi 2010, 234-5)

Kabir on Presence

For the sake of concord among religions, let us agree that the Creator is beyond our understanding.

Let us also agree that the Creator is not remote from us, but is a Presence in our lives.

15th-century Indian poet Kabir addressed these remarks to a sadhu (religious ascetic who has renounced the worldly life):

Kabir says: “O Sadhu! hear my deathless words. If you want your own good, examine and consider them well.
You have estranged yourself from the Creator, of whom you have sprung: you have lost your reason, you have bought death.
All doctrines and all teachings are sprung from Him, from Him they grow: know this for certain, and have no fear.
Hear from me the tidings of this great truth!
Whose name do you sing, and on whom do you meditate? O, come forth from this entanglement!
He dwells at the heart of all things, so why take refuge in empty desolation?
If you place the Guru at a distance from you, then it is but the distance that you honour:
If indeed the Master be far away, then who is it else that is creating this world?

Kabir III.63 (Tagore 1915)

Everything that is hath come to be through His irresistible decree.

Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶7

All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended.

Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶144


They were offered the choice of becoming Kings or the couriers of kings. They way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other – since there are no kings – messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to their miserable lives but they dare not because of their oaths of service.

— FranzKafka (1961, 175)

Worlds in relation

John Deely (2001) uses the terms ‘object’ and ‘subject’ in their proper semiotic senses to explain the concepts of Umwelt and Innenwelt:

To begin with, the world of awareness includes only a small part of the physical environment. Furthermore, the world of awareness is organized differently than the physical environment is organized in its own being apart from the organism. The selectivity and species-specific network of relations according to which an organism becomes aware of its environment is called an Umwelt. “Umwelt” therefore is a technical expression meaning precisely objective world. In the objective world of a moth, bats are something to be avoided. In the objective world of a bat, moths are something to be sought. For bats like to eat moths, while moths, like most animals, are aversive to being eaten.

Each type of cognitive organism, we may say, has, so to speak, its own “psychology”, its own way of “seeing the world”, while the world itself, the physical environment, is something more than what is seen, and has a rather different organization than the organization it acquires in the “seeing”. The world as known or “seen” is an objective world, species-specific in every case. That is what “objective” throughout this work principally means: to exist as known. Things in the environment may or may not exist as known. When they are cognized or known, they are objects as well as things. But, as things, they exist regardless of being known. Furthermore, not every object is a thing. A hungry organism will go in search of an object which it can eat, to wit, an object which is also a thing. But if it fails to encounter such an object for a long enough time, the organism will die of starvation. An organism may also be mistaken in what it perceives as an object, which is why camouflage is so often used in the biological world. So, not only is it the case that objects and things are distinct in principle, the former by necessarily having, the latter by being independent of, a relation to some knower; it is also the case that not all objects are things and not all things are objects.

The “psychology” or interior states, both cognitive and affective, on the basis of which the individual organism relates to its physical surroundings or environment in constituting its particular objective world or Umwelt is called an Innenwelt. The lnnenwelt is a kind of cognitive map on the basis of which the organism orients itself to its surroundings. The Innenwelt, therefore, is “subjective” in just the way that all physical features of things are subjective: it belongs to and exists within some distinct entity within the world of physical things. The Innenwelt is part of what identifies this or that organism as distinct within its environment and species. But that is not the whole or even the main story of the Innenwelt. The subjective psychological states … constitute the Innenwelt … insofar as they give rise to relationships which link that individual subject with what is other than itself, in particular its objectified physical surroundings.

These relationships, founded on, arising or provenating from psychological states as subjective states, are not themselves subjective. If they were, they would not be relationships. If they were, they would not be links between individual and environment …. They exist between the individual and whatever the individual is aware of.
The relationships, in short, are over and above the psychological states. The relationships depend upon the subjective states; they do not exist apart from the individual. But they do not exist in thc individual either. They exist between the individual and whatever the individual is aware of …

A concrete illustration should help make the point. The first time you visit a new city, you are easily lost. You have little or no idea of “where you are”. Gradually, by observing various points of reference, the surroundings take on a certain familiarity. What started out as objects gradually turn into signs thanks to which you “know where you are”. Soon enough, you are able to find your way around the new place “without even thinking about it”. What you have done is to construct an lnnenwelt which organizes the relevant physical surroundings into a familiar Umwelt.

— Deely 2001, 6-7


Eugene Gendlin (1995) explains how the ‘subjective side’ of any act of meaning performs a whole set of crossing functions. One of them is the work done by indexical signs, as Peirce called them, which direct attention to ‘the environing universe’ in ways that words alone cannot:

Words in themselves are general; but we speak and read not only in their generality, always also in the particular situation. This is a fourth function performed by the subjective side, not by commonality patterns. After all, the words are general. Even words like “you,” “now,” “here” only mean this situation by your direct reference to your felt sense now.

It is the crossing of inside and out, of breadth and depth, subject and predicate, object and concept, that makes meaning. The crossing is the recreation of each, an organic process, not a mechanical assembly of already-made components. What each component is, and how it works, is dynamically modified by the whole situation in which it works. Mechanistic thinking about cognition leads to what Gendlin (1995) calls ‘the grand error of most Western theories – the assumption that all cognition must consist of pre-existing patterns or units.’ Out of a syllogism or logic machine you can’t get any more than you put into it.

Inside and out of your bodymind

In the Gospel of Thomas

Jesus says: ‘Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Do you not understand that the one who created the inside is also the one who created the outside?’

Thomas 89 (5G)

Luke 11:40 turns that question around: ‘Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?’ Luke also places it in a context that connects it with other sayings such as Thomas 24:

Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light, but when it is not sound, your whole body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

While he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him; so he went in and sat at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you.

Luke 11:34-41

Giving alms from within is giving light, is sound practice. When seeing is light and practice is clean, all is clear inside and out. Which matters more, inside or out, when it comes to bodymind? Consider what Dogen says to the monks in his monastery about ‘washing the face’ (SBGZ ‘Semmen’):

The Lotus Sutra says, “If you spread oil on your body after removing dirt, and wear fresh robes, you are clean inside and outside.”

This dharma was expounded by the Tathagata at the lotus assembly when he taught those who were engaged in the four practices of enjoyment and ease. It is not equal to other teachings and not the same as accounts in other sutras.

Thus, cleansing body and mind, spreading scented oil on the body after removing dirt, is a primary buddha dharma. To wear fresh clothes is a dharma of purification. By washing away dirt and spreading scented oil on the body, you are clean inside and outside. When you are clean inside and outside, your body, mind, and environs are all clean.

But those who are ignorant and do not hear and practice buddha dharma say, “Although you can wash your skin, you have five main organs and six sub-organs in your body. If you don’t wash all your organs, you are not purified.” Those who make such a statement have not yet heard and known buddha dharma. They have not encountered an authentic teacher, a descendant of buddha ancestors.

Now, study the true dharma of buddha ancestors, discarding the words of those with outrageously crooked views. The boundary of all phenomena cannot be determined, and the inside and outside of various elements are ungraspable. Thus, the inside and outside of body and mind are ungraspable. However, a bodhisattva of the final body washes the kashaya and cleanses the body and mind before sitting in the place of enlightenment and attaining the way. This is the awesome ritual of buddhas of the past, present, and future in the ten directions. A bodhisattva of the final body has the most venerable and supreme merit, wisdom, body, mind, and splendor, different from others in all aspects. Our way of washing and cleansing should be like that.

Tanahashi 2010, 58-9

Which really matters, practice or enlightenment?

Stories of the phaneron

Listening not to me but to the logos, it is wise to agree that all things are one.

(There extand by now one thousand and one stories, all told, of the same).

Once the story is told, it may be forgotten or misremembered, but it cannot be untold; however fictional the story, its telling is a fact, its characters and events really occuring in the universe thus created.

All propositions relate to the same ever-reacting singular; namely, to the totality of all real objects. It is true that when the Arabian romancer tells us that there was a lady named Scheherazade, he does not mean to be understood as speaking of the world of outward realities, and there is a great deal of fiction in what he is talking about. For the fictive is that whose characters depend upon what characters somebody attributes to it; and the story is, of course, the mere creation of the poet’s thought. Nevertheless, once he has imagined Scheherazade and made her young, beautiful, and endowed with a gift of spinning stories, it becomes a real fact that so he has imagined her, which fact he cannot destroy by pretending or thinking that he imagined her to be otherwise.

— Peirce, EP2:209 (sixth Harvard Lecture, 1903)

Fact and fiction differ not in their presence to the mind, nor do ‘inward’ and ‘outward’ realities. Peirce found a way to describe the nature of that presence, in terms of its formal elements, and prior to any distinction between appearance and reality. He called this study phaneroscopy, because of its focus on the phaneron, which in its undifferentiated unity includes whatever may become the object of our attention or function as a sign. Nothing we can mention is external to it; indeed the very externality of the external world is internal to the phaneron.

The formal ‘elements’ of the phaneron are sometimes called ‘categories’ by Peirce – specifically, ‘universal categories,’ as Peirce explained in one of his Harvard Lectures (EP2:148):

the word Category bears substantially the same meaning with all philosophers. For Aristotle, for Kant, and for Hegel, a category is an element of phenomena of the first rank of generality. It naturally follows that the categories are few in number, just as the chemical elements are. The business of phenomenology is to draw up a catalogue of categories and prove its sufficiency and freedom from redundancies, to make out the characteristics of each category, and to show the relations of each to the others. I find that there are at least two distinct orders of categories, which I call the particular and the universal. The particular categories form a series, or set of series, only one of each series being present, or at least predominant, in any one phenomenon. The universal categories, on the other hand, belong to every phenomenon, one being perhaps more prominent in one aspect of that phenomenon than another but all of them belonging to every phenomenon. I am not very well satisfied with this description of the two orders of categories, but I am pretty well satisfied that there are two orders.

Later (CP 1.288) he wrote that

I invite you to consider, not everything in the phaneron, but only its indecomposable elements, that is, those that are logically indecomposable, or indecomposable to direct inspection. I wish to make out a classification, or division, of these indecomposable elements; that is, I want to sort them into their different kinds according to their real characters. I have some acquaintance with two different such classifications, both quite true; and there may be others. Of these two I know of, one is a division according to the form or structure of the elements, the other according to their matter. The two most passionately laborious years of my life were exclusively devoted to trying to ascertain something for certain about the latter; but I abandoned the attempt as beyond my powers, or, at any rate, unsuited to my genius. I had not neglected to examine what others had done but could not persuade myself that they had been more successful than I. Fortunately, however, all taxonomists of every department have found classifications according to structure to be the most important.

Actual use of Peirce’s ‘categories’ reflects the turning of the meaning cycle:

Like all interpretive tools, the categories of phenomenology arise out of experience but in turn are legislative for the analysis of experience. They are neither handed down from on high, nor are they pure inductions from experience, but rather are a creative, interpretive framework through which to focus on the entire gamut of ‘whatever is in any way present to mind.’

— Sandra Rosenthal (1994, 97)

Peirce spoke of phaneroscopy as a science, but it has a spiritual or religious resonance which is also revealed and concealed in the reconstructed Greek version of Thomas 5:

λεγει Ιη[σου]ς· [γνωθι το ὃν εμπροσ]θεν της ὀψεως σου και [το κεκαλυμμενον] ἀπο σου ἀποκαλυφ[θ]ησετ[αι σοι οὐ γαρ εσ]τιν κρυπτον ὃ οὐ φαν[ερον γενησεται,] και θεθαμμενον ὃ ο[ὐκ εγερθησεται.]

Jesus said, ‘[Understand what is in] front of you, and [what is hidden] from you will be revealed [to you. For there is nothing] hidden that will not be manifested, nor buried that [will not be raised.]’

P.Oxy. 654 27-31 (DeConick 2007a, 60)

Perception as resurrection

Merleau-Ponty (1945, 95) writes of the

paradox … of all being in the world: when I move towards a world I bury my perceptual and practical intentions in objects which ultimately appear prior to and external to those intentions, and which nevertheless exist for me only in so far as they arouse in me thoughts and volitions.

This ongoing resurrection of buried intentions, their transformation into a world of objects, rolls up the meaning cycle, encapsulating the inside-outness of the world.

So Man looks out in tree & herb & fish & bird & beast
Collecting up the scatterd portions of his immortal body
Into the Elemental forms of every thing that grows

— Blake, Four Zoas, PPB 370

In Blake ‘what we see in nature is our own body turned inside out’ (Frye 1947, 349); ‘the fallen world is the eternal one turned inside out’ (291).