The English word theory derives from a Greek root meaning either contemplation or being a spectator or onlooker, as in the theater. In purely theoretical science, one takes on the role of spectator rather than actor, so that he is not “trying to prove” his own idea. Continue reading Theory
The revealer of a sacred text typically feels himself to be the medium rather than the author of it. Likewise an artist may feel that her best work has been done through rather than by her own efforts. Continue reading Creativity or authority?
The number of coherent interpretations of a text may be infinite, but not all interpretations are coherent.
Texts frequently say more than their authors intended to say, but less than what many incontinent readers would like them to say. Continue reading Limits of Interpretation
It has been said of Boehme that his books are like a picnic to which the author brings the words and the reader the meaning. The remark may have been intended as a sneer at Boehme, but it is an exact description of all works of literary art without exception.— Northrop Frye (1947, 427-8)
A turning symbol turns your attention to the whole time you are now living.
‘The answer is always there, but people need the question to bring it out’ (Cleary 1995, 164). We are always at the turning point; but more important, we are at a turning point now. Continue reading Revolutions
From Zen master Keizan’s Transmission of Light, 11: Continue reading Turning pages
Turning signs present what they reveal. When you relegate revelation to the past, or salvation to the future, you are killing time.
A teacher always penetrates the sutras. To penetrate means to make the sutras the land, the body, and the mind. A teacher makes the sutras a structure for guiding others. Continue reading Dogen on scriptures
Peirce observes that ‘one of the main purposes of studying history ought to be to free us from the tyranny of our preconceived notions’ (EP2:114). The same goes for the study of scriptures; the purpose of revelation and discovery alike is to free us from confinement in a cognitive bubble. Turning symbols can liberate us in this way, but only if we can free ourselves from our preconceived notions of their value and authority, and give due respect to artistic and cultural creativity. Continue reading Inner authority
Cognition (knowing) is a semiotic process. Learning by experience requires inquiry, involving abductive, deductive and inductive reasoning in a quest for what Heraclitus calls the logos.
Why is it so difficult to discover? In the first place,
ἐὰν μὴ ἔλπηται ἀνέλπιστον οὐκ ἐξευρήσει, ἀνεξερεύνητον ἐὸν καὶ ἄπορον.
He who does not expect will not find out the unexpected, for it is trackless and unexplored.Heraclitus, Kahn VII
χρὴ γὰρ εὖ μάλα πολλῶν ἵστορας φιλοσόφους ἄνδρας εἶναι.
Men who love wisdom must be good inquirers (historas) into many things indeed.Heraclitus, Kahn IX
πολυμαθίη νόον οὐ διδάσκει.
Much learning (polymathia) does not teach understanding.Heraclitus, Kahn XVIII
ὅσων ὄψις ἀκοὴ μάθησις, ταῦτα ἐγὼ προτιμέω.
Whatever comes from sight, hearing, learning from experience: this I prefer.Heraclitus, Kahn XVI
κακοὶ μάρτυρες ἀνθρώποισι ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ ὦτα βαρβάρους ψυχὰς ἐχόντων.
Eyes and ears are poor witnesses for men if their souls do not understand the language [if they have ‘barbaric souls’].Heraclitus, Kahn XIV
What “language” do eyes and ears speak to the soul? That depends on how the soul is embodied, how events in the nervous system become significant, how perception works.