Inner authority

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

Heraclitean empiricism

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.


Do you read me? Then you have to believe that your experience is cognate with mine. Co-gnatus, ‘born together’ (or ‘descended from the same ancestor’), derives from the Latin verb gigno (earlier geno), meaning ‘beget’ or ‘bring forth’. Its root forms -gn-, -gen- and-gon- have begotten the stems of many English words, along with its complement verb nascor (‘to be born’), through its participial form natus (or gnatus), source of English words such as nature and native.


And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures that He has scattered through them: and He has power to gather them together when He wills.

Qur’án 42.29 (Yusuf Ali)

To ‘gather them together’ is to un-differentiate them, i.e. to uncreate them. On the other hand, the scattering is only through physical spacetime. In eternal meaning space, the myriad beings together now constitute the Living One, the buddha-nature, the Universe of Firstness. And since the world is inside out, each individual is a recreation of that singularity. ‘The entire universe suffers the pangs of a new creation in and through a person’s existence’ (Kim 1975, 172, after Dogen).