1. Hmmm . . .
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    As I wander across the religious boundaries, wayfaring through the spiritual wilderness, causing confusion and consternation—I sometimes remind people that if they think of me as basically a Zennist, I will at least be minimally misunderstood. I do apply a Zen lens to all of the religious expressions (not necessarily a Buddhist lens, except as that may be Zen’s original home, and I sometimes use some of the language). In all of them, I look for expressions of the “perennial philosophy.”
    _______________________________________

    Let’s see if I can talk through talk to the heart of the matter. Think of this post perhaps as an inverted idea-pyramid sloping more and more toward—the point.

    A word-sign: “goat.” The sign consists of a “signifier” and a “signified.” The signifier is the letters “g-o-a-t,” as written, and verbally the pronunciation. The signified is the meaning of the word is its concept/meaning. The referent to which the sign refers is, well, the actual animal, such as the one standing over there in the meadow. Or, the referent here might be a picture of a goat, which is another kind of sign referring to, again, the actual referent.

    A sign: “hippogriff.” The sign consists of a signifier and a signified. But what of the referent? In this case the referent is not something actually instantiated in the world, but an imaginal construct. One might say, of course that the referent exists in literature. If it did not, would the referent then collapse into the signified?

    A sign: “dardyvart.” The sign consist of a signifier... Did any concept/meaning or imaginal construct form in your head when you read the signifier “dardyvart.” Something that could come from Harry Potter, maybe? Anything? Dardyvart is a sign without a referent, and likely without a signifier—certainly without a normative signifier. Can such a sign be coherent? Perhaps it is not a sign at all.

    A sign: “God.” The sign consists of a signifier and a signified. Or a number of signifieds, depending on, say, what religion—or none—to which one belongs. For some, the signified will be supernaturally theistic; for others the non-dualistic totality, the whole without a second; for some a being; for others the ground of being, or being-itself. One signified is normative for one group; another for another group. But—

    What of the referent? Is there a referent? How can one know there is a referent, that is not just another signified? You can’t find the referent in books: you are just reading strings of signs, signs pointing to signs, pointing to this one signified—but the referent?

    You can look at a painting: Rublev’s Trinity hanging right here on my wall. Is that the referent? Would not claiming that be considered by most folks to be idolatrous? Rublev’s icon is a sign, consisting of a signifier and a signified—but what of the referent?

    Can you know the referent beyond all the signifieds, beyond all the concepts, mental constructs, images, ideas, thoughts? Or do you simply get caught in the complex of signs in your head, only ever leading, ultimately, to a signified? If not, how can you know that there is a referent?

    Perhaps you simply stop here, and decide to believe (faith?) that there is a referent, based on your conclusions about the signs. But then, is your faith/trust really in the referent, or just in the signs, and those who have pronounced them? So, maybe you stop...

    But the Zen master will not let you stop here. The guru will not. Hafiz will not. Dionysus the Aeropagite will not. Meister Eckhart will not. I do not think Jesus would either... So, the Zen master asks—

    How can you findnot simply posit—the referent, in order to know there is one, whether ultimately it is accurately represented by a given signified, or not?

    The Zen master commands: Find the referent! The master may use crazy antics, or puzzling koans, or poetic metaphor, or parable—with which you must grapple in order to let go of all the mental constructs, all the “makings of the mind,” in order to see if you can find—experience, know—the referent.

    One could say, “Well then, you are putting your trust/faith in the master.” Provisionally, perhaps. But the Zen master (and the others) function themselves as “signs”—as “fingers pointing to the moon”—and only the false guru will let himself become seen as the referent itself.

    [Here, just as an aside, one might raise the question of whether the referent is inside or outside. If Jesus acted as a sign (a sacrament), and if Jesus was also divine, was he pointing to himself as a human being as the referent—or to the Christ as the logos “knit within and through,” so to speak? And is the Christ the referent? Is this analogous, though not “the same as,” atman / Brahman in Advaita Vedanta? Is the ultimate referent a hypostasis or ousia? Just some considerations for Christian theology/Christology... These considerations are not, here, the point. They are still in the realm of concepts.]

    The Zen master insists: “Find the referent!” And, if they are face-to-face, and the student claims to have discovered the referent, the Zen master may say: “Show me!” In which case, she will not accept a sign that ends only with a signified...

    And that is the dilemma. Can you find the referent? How can you know if you have (in the sense, say, that St. Paul uses the word gnosis)? How can you make sure that you have not settled for another signified, or another mental construct? How can you know yourself, let alone show the Zen master?

    Sadly, we are not face-to-face and I am not a Zen master. Nevertheless, I say: “Find the referent!”

    This is the point. This is the heart of the “spiritual” matter. “The assignment, Mr. Phelps, should you decide to accept it....” All the rest above is talk. Take it only as allusive talk, good or bad—including the questions. Not worth debating (though I am always happy to learn how such talk might be made better, or more correct; likely my use of the linguistic lingo is not strictly correct). But here, I am interested only in the point—

    Behind* the makings of your mind,
    before all images, concepts, thoughts and signs,
    can you find a referent
    that is not just another
    making of the mind?

    * Or beyond?
    _________________________________________

    A hint with a weave of confusion, and poetic allusion, but nevertheless a hint:

    Sitting in the library all day
    read books and books about books,
    talk about talking talk, all talk,
    one would think the world is made of words—

    Thinking thought after thought
    about other thoughts,
    and thoughts thought by others—

    You call that seeking the ultimate truth?

    What you’re looking for looks both ways
    through the needle’s eye of your own mind—


    How then will you “find” it anywhere...?

    ________________________________________

    Find the referent... 😉
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    14 Mar '07 19:51
    The object to which all my discourse refers is Jesus, the son of the living God.
  3. Hmmm . . .
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    14 Mar '07 22:451 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    [b]A sign: “dardyvart.” The sign consist of a signifier... Did any concept/meaning or imaginal construct form in your head when you read the signifier “dardyvart.” Something that could come from Harry Potter, maybe? Anything? Dardyvart is a sign without a referent, and likely without a signifier—certainly without a normative signifier. Can such a sign be coherent? Perhaps it is not a sign at all.
    ERROR note:

    In the above-referenced "dardyvart" paragraph, the sceond and third "signifiers" should read "signified." Sorry 😳
  4. Standard memberfrogstomp
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    14 Mar '07 22:49
    Originally posted by vistesd
    ERROR note:

    In the above-referenced "dardyvart" paragraph, the sceond and third "signifiers" should read "signified." Sorry 😳
    Bigger ERROR note: the entire second post in this thread!
  5. Hmmm . . .
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    14 Mar '07 22:58
    Note to one and all: I am not saying there is not (or is, for that matter) a referent—that is an actual, instantiated referent (unlike, say, the hippogriff). I am offering the Zen master’s challenge. “The mission, Mr. Phelps....”
  6. Donationkirksey957
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    14 Mar '07 23:04
    Originally posted by vistesd
    Note to one and all: I am [b]not saying there is not (or is, for that matter) a referent—that is an actual, instantiated referent (unlike, say, the hippogriff). I am offering the Zen master’s challenge. “The mission, Mr. Phelps....”[/b]
    If you keep posting like that, we can look forward to a thread entitled "the worst thing about vistesd," : )
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    14 Mar '07 23:31
    Originally posted by kirksey957
    If you keep posting like that, we can look forward to a thread entitled "the worst thing about vistesd," : )
    Now are you the referant or the signified......

    Just kidding. I thought this to be somewhat thought provoking, however, I must confess it did give me somewhat of a headache.
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    15 Mar '07 00:031 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    As I wander across the religious boundaries, wayfaring through the spiritual wilderness, causing confusion and consternation—I sometimes remind people that if they think of me as basically a Zennist, I will at least be minimally misunderstood. I do apply a Zen lens to all of the religious expressions (not necessarily a Buddhist lens, except as that may be ...[text shortened]... ” it anywhere...?

    ________________________________________

    Find the referent... 😉
    You should seriously consider reading some philosophy of language as a parallel to your thoughts here. I wonder if language is the key to many more things than we give it credit for.
  9. Hmmm . . .
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    15 Mar '07 02:34
    Originally posted by Starrman
    You should seriously consider reading some philosophy of language as a parallel to your thoughts here. I wonder if language is the key to many more things than we give it credit for.
    I think you are undoubtedly right. So far, for me, it’s been mainly Wittgenstein. Have any recommendations?

    I started to think recently, with regard to how we see the world, in terms of the “grammar(s)” of our consciousness vis-à-vis the “grammar” of the world in which we live. So I suspect that language goes beyond how we speak, but also to how we think.

    Years ago, I read a book by a philosopher named Paul Wienpahl called Zen Diary, about his experiences in a Japanese Rinzai Zen temple. If I recall, his introduction went to your point...
  10. Hmmm . . .
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    15 Mar '07 02:36
    Originally posted by kirksey957
    If you keep posting like that, we can look forward to a thread entitled "the worst thing about vistesd," : )
    Shhh!
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    15 Mar '07 06:30
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I think you are undoubtedly right. So far, for me, it’s been mainly Wittgenstein. Have any recommendations?

    I started to think recently, with regard to how we see the world, in terms of the “grammar(s)” of our consciousness vis-à-vis the “grammar” of the world in which we live. So I suspect that language goes beyond how we speak, but also to how we thin ...[text shortened]... xperiences in a Japanese Rinzai Zen temple. If I recall, his introduction went to your point...
    Well, I'm a huge WV Quine fan, but he's not to everyone's taste. He was a behaviouralist and mathematician who had a challenging and yet no-nonsense view of the universe. I think you'd like his stuff, he has a certain enlightened peaceful quality to an otherwise cutting edge way of dealing with the subject. Alas, he's dead now, which was a great disappointment to me, when first I learned of it. I'd recommend his book of short essays 'From a Logical Point of View' in which the ground breaking 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism' appears. If you can handle that then try 'Word and Object'.

    Others worth a look might be Carnap (a contemporary of Quine), Frege and of course Russell.
  12. Standard memberPalynka
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    15 Mar '07 09:24
    Originally posted by vistesd
    So I suspect that language goes beyond how we speak, but also to how we think.
    Excellent posts, as usual.

    I would definitely agree with this. It came to me as a shock when I realized that my personality changed significantly according to the language I used regularly (especially after starting to think in that language). The question that follows this realization hit me like a hammer.
  13. Hmmm . . .
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    03 Apr '07 22:161 edit
    Originally posted by Palynka
    Excellent posts, as usual.

    I would definitely agree with this. It came to me as a shock when I realized that my personality changed significantly according to the language I used regularly (especially after starting to think in that language). The question that follows this realization hit me like a hammer.
    I'm not proficient enough at any language (generally not proficient at all). However, I have discovered that there are certain words that I can no longer translate into English--too much meaning is lost. Words like tao and logos and tathata. I do actually find myself thinking those words in their original languages without any internal translation.
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    04 Apr '07 06:051 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I'm not proficient enough at any language (generally not proficient at all). However, I have discovered that there are certain words that I can no longer translate into English--too much meaning is lost. Words like tao and logos and tathata. I do actually find myself thinking those words in their original languages without any internal translation.
    Try all you want, I do not believe we can find, comprehend, or define the referent.

    Love is a veil betwixt the lover and the loved one;
    More than this I am not permitted to tell.


    I supposed you can say words are a veil between the signified and the referent.

    The "referent" is the unknowable Essence. That Essence of the Divine Entity and the Unseen of the unseen is holy above imagination and is beyond thought. Consciousness doth not reach It. Within the capacity of comprehension of a produced reality that Ancient Reality cannot be contained. It is a different world; from it there is no information; arrival thereat is impossible; attainment thereto is prohibited and inaccessible.
  15. Hmmm . . .
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    04 Apr '07 14:31
    Originally posted by Varqa
    Try all you want, I do not believe we can find, comprehend, or define the referent.

    Love is a veil betwixt the lover and the loved one;
    More than this I am not permitted to tell.


    I supposed you can say words are a veil between the signified and the referent.

    The "referent" is the unknowable Essence. That Essence of the Divine Entity and the U ...[text shortened]... information; arrival thereat is impossible; attainment thereto is prohibited and inaccessible.
    Perhaps, but—

    In the holy of holies that abides behind
    the many veils and voices of the mind...

    Belief itself can be one of the many veils and voices; it too is a making of the mind. Allow all the concept activity of the mind to become still... (Gary Snyder once likened meditation to still-hunting.)
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