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Existence Strikes Back Project Glossary

A work-in-process. Very early stages. I envision the final product will be ten times this long, if not longer. I haven't even begun to include The Hemisphere Hypothesis, but I hope to start soon.

Photo by Romain Vignes / Unsplash

Ancient Gnosticism: The Gnosticism of the early common era, in the centuries immediately following Christ: Complete faith in the transcendent, to the denial of the immanent, leads to a lopsided existence. It’s a form of nosos (spiritual disease). It rejects the sacramental nature of reality.

Bacon, Francis: With Descartes, one of the two principle founders of Modernity.

Binary: A set of two related terms in which the first term is privileged over the second. The first is privileged because it's deemed to be closer to the logos. In post-modernist thought, binaries are mere social constructs put in place by the power structure to justify their logocentric-driven grand narratives. The Taoist looks past binaries. The Structuralist seeks to invert binaries. The Derridean seeks to smash binaries. Examples of binaries that are relevant to the post-modernist (the first is the privileged term and, therefore, the one to be attacked by the post-modernist): being/becoming, essence/existence, conscious/unconscious, rational/emotional, unchanging/changing. Also: male/female, white/non-white, western/nonwestern.

Bodhidharma: The 28th patriarch of Buddhism, but the first patriarch of Zen Buddhism. He brought Buddhism to China, where it mixed with Taoism to create Zen Buddhism. Probably lived in the 400s.

Deconstructionism: The assertion that language (words) carry no inherent meaning. Therefore, meaning cannot be articulated by others. Therefore, all truth must be subjective . . . strictly what you define it to be for yourself. This school of thought is also called "post-structuralism" because it used many of the insights of structuralism but moves past it in an attempt to smash, not merely invert, binaries. See Derrida.

Derrida, Jacques (1930-2004): One of the two primary post-modernist thinkers (the other: Michel Foucault). The father of deconstructionism. He used relentless logic to war against modernist thinkers who thought they had moved beyond all religious motivations in their thought. Derrida pointed out that they were still logocentric (metaphysical) in their thinking, just like their religiously-inclined predecessors. He is the arch enemy of all who believe in the importance of metaphysics, but overall, an honest thinker and an ally of those who fight against modernity.

Derridean: A follower of Jacques Derrida.

Descartes, Rene: With Francis Bacon, one of the two principle founders of Modernity.

The Great Rejection: Western civilization's rejection of the Tao. It gave us the Enlightenment, Gnosticism, and Modernity in general.

Hui Neng: A simple kitchen worker who was elevated to patriarch. Generally accredited with giving Zen its unique approach. Semi-legendary personage. Late 600s.

Humility: Self-forgetfulness.

Immance: The earthly/mundane plane of existence. Its binary opposite: transcendence.

Lao Tzu: Founder of Taoism. Wrote the Tao Teh Ching (link to translation by John Wu). Lao Tzu recognized the problem with binaries 2,500 before de Saussure and Derrida. Probably lived in the 500s BC.

Modernity: The era of left hemisphere hegemony. Rejection of the Tao and subjugation of the Tao's router, the right hemisphere.

Modern Gnosticism: The Gnosticism of modern times: Complete faith in the immanent, to the denial of the transcendent, leads to a lopsided existence. It’s a form of nosos (spiritual disease). It rejects the sacramental nature of reality

The Northern School: The Zen school of Shen Hsiu, the man who lost the competition to become the sixth Zen patriarch. His followers were known derogatorily as “mirror wipers.” The point: Too much emphasis on the self defeats pursuit of proper spirituality . . . of the true practice of Zen. Contrast to The Southern School.

Object: Other. It can be most anything: one's spouse or children, a friend, a pet, a work of art, charity toward the poor.

The Reality Spectrum: The Tao-->Essence-->Existence. The Tao is logically (though not conceptually) prior to Essence, which is prior to Existence.

Sacramental (view of reality): Transcendence and immanence are intertwined, mixed together. To deny one is to warp the other. They are opposites but not binary opposites. The sacramental view of reality smashes the binary more effectively than deconstructionism.

Semiotics: The study of signs: language.

The Southern School: The Zen school of Hui Neng, the man who won the competition to become the sixth Zen patriarch. The emphasis is not on spiritual advancement, but rather, to “just be.” No subject. No object. Just look. Just exist.

Structuralism: A school of semiotics. Words only have meaning within a web of other words. They're all related, forming a "structure of words" the envelop culture. Man cannot think outside the structure, since his entire intellectual existence must express itself in words, so his thought is a captive of the structure. The structure then determines cultural norms, but because the structure is merely a construct of words, the norms have no importance and are merely arbitrary . . . or they are norms posited by a power elite that relies on the logocentric binaries embedded in the structure to preserve their position in society. For this reason, the structuralist seeks to invert the binaries in order to disrupt the power system.

Subject: Yourself. Ego. It is natural to further the subject's happiness, both now and eternally. Man cannot help but desire his own happiness, but original sin causes this natural disposition to inflate grotesquely (St. Paul's "the flesh").

The Tao: The unnameable. The first principle of Zen. Thomas Aquinas' actus essendi (act of existence). The first part of The Reality Spectrum that sits behind Aldous Huxley’s door. The Act of Existence DOOR Accidents/Substance. The Tao DOOR Attributes/Being. The First Principle of Zen DOOR Essence/Existence.

Taoism: Playful, easy-going school of Chinese philosophy. Its major representatives: Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu. Taoism’s emphasis is on no emphasis. It strives not to strive. It only judges judging. Remember: There is no beauty, unless there is ugly. The true man of the Tao recognizes neither one.

Transcendence: The divine/spiritual plane of existence. Its binary opposite: immanence.

Voegelin, Eric: (1901-1985): Philosopher/historian. He drew strong parallels between ancient Gnosticism and modern Gnosticism, showing that both emerged from spiritual disorder. Most significantly: The modern Gnostics who deny any religious impulse are, indeed, engaged in a religious act . . . gripped by a religious impulse. In this, Voegelin has strong parallels to Derrida’s condemnation of logocentric thinking in modern thought. Voegelin’s condemnation of modern Gnosticism is closely related to Derrida’s condemnation of modern logocentrism.

Zen: A philosophy? A religion? A school of psychology? It’s hard to say. It’s the love child of Taoism and Buddhism, with an emphasis on the relentless pursuit of the unnameable. It represents the highest attainment of natural thought in history and, therefore, worthy of immense respect, even if it suffers from a lack of divine revelation.