The core of phenomenology is consciousness, whereas the essence of our philosophy is meaning. As it is meaning that allows for the creation of consciousness, this kind of philosophy could be seen as a pre-phenomenological investigation.
Consciousness is born from meaning’s lack. Likewise, meaning is the intentionality of consciousness.
When we see the circular relationship between meaning and consciousness it uncovers the tracks of a progressive way forward for our thought. In fact, by recognising the circular nature of the relationship, we can see that the authentic drive of consciousness is not circular at all, but lineal, from the idea of meaning into Meaning itself.
The traditional, Biblical, concept of existence “I am Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end,” implies a circularity (recognised by Nietzsche in his idea of the eternal recurrence) that has to pass through the omega or end-point of everything before it can begin again. However, Nietzsche’s sense of circularity is different. Ironically for the author of the Will to Power, eternal recurrence is brought about by a lack of meaningful power at the end-point, rendering it incapable of pulling us forward with enough force to drag us beyond the gravity of nihilistic meanings.
Nihilistic meanings are more dangerous than meaningfulness because they generate a false impression of authenticity, and it is this false sense of reality that dissuades us from looking for any essential authenticity in our search for meaning.
For this nihilistic trap to be overcome, a new perspective of reality has to be fashioned through meaningfulness that envisages a purposeful end-point, i.e. a philosophy that is supported by the perception of a meaningful teleology. This is the basis of our pre-phenomenological task.
Meaning is prior to language. Language is the tool used to express meaning, i.e. human meaning. The human relationship to meaning is a linguistic one: this means that whilst meaning is prior to language, it is dependent on language for its existence.
A circular relationship is thus formed between meaning and language. Language is the result of meaning and it would not exist without it, but it also stands before meaning in being necessary for meaning to be able to take shape in reality. Without meaning there would be no language and without language we cannot have meaning.
This kind of circle devours and is devoured by itself and is therefore well symbolised by the uroboros – the dragon swallowing its own tail.
It is the same uroboric-circle simplicity that we find in the relationship between the universe and self-consciousness.
The sapiens relationship to the universe is anchored in language. By naming things we give meaningfulness and form to existence and shape reality. A name is something we can grasp even if the thing being named is not present.
In the beginning there was MEANING, and the meaning of the primal meaning was to GIVE FORM TO MEANING.
The meaning of MEANING once FORMED is to give CONSCIOUSNESS to and for the form.
From this we can see that Consciousness (as a universal psychic phenomenon of intentional cognition of experiences) evolves from Meaning (as the point of Meaning and as the meaning of Meaning) via Forms, and that, subsequently, Forms are embedded within Meaning, just as Consciousness is embedded in meaning. The simple fact that Consciousness exists in a universe of Forms that gives it something to be conscious of is meaningful.
The essential dynamic force of Consciousness lies firstly in its ability to uncover, unveil or discover the forms that Meaning has created in order for the birth of Consciousness to be possible.
From this dynamic of discovery, Consciousness enters a second dynamic of learning, and a third dynamic of creativity.
Through the dynamics of learning and creativity, Consciousness is able to develop the experience of Meaning in the universe through time.
It is important to remind ourselves that our consciousness is not an act of reflection needing a higher, absolute consciousness to give further reflection on what has been reflected on. The idea of consciousness created by an omnipresent mindfulness is absurd – because why would an omnipresent intelligence create what it is already full of? Creation comes from what is lacking. Meaning creates Consciousness because the Meaning itself is devoid of consciousness. Meaning will be fulfilled, and the absolute, cosmological and historical process will be fulfilled when Consciousness has evolved into an intersubjective, universal phenomenon.
Seeing the universe as a creation of Meaning implies that God does not exist, but that Its creation is a teleological part of the evolutionary process of the meaningful cosmos.
The object (and objective) of Consciousness is the universe. The object of an individual’s consciousness is a part of the universe. The object of Consciousness from Meaning is to become inter-subjective, or a conscious result of communicating, conscious parts.
If meaningfully structured, therefore, societies and cultures (even civilisations) should be constructs that favour meaningful communication between individual consciousnesses.
When civilisation, society or culture is not meaningfully structured, however, communication itself loses its meaningfulness. If consciousness cannot find its essential Meaning – which is the purpose for which conditions for creating consciousness were created – and has given up looking for it or has not even bothered to ponder the question of why consciousness should exist in the universe, then a dangerous cycle of nihilisms will take hold of the civilisation. Such is the case with our contemporary civilisation. We are spinning around a wheel that has become derailed from the track of Meaning.
Meaning is immanent in the universe, but that does not mean that human societies – as being within the meaning immanent universe – must be meaningful. Quite the contrary, the evolution of human societies has been a movement away from a consciousness of immanent meanings, anchored in nihilistic transcendentness.
Humanity languishes in transcendental nihilisms and ignores the immanent meaningfulness of the universe and, by doing so, it becomes alienated from the universe and, hence, from authentic purposiveness.
History as a mechanism to describe human progress or human development over the ages is a fallacy because human development has never rightfully taken place. Societies are no more human now than they have ever been, and where progress has taken place it has always been in the service of the interests and needs of wealth, never in favour of humanity.
We cannot therefore take the past on its own terms if we want to create more humane societies and develop a purposive, human future. The point now presently reached is the one in which we clearly see the nakedness of the emperor when we are told that he is parading his new clothes – the emperor here being a metaphor for the ugly nakedness of our civilisation. We should be all denouncing the crude reality, despite the narratives we are constantly being fed to accept the contrary. Instead, we get lost in the partisan ideologies that the emperor is naked only because he belongs to the party we never vote for, and that when our boys and girls are in power the emperor is or will be splendid.
The absence of human progress, however, does not mean that the narrative of history did not happen, but rather that the motives for its unfurling are very different to the ones we are usually fed. Once analysed from the perspective of humanity, the motives which have evolved throughout the world’s historical process are not at all favourable for the development and progress of any authentic humanity and the evolution of civilisation is quite simply a terrible error.
The problems in our societies are not the necessary results of any weaknesses in human nature, but rather in the fundamental greed of the general motor driving the mechanics of civilisations – and that pilot is wealth. Rather than seeing wealth as an integral part of human nature, it would be more correct to see it as the cultural of human societies that separates us from the possibility of truly embracing our human nature.
CIVILISATION – WEALTH = AUTHENTIC HUMAN SOCIETY
Since Voltaire and Hegel, then Nietzsche and Marx through Adorno, to Foucault and Žižek, we have been trying to subvert historical narratives in order to let humanity breathe the fresh air of a more authentically human future. That more than two hundred years of subversion has achieved so very little in terms of establishing authentically human narratives beyond the tyrannies of wealth is indicative of how powerful the self-interested discourse of wealth is. As Foucault said: “truth is not by nature free – nor error servile – but … its production is thoroughly imbued with relations of power.”
 Michael Foucault, THE HISTORY OF SEXUALITY, Vol. 1, Penguin, London, 1990, p. 60
The burden of consciousness lies in its inevitable awareness of the fact that our individual self, and this individual consciousness itself, is only a temporal thing in a process of dying, i.e., movement towards non-existence. Add to this the spiritually crippling idea that everything is moving in the same abject direction and this ‘consciousness’ can be thoroughly devastating.
Truth is terrible, and terribly hard to bear. As such we create possibilities, alternative conceptualisations of reality that allow for a continuity and allow the universe and our existence in it to become a bearable, purposeful thing. Most of these fictional narratives take the form of religions, which are institutions that can, collectively, bolster anti-natural theses that will quell the burden of truth. Through these narratives, what our consciousness reveals about reality becomes a lie, a misperception of reality, because reality is far more subtle than human consciousness ever realises. But the negativity of religions lies not just in their fantasies but in the fact that, in humanistic terms, they are anti-human, oppressive forces, that diminish the importance of our humanity and have negative rather than potentiating effects on consciousness.
Neverhteless, it still remains true that the ugly truth revealed by consciousness needs to be transcended. To take this leap without humbling ourselves and subjugating our individual consciousness to an imagined monotheistic omnipotence, consciousness’s focus on ephemerality needs to be superseded by concentrating on the collective reality of human consciousness and the positivity and power that this change of perspective generates. For the systemic nihilism we currently suffer to be overcome, humanity must first develop itself authentically as Humanity (with a capital H), and develop societies capable of uniting rather than dividing the consciousness of the human race. Individual mortality can only be overcome if the collective memory of humanity endures. The seemingly inevitable process of dying can only be transcended via an enduring collective consciousness. Likewise it is only a well-tuned and well-exercised collective consciousness that will be capable of making the creative and technological advances that will allow humanity to dream of an eternal existence in which even cosmological-death scenarios can be remedied. To overcome the burden of consciousness we have to concentrate on making it eternal.
The ideas of the subject and the object become problematic when we consider them from the absolute perspective of the universe or the ontological problem of Idealism. What is the subject in Esse est percipi? Is it the perceiver or the universe perceived which allows the perceiver to perceive it? In our reality (or at least in our grammatical reality) the subject perceives things from a certain distance that allows for the subjective-objectification that makes knowledge possible. In a sense we are a kind of son of Jonah, born in the whale as an orphan. We are involved in a process of grasping at reality from within, with little faith that there could be anything without the environment that encloses us.
In the Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel says that the truth of the Absolute Spirit consists: ‘in becoming concrete actual self, reflecting itself into self, and being Subject’.
If we interpret Absolute Spirit in an atheistic way, as the spirit or will of the cosmological-machine that is the universe, then Hegel’s idea must be perceived as that of a universe striving to evolve from the status of that which is perceived (the object) toward the grand status of being the perceiving subject itself. Of course, in the case of the Absolute, the only thing that can be perceived is its own self, for there is nothing beyond the Absolute, and so the teleological aim of the universe is to become Subject as well as Object. Subject therefore becomes that which can know the Object – in this case itself – from without – and thereby, know itself objectively.
For the universe to be capable of this seemingly impossible aim, it needs the evolution of reason, through the minds of the consciously complex, biological entities within it to flourish. But these entities are within the universe, not without, and this seems counterintuitive to our own perception of reality, for: how can something objectify itself from within? Nevertheless, in order to understand a possible Absolute objectivity this is what has to happen, and this development of inner-objectivity is made possible when sapiens minds are capable of applying logic and reason to their perception of reality. Hence there is a purposeful need and desire for the Absolute Spirit to have access to entities within itself that are capable of rationally perceiving their experience of their reality in the machine itself. As far as the whale analogy goes, therefore, it is no longer problematic in terms of the universe, because there is nothing beyond our cosmological whale to perceive. It is perception itself which objectifies reality for the otherwise non-perceiving universe. Limited as it may seem, our eyes are the eyes of the universe. The knowledge of the Absolute Spirit is derived from what rational beings like we humans know.
As Hegel put it: ‘.. spirit consists, not in being a meaning, not in being the inner, but in being the actual, the real. “Simple, eternal essential Being”’. And it is only through the experience and the rational objectifications and abstract thoughts of sapiens minds that that Being can be realised by the Absolute.
 G.W.F. Hegel, THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, Dover 2003, p. 448
In the Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel introduces the idea of the willing of the self to be certain of itself, a poetic concept (in the philosophical sense) which, as philosophical poets, we feel urged to apply to our own indagations into the volitions embedded within the cosmological-machine we call the universe.
We believe that if the universe has a will, it must be a primitive will toward that which it lacks. And if this is the case, then the thing that was found to be most lacking by the unconscious motor of the cosmological-machine may very well have been an intuition of this lack of certainty of itself (in which would be embedded other intuited deficiencies, such as the lack of self-knowledge and the basic lack of being able to perceive itself).
By making this assumption, we place Lack of Certainty of Itself at the centre of the universe’s subconscious drive, or cosmological will. A drive which would have incited an evolution toward the complexity of biological life forms capable of perceiving and developing perception into consciousness, eventually becoming intelligent, sentient organisms within the universe that are capable of perceiving, for the universe, the cosmological-machine itself, and hopefully, eventually understanding it from the inside. A process which, from the point of view of the whole, allows the universe to understand itself from within and develops a certainty of itself from the observation and understanding of those within the self.
Certainty of itself can therefore be added to the other two primordial lacks we have found in the motor of the cosmological-machine, i.e., permanence and preservation, in order to create a metaphysical triptych of the cosmological drive.
So, Certainty, Permanence and Preservation are our Cosmological Trinity. A trinity which has evolved and is evolving, being driven by the primordial need of gaining that which is lacking and describing cosmological purposiveness.
First, there was a lack in what was and that lack was overcome when the state of being emerged out of nothingness into something. In this way, with the emergence of the first particle out of nothing, the primordial drive was able to fill the gaping hole of absolute lack.
Here, therefore, we now have a definition of the primordial drive, that it is the will to fill the gaping hole of lack.
Yet, for certainty to be a lack, as we propose, one firstly needs reason, and this creates a paradox, for reason needs certainty as lack of certainty is a gaping hole in reason. But how can that be?
What this means is that certainty and reason had to evolve together in a very slow process (the evolution of consciousness in the universe) and that the intuition in the drive that pushes the process forward is pre-perception and even pre-existence. For something to come from nothing there had to be an intuition embedded in the nothingness that could provoke a change of state.
Intuition of lack is, as such, the basic element of all existence and is buried in the very fabric of non-existence.
For Permanence to be lacking we must firstly have ephemerality and Permanence becomes the gaping hole in the ephemeral.
By seeing Permanence as this hole in the ephemeral, we can also understand the positive force of lack despite its negative connotations.
Lack is a gateway that is always opening us up toward other potentialities, which is not to say that all potentialities are desirable. Lack can be a gateway to the desirable and undesirable fields of possible existences.
Likewise, Preservation is a result of the lack in ephemerality. Preservation is a necessary tool for any possible permanence to take place.
The creative spirit of the universe, then, resides in Lack. Lack is the great artificer, that which gets things done even before the possibility of thought, and hence before the thought of what needs to be done, has come about.
In the beginning was not ‘the idea’, but the lack of that which was and this is the gaping hole of something within the absolute state of nothingness.
 G.W.F. Hegel, PHENOMENOLOGY OF MIND, Dover, 2003, p. 384
The most dangerous, underlying problem facing humanity today, and that which is responsible for all our current woes, is the nihilism that is so deeply ingrained in the global world civilisation. This means that to untie the pathetically knotted disaster we have become entwined in will require a social, cultural, political, and economic revolution unto purposiveness. So easy to say, yet impossible to imagine it ever coming about. But why? Why is an authentically purposive-driven civilisation so hard to conceive?
To accept purposiveness implies duties stemming from that same purposiveness. In fact, duties must come from purposiveness. Alienating purposiveness from duty only makes duty pointless and absurd (which is very much the current situation in our nihilistic world). Yet the current human condition is absurd not because there is no meaning in the universe, but rather because any perspective of an all-authentic purpose is either overlooked or denied. While our civilisation operates within the chaotic cacophony of a million reasons for being and doing things, the authentic, a priori, purpose for Being in the greater philosophical-cosmological sense is ignored, and this makes us ignorant and blind to the problems of what-must-be-done. Only when an authentic human purposiveness is allowed to take first priority over other lesser purposes in any contemplation will it be possible to act according to what truly needs to be done.
Only once we have been able to establish the idea that the absolute meaning of our existence is tied, in both an active and passive way, to the purpose of the universe itself, and that our role in this cosmos lies in the development of our cognitive, rational faculties as sapiens to know and preserve the same universe we are immersed in, will human civilisation be able to operate in a meaningful way.
By bringing this philosophical-cosmological concept to the fore will embed duty in a development of our individual selves that is motivated by the purposeful development of the universal, for only when all the individual aspects of the universal are allowed to fully develop will the universal itself we able to evolve toward authentic fruition.
Each mind is a complete universe within the complete universe of the Universe itself.
Because of this, the authentically purposive society has to be one which can effectively tap into the absolute potential of each individual. To do this, the universal has to be capable of developing the talents required for the goals of its own purposiveness. A purposiveness that is grounded in the universal desire for survival and the eternity that is also implied in that desire. What needs to taught today is the idea that we are duty-bound to the preservation of our own existence in the universal sense, and that all other lesser concepts of morality must bow to this overall, authentically purposive idea whenever they clash.
Why is humanity so knotted up? Why can’t we unravel ourselves and make the world a better place rather than continue on the self-destructive course unfolding before us, as if we were actually driven by fatalistic forces with tragic humours lacking all semblance of any collective free-will?
The fault lies in contemporary humanity’s general lack of futuristic vision, which in turn stems from a self-engendering pessimism fuelled by an almost universal, albeit subconscious, nihilistic belief that humanity is a despicable species destined to ultimately err. From this comes the basic tenants of religion: Save us O Lord from ourselves! In other words, the greater part of humanity exists in a bubble of such low self-esteem that human greatness can only manifest itself either accidentally or through the small minority of human beings who actually do think we could be great, achieving the greater good and furnishing a much better world for ourselves. This minority has managed to create fine art and fantastic technology, but even this traditional hope of redemption through the manifestations of human genius is now sharply threatened by the enormous impotence generated at the political and social level of civilisations, through the narrowing vias of autocracies and dictatorships, on the one hand, and of the inhibiting forces of nihilism-driven democracies, on the other.
Politically, of course, this conclusion is devastating as it leaves progress without a road to take and with no chance of building one. While the nihilistic attitude is predominant in society, an authentically forward-looking politics is impossible. In order to go forward in a meaningful way the nihilistic bedrock of society has to be challenged and changed.
But nihilism is so embedded in humanity’s perception of reality that it will take a metaphysical upheaval of that perception to alter our current tragic course: and that means that we need to think, firstly scientifically, and then socially and politically, about the philosophical question of Being.
Idealism has taught us that this question is double-edged, and that reality consists of the physical world, but it is also conditioned by our sapiens perception of that world. Hegel talked of the naïve consciousness of Absolute Being, and we would like to invert that to consider the naïve consciousness of Non-Being. Being doesn’t begin with perception, as Berkeley argued, rather it is made real or actual by it. Being matures through sapiens perception and evolves into something which could be meaningful.
This means that the great gap between Naïve Being and (Authentic) Being is a matter of meaningfulness. Naïve Being lacks any meaning but strives for it because it lacks it – but it is a blind, unconscious striving, driven by pure, intuitive need rather than any desire.
Seen from this metaphysical perspective, our human place in the Universe is by no means a purposeless, nihilistic one, but rather a fundamental tool that gives the Authentic Being to the Naïve Being of the sapiens-absent cosmos. This tiny adjustment to our way of perceiving ourselves, would be a radically positive, revolutionary way of combatting the inherent and enormously destructive pessimism that is so ingrained in humanity’s self-perception today.
To unravel ourselves we need to embrace our enormous, inherent nature as generators of meaning and purpose in the cosmos. The decline of human progress is not only created by the knots we have tied ourselves into through our nihilisms and pessimisms, it is also the greatest threat to meaningful reality in the entire Universe. And if that is not a sobering, life-changing idea, what is?
It’s time to unravel the great knot and let humanity breathe freely again in the pure air of meaningfulness.
In philosophy today, idealism is certainly not the most popular perspective to have, and it is often disparaged, ridiculed or simply pushed aside as being something ‘old-hat’. This is a shame, given the present critical state of humanity, as idealism has given western civilisation some of the most positivistic reflections on those ‘Big Questions’, the philosophical questions concerned with what we are doing here, in this universe, and, above all, what does our relationship to the world have to be to make our experience here a purposive one. Of all the tenets of idealism, whether it be in the subjective or objective variety, the idea that the universe and self-consciousness are inextricably entwined is a deeply thought concept that carries an enormous charge of optimism.
Philosophical idealism explains the universe metaphysically and can be understood scientifically and cosmologically, yet, in western culture, it is a concept restricted to a chapter or two of philosophical history or to the marginal fields of mysticism. As a consequence, WEIRD societies are generally ignorant of idealistic concepts that would be valuable in tackling the enormous problem of psychological or spiritual alienation that plagues so many individuals in western societies.
Feelings of alienation in the world come about through intermediary agents that segregate the individual from its natural idealistic connection with the universal. These negative intermediary agents are ubiquitous and operate through the forms of the family, the neighbourhood, the society, the culture, the State, the Church, etc.. All of these elements can be (or are) forces of separation within the authentic condition of universality, which, by dividing the whole and cutting us off from the self-fulfilment that comes from the experience of the universal in a purposive way, create a field of lack in existence. A gaping hole in our connection with the whole that leaves the individual staring into an apparent void, clutching at the handles of any nearby ideology to stop oneself falling into the abyss caused by this alienation.
Self-consciousness is only valid as an interpreter of the world when it makes its interpretation from the point of view of the universal. The individual, therefore, is only valid as an interpretation of the whole when it is expressed as a microcosm of the universal. Differences are always positive as creative advances or artistic or technological possibilities, but they are negative when they manifest themselves as differentiating, separating forces. Universality is not a question of conforming to a whole, but rather a matter of casting off that which divides the whole.
What is desperately needed now is less ego and more universal connection and a more idealistic perception of reality, that takes our psychological interconnectedness with everything seriously, has to be seen as a positivistic way to perceive reality. And that is what is imperative now, the positivistic perception of our nature, and human nature’s own positivistic conception of the world.
Are you a positive thinker? I mean a truly positive thinker, but what does that mean?
To be authentic, positivism has to be rooted in thinking and acting for posterity. This means that it needs to generate a belief, or faith, in a concept of the eternal: an eternal universe which is home to an eternal humanity.
Authentic positivism triumphs when, and only when, it makes existence a possibility of something eternal.