THE PRIMEVAL DARKNESS

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There have been few errors in human history greater than the presupposition that there can be a world without the a-létheia, the emergence of things from concealment that occurs through the clearing of being. To help explain this basis of all freedom, we want to take a look at two pivotal words in the history of Western thought: alétheia and existentia. Taking our cue from Heidegger, we look in particular at their literal translation as being especially suggestive phenomenologically. Taken literally, they imply the following: existence is a clearing cleared through consciousness out of a primeval darkness.

Unconcealment as a release from oblivion: such is the exact rendering of the Greek word for truth, alétheia. What emerges from concealment is called phainomenon, that which steps into the light, a thing that appears to view, something shown. This appearance should not be confused with a mere appearance. Everything disclosed, even to the strictest science, is a phenomenal appearance. (It can also be a mere appearance, but it does not have to be.) To the extent that it is disclosed, the very cosmos has its appearance as a phenomenon, its emergence into unconcealment, within the clearing held open by the psukhe, the soul. In this sense, what is primary is not the universe but the soul. However, it must be noted that the Greeks, who confused, as we still do today, being with phusis (nature) — that is, the clearing with what appears in the clearing — considered the stars and planets the highest things: timiótata tà astra (highest in dignity are the stars). Contrary to this, we want to show that higher in dignity, having a closer kinship with the divine, is the soul. It is not the house but he or she who lives in it that comes foremost.

The word “existence” derives from the Latin exsistere, which means to come into being. It literally means to stand out. Against what does existence stand out? Against non-being. But non-being can be understood in at least two ways: 1) for example, as when I claim that God created the universe out of nothing; and 2) nothing (nothingness) in the sense of oblivion. We want to pursue this second sense of non-being. What do we mean by “nothingness”?

Without the standing out from non-being of this coming into being called existence, a darkness deeper than any night prevails. The darkness of oblivion is so deep that, technically speaking, it is inappropriate to posit anything in relation to it, even though we know that the universe would “exist” even if nothing were conscious. Oblivion, the complete lack of consciousness, is a total concealment, a complete absence of phenomena, and that means a darkness from which nothing stands out. If existence is a standing out, it follows that nothing exists where nothing is conscious, since where nothing is conscious nothing stands out. Similarly, if being depends on a-létheia, on an uncovering of truth in the most basic sense of a disclosure of being, then truth cannot occur as long as everything remains concealed in an unfathomable darkness. Truth is an achievement of the spirit, a discovery of the soul.

The darkness we are speaking of here remains completely unaltered by physical light. Only consciousness can illuminate it. Even an infinite number of stars would not be able to light up the primeval darkness unless consciousness provided the initial illumination. To be able to illuminate, light has to become a phenomenon, which means it first has to appear within the clearing of consciousness. Consciousness is thus the first light, regardless of the order of evolution. Already in the Creation story it is God’s consciousness that provides the real light, that lights up the light, so to speak, and distinguishes it from the darkness.

Inanimate things are nothing to themselves; they only become something to a conscious being. As a standing out, existence requires the freeing of unthinking things from their own oblivion. This freeing into a disclosing consciousness means that things gain a significance. An inanimate thing comes to be what it is within the openness of a being that has a clearing in which things can emerge from the complete indifference of total darkness. In sum, only with the advent of actually existing there as something do things emerge into the clearing of being-there from the oblivion that reigns outside of the soul. Mind is therefore the alpha and omega of existence. Things appear and disappear with it. Perceiving is a tearing away from the primordial darkness from which insensate things can never escape on their own.

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