The Form

Understanding
The Form

Understanding
The Form

Understanding



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"Who then are lovers of wisdom [philosophers]?

Those who seek to understand the ultimate nature of reality."

Plato, The Commonwealth (475e)


      Genuine philosophers--lovers and seekers of wisdom--have always searched for understanding of the ultimate essence of all elements of physical and spiritual reality, never being content with mere opinion within the realm of ordinary reality.

   In this essay, we'll inquire into the essence, the Form, of Understanding. We'll also examine the ordinary meaning of understanding, to distinguish this from Perennialist Understanding.

   In a previous essay, we examined the Form Understanding depicted as Dianoia (Greek: διανοια): Understanding and Philosophical Reason.


"When its [the soul's] gaze is fixed upon an object irradiated by truth and reality, the soul gains understanding and knowledge and is manifestly in possession of intelligence. But when it looks towards that twilight world of things that come into existence and pass away, its sight is dim and it has only opinions and beliefs which shift to and fro, and now it seems like a thing that has no intelligence. . .

Plato, The Commonwealth


   The commonplace meaning of "understand" is:
  • To know the meaning of something, such as the words that someone is speaking

  • In regard to an element (event, function, object), to know how it works or why it happens: this requires that the person knows what are the causal factors producing the element

  • To know how and why someone thinks, feels, or behaves

  • Sympathetic awareness of other people's feelings; tolerance and forgiveness
          For most people, faith in ordinary perception is total; they believe that they see, hear, taste, smell, and touch a "real" world "out there," that their understanding of that world is unquestionably correct. They assume that reality is as they perceive and conceive it and to them the ordinary world-view ("consensus reality") is not only acceptable but preferable to any other they might consider. They believe that their view of reality is correct because for the ordinary events of life their understanding is accurate enough to allow them to avoid running into tall buildings and anticipating that the sun will "rise" 1 in the morning without fail.

        The average person's "understanding" of themselves and their world is mere fantasy and delusion. Most persons don't even want to understand. When they're brought face to face with what's really going on in the world, they deliberately move away from trying to understand it. If you tell them political truth--that America is a fascist, criminal, police state--they say it is NOT the truth but a deranged, subversive misrepresentation of the truth. Truth, in all areas of life, feels dangerous to them. They're happy with what the mainstream media tells them is going on in the world. They don't want to understand political truth: that both the Democratic and Republican candidates for the American Presidency in 2016 were criminals, one of whom was put into power to tyrannize over the working class. American and world leaders not only do not understand what reality is, but they are so insane that they want to impose their insanity on the whole world.


    "When anyone forms an opinion of anything without rational explanation, you may say that his mind is truly exercised, but has no understanding; for he who cannot give and receive a reason for a thing, has no understanding of that thing; but when he adds rational explanation, then he is perfected in understanding."

    Plato, Theaetetus, 201d


    The History of Understanding


         The history of Understanding began with the evolutionary development of homo sapiens, the first creatures who, through their development of language, were capable of understanding. Prior to homo sapiens, members of the homo habilis and homo erectus strains had trained themselves in such skills as fire-making, hunting, shelter-building, and food gathering. But to them, human experience was merely a series of events without long-term significance. They did not understand themselves or their world.

         When homo sapiens tribes invented language, they represented events and objects by written and spoken signs and gestures, which they understood to have meaning, that is, they signified some entity such as a person, animal, plant, place, thing, substance, quality, idea, action, or state.

          A sign, such as the word, "fire," could be communicated from one person to another. Now humans could not only see, feel, and make fire, for example, but understand its significance: warmth, cooking, protection from predators, sterilization, and destruction.

         With the development of language, the communication of meaning--and thus, understanding--began. Now, meaning and understanding could be transmitted from one person to another, one generation to another.

    "The understanding creates a new environment. The more subtle and discriminating, the more informed and sympathetic the understanding is, the more complex and yet ordered do the things about us become . . . A world which is ordinarily unseen has become visible through the understanding."

    Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals


    The Supernatural, Magical Nature of Understanding

          Meaning and its concomitant, understanding, are truly supernatural, magical elements. Perhaps the best way to grasp the mystery of meaning and understanding is by thoughtfully viewing the water scene from the movie "The Miracle Worker," the story of the early life of Helen Keller.

    Helen Keller      As a young deaf and blind child, Helen lived much like an animal, rushing from one sensation to another, understanding nothing. Within a month after becoming Helen's teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan was able to impart the gifts of meaning and understanding to her. The awakening to meaning--and hence, understanding--as demonstrated in the film, was the event which made it possible for Helen to begin understanding instead of simply repeating what Anne was teaching her. Helen had been trained to repeat the word "water," but it wasn't until she combined the experience of feeling water and trying to communicate the word "water" simultaneously, that Helen gained the magical gifts of meaning--and hence understanding.

         Up to that point, Helen had been like a well-trained animal, memorizing words, speaking them, and receiving praise from Anne. But now, suddenly, she realized! The word "water" actually referred to, pointed to, meant this marvelous liquid reality that ran through her fingers. She could now understand herself and the world around her.

       "It is from understanding that power comes; and the power in the ceremony was in understanding what it meant . . ."

    John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks


    Generalized Understanding

         In each culture, the public meanings are transmitted through educational institutions (schools, academies, monasteries, universities) and through the media (Internet, newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV), The small ruling elite (politicians, financiers, warriors, priests, scholars, scientists, corporations) have always tried to create and instill a generalized understanding of persons, events, objects, meanings, and the world.

         In most cultures, the "ruling ideas" have fostered violence and class warfare. In only a few instances in history, has the generalized understanding fostered the betterment of common people and society at large. One example of such a transcendent era was the eighteenth century Enlightenment, which encouraged humans to develop broad understanding in all fields of knowledge. Highly educated, intelligent groups in Europe and America developed toward a democratic way of life, created constitutions, and founded institutions for public education and welfare.

         Culture as a creation of humankind is a neutral element--it can be used for positive or negative ends. Through the process of acculturation, the process beginning at infancy by which human beings acquire the culture of their society, individuals are stamped with social norms, generalized understanding.

       "The idea of understanding is surely distinct from the idea of knowing something. We frequently say things like, 'Well, he knows a lot of math, but he doesn't really understand its basis,' or, 'She knows the meaning of the words but doesn't understand the sentence.' . . . An understanding is a mental construct, an abstraction made by the human mind to make sense of many distinct pieces of knowledge. If students understand, then they can provide evidence of that understanding by showing that they know and can do certain specific things. . . Understanding is the ability to marshal skills and facts wisely and appropriately, through effective application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Doing something correctly, therefore, is not, by itself, evidence of understanding. It might have been an accident or done by rote. To understand is to have done it in the right way, often reflected in being able to explain why a particular skill, approach, or body of knowledge is or is not appropriate in a particular situation. . . . Knowledge and skill, then, are necessary elements of understanding, but not sufficient in themselves. Understanding requires more: the ability to thoughtfully and actively 'do' the work with discernment, as well as the ability to self-assess, justify, and critique such 'doings.'"

    Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, Understanding By Design, "Understanding Understanding"



       True understanding is intelligence, the ability to see through the subterfuge of conditioning, propaganda, and consensus reality. The lack of intelligence--true understanding of the world--by most persons today, is the reason we live in the capitalist, fascist, imperialist, militarist, criminal nightmare we do. Understanding is the essential element that must be fostered if the world's population is ever to overcome their current plight of wage slavery, unemployment, homelessness, and annihilation. It will be necessary for a small group of people to retrain the human race in generalized intelligence--true understanding--before there can be any hope of an improvement in humankind's condition.


    "Not . . . until popular government had been made possible by the diffusion of intelligence was the world ripe for the realization of such a form of society [commonwealth]. Until that time the idea, like the soul waiting for a fit incarnation, must remain without social embodiment. Selfish rulers thought of the masses only as instruments for their own aggrandizement, and if they had interested themselves in a more exact organization of industry it would only have been with a view of making that organization the means of a more complete tyranny. Not till the masses themselves became competent to rule was a serious agitation possible or desirable for an economic organization on a co-operative basis."

    Edward Bellamy, Equality, 1897

    .

    True Understanding Requires Discernment of the Range of Subtlety

        To understand any element of reality (persons, objects, events, processes) you must be able to discern its range of subtlety. For example, let's take a particular human being, John F. Kennedy. You cannot understand this person without discerning what kind of family he came from, where he went to college, what he did as a navy officer in World War II, why he decided to enter the field of politics, how his family's money and influence assisted him to become a Senator and then President of the United States, and what he did as President that provoked the criminal cabal to assassinate him.

        You cannot gain understanding of any element merely by looking at its obvious features or using the programmed viewpoints of "consensus reality" or "generalized understanding." These are in essence "books" titled "Reality For Dummies," and they tell you what to believe, what to think, and what to do. They DO NOT teach you how to understand reality. If you follow these "books" you definitely are or will become a Dummy and you will be treated by your rulers as a Dummy.


    "The breakdown of the infantile adjustment in which providential powers ministered to every wish compels us either to flee from reality or to understand it. And by understanding it we create new objects of desire. For when we know a good deal about a thing, know how it originated, how it is likely to behave, what it is made of, and what is its place amidst other things, we are dealing with something quite different from the simple object naively apprehended.

    Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals


        Most persons never work to gain the capability of discerning the range of sublety present in all elements of reality. In some instances, ignorant persons (those without understanding) pretend that they recognize the subtleties in a particular element, but choose not to pay attention to it. In a recent interview, a current writer of fantasy novels asserted that when accused of shallow characterizations or lack of subtlety, he took it as a compliment, as he was not writing for that audience. The truth is that this writer doesn't have the ability to create profound, complex characters and has no idea what subtlety is.

    I do not know which to prefer,
    The beauty of inflections 2
    Or the beauty of innuendoes, 3
    The blackbird whistling
    Or just after.

    Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways Of Looking At a Blackbird


    "You can be told no new thing. You can be told the words, but you will not understand them. Action is all of development. . . Any new thing must be acquired by experience, by action before it can be told, either by you to yourself or to you by someone else. . You must first confront it, become aware that it exists. It is something - just something. You cannot understand because you have no experience. Then you must act; and from the act and its result you have knowledge.

    "As self-awareness expands its circle, a necessity is born for understanding. And the more a man or a race demands to understand that which has heretofore been accepted on what you call faith, the wider, the more embracing, you may conclude has become the circle of self-knowledge of complete self-awareness which is his measure."

    Betty White, Gaelic Manuscripts, 1928


    The Subtlety of Truth and Falsehood

       Courts of law recognize that there is subtlety to truth that must be addressed when a person gives testimony. This is why a person testifying is "sworn in." agreeing to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." We recognize that there is something called "the truth:" the reality of the situation. The "truth" is not "my truth" or "President X's truth," there is objective, non-subjective truth. Such truth can be subverted if a person testifying makes known to the court only part of the truth; hence the requirement that a person tell the "whole truth." We also realize that if we add falsehoods to truth, or if we substitute opinion or feelings for truth, that we are not telling the truth. Hence the phrase: "And nothing but the truth."


    "Whatever people believe, on subjects on which it is of first importance to believe rightly, they ought to be able to defend against at least the common objections. . . [If a person is] unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position for him would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels most inclination."

    John Stuart Mill. On Liberty


        Lying, telling falsehoods, has become endemic in America. In 2017, we have a President who told the electorate he was going to do any number of things, for example, strengthen the controls on Wall Street transactions, yet he now is making sure that the few controls we have (Dodd-Frank) are being done away with. All American government officials have become liars precisely as Upton Sinclair described Soviet lying in his Lanny Budd novels.

    "Lanny Budd talked with officials, both military and civilian, about the curious Soviet practice of telling the most barefaced and obvious lies and maintaining them in spite of any facts offered in rebuttal. Was it an assertion of their ego, that truth was whatever they chose to make it? Was it a consequence of their denial of the existence of any moral law? Or was it just an expression of their contempt for their opponents? They would tell you a lie and then laugh in your face--not because they thought you believed it but because you were foolish enough not to understand that they were superior to both the truth and you. Because you were foolish enough to believe that there was actually any such thing as truth in the world! Because you were inferiors, doomed to early extinction, and it didn't matter in the least what you believed about anything! That was really the way they felt, and lying to you was part of the process of your extermination. They, the new master class, the future possessors and rulers of the world, yielded to nothing--not even the truth!"

    Upton Sinclair, The Return of Lanny Budd, 1953
    This phenomenon of lying with impunity is practiced by all forms of despotism: Italian fascism, Nazism, Communism, Zionism, and Capitalism.


    The Subtlety of Intent and Motivation

        We do not "understand" any element of human reality unless we're able to discern the subtlety of intent and motivation. A person can tell you: "I love you," and his intent may be only to manipulate you by saying this. Another person may tell you that he loves you and his intent may be to express honest feeling, regard, and concern for you. The two are worlds apart, yet the same act (verbal affirmation) and the same words ("I love you") are used in both instances. The subtle--and all-important difference--is intent and motivation.

        It takes some effort to understand that Socrates, an advanced Perennialist teacher, employed fantastic practices such as dialectical interchange which were misinterpreted by some of his undiscerning interlocutors as sheer sorcery. They erroneously imputed the motivation and intent to Socrates of trying to manipulate and control them.

    "Menon: Well now, my dear Socrates, you are just like what I always heard before I met you: always perplexed yourself and shaking the beliefs of everyone else. And now you seem to me to be a veritable wizard, casting your spells over me, and I am truly getting bewitched and enchanted, and YOU HAVE STOPPED MY WORLD. And if I may venture to make a jest about you, you seem to me both in your appearance and in your power over others to be very like the flat torpedo fish, who torpifies those who come near him and touch him, as you have now STOPPED MY WORLD. . . . And I think that you are very wise in not venturing away from home, for if you performed your necromancy in other places as you do in Athens, you would be cast into prison as a sorcerer."

    Plato, Meno (80a)
       
    Specialized, Esoteric Understanding

       Throughout the long centuries of human history, the Perennial Tradition has transmitted to select persons within humankind a specialized understanding of the terrestrial and supersensible worlds. This understanding contains esoteric 4 elements which transform the person attaining this realization into a new type 5 of human. This esoteric understanding is of the nature that a person may come into contact with it (see, read, or hear it), without comprehending its meaning; a person can apprehend this understanding without being effected by it in the least. It appears to the person to be mere theories, perhaps misinformation, without any special meaning.

       This specialized, esoteric understanding of terrestrial existence is presented by each Perennialist teacher during his or her era. The political-economic-social aspects of this understanding were first revealed by Plato (428- 348 B.C.E) in his Allegory of the Cave.


    Plato's explanation of the allegory

    Modern Interpretation of Plato's Cave

    Plato's Cave

    Alternate version

    Alternate version

    Cave Prisoners 1

    Cave Prisoners 2

       The contemporary expression of the allegory of the cave is contained in the specialized, esoteric understanding of the capitalist cabal and its destruction of all civilization.


    True Understanding Places A Person In A Higher Realm of Being

       Plato, one of the foremost figures within the Perennial Tradition, conceived of Understanding as an achievement of only some humans--philosophers--that places them within the Intelligible, Supersensible Realm.

        If you are one of the few persons who achieves the capability of True Understanding, this places you in a special category which only a few persons attain and which involves great responsibility and esoteric knowledge.


    "You have always confused understanding with knowing or having information. But to know and to understand are two quite different things and you must learn to distinguish between them. In order to understand a thing, you must see its connection with some bigger subject, or bigger whole, and the possible consequences of this connection. Understanding is always the understanding of a smaller problem in relation to a bigger problem. . . You cannot understand and disagree. In ordinary conversation we very often say: I understand him but I do not agree with him. . . This is impossible. If you understand a man, you agree with him; if you disagree with him, you do not understand him. 'to understand' means to agree. People who understand one another must not only have an equal knowledge, they must also have an equal being. Only then is mutual understanding possible.

    "Another wrong idea which people have or which belongs particularly to our times, is that understanding can be different, that people can, that is, have the right, to understand the same thing differently. This is quite wrong. . . Understanding cannot be different. There can only be one understanding, the rest is non-understanding, or incomplete understanding. But at the same time people often think that they understand things differently. We can see examples of this every day. How can we find an explanation of this seeming contradiction? In reality, there is no contradiction. Understanding means understanding of a part in relation to the whole. But the idea of the whole can be very different in people according to their knowledge and being."

    P. D. Ouspensky, The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution, 1945



       We can refer to higher understanding as being identified with or embodied in:

    "The good man understands what is right, the evil man understands profit."

    Confucius


    True Understanding Is Higher Than Knowledge or Skill

       As we saw earlier, the ordinary meaning of understanding an element (event, function, object, person) involves knowing how the element works or why it occurs, requiring that the person knows what are the causal factors producing the element.

       The higher form of understanding includes the ordinary meaning, plus several others:
    • Understanding of the background of the element, its causes, what person or persons have caused it, and the motives of the persons causing it

    • Understanding that the element demands specific actions as a response

         To comprehend this higher form of understanding we'll take the 2008 bailout of American banks by the U.S.Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank. You have some knowledge of that bailout, but do you have a true understanding of it? If you truly understand the bailout, you also understand:


    "Understanding can be acquired only by actual participation in the reality."

    Betty and Stewart Edward White, Across the Unknown, 1937


        The true test of whether you actually understand the bailout is if you realize that you must now carry out these specific actions:

    • Struggle against the forces that attempt to foist false understanding on humans (for example):

      • Capitalism is the only viable economic system,

      • A political-economic system based on the principle that elite rulers are above the law can operate successfully

      • Continual global war is necessary because we must protect ourselves from foreign and domestic terrorists (created by U.S. military and intelligence agencies)

    • Join with others to actualize the contemporary prototype of the New Commonwealth to replace the criminal cabal's current fascist state with a commonwealth polity that works for the welfare of all citizens








    Notes:

    1 Note that our very language reveals a delusory conception of reality: a sun that "rises" and a "world out there" that is only pasted together from inner sensory experiences which lack any element of "out-thereness ."

    2 Inflection: the way in which a word is changed or altered in form through subtle pronunciation or tone of voice in order to achieve a new, specific meaning

    3 Innuendo: An indirect or subtle, usually derogatory implication in expression; insinuation, intimation, aspersion

    4 Previous material dealing with esotericism: Perennialist Esotericism and the definition of esotericism in Perennialist thought

    5 I am using the word "type" in a very specific manner, referring to "the general form, character, or structure distinguishing a particular kind, group, or class of beings or objects" [Oxford English Dictionary, emphasis added]