A question came up in class today concerning the “foundation” of human culture, and whether some things exist outside of it, say, a tree before humans began harvesting, pruning, climbing, and so on; before human interaction began. Nature, but not “nature” as culture has created it. A helluva question, for a 101 class.
My response was, yes, everything, even in human culture, is what it is. Culture takes some parts of that “is” and matches it with other “is-es”, creating boxes and classes, hierarchies and categories. I even got to speak of “Firstness”!
So, is there a human-is-ness before human culture, I was asked? Again, the sort of question that makes teaching 101 classes so disruptive and adventurous, at times.
Yes, but we don’t have a word for that “is”. You are what you are, and maybe “you” is as close I’d care to give you a name. “You” are being addressed by “me.” Notice that while we can speak of humans outside of culture, we cannot speak of them outside language.
You are what you are, and that Is is inherently, essentially, or otherwise is-ed by Language.
What is Language? not words, written or spoken or signed. These are representations of Language.
“I am that I am” must be saying something about Language, capital L.
What It Isn’t
Jewish mystics reading these texts in the Middle Ages about “I am that I am” developed a mystical explanation concerning the Name of God, and those explanations got rolled into magical practices concerned with occult manipulation, action-at-a-distance attempts to get Powers and Forces to Do Something. The secret doctrine they espoused was that speaking the Name got one access to the Name’s powers, effectively enabling one to gain power over the thing named by having its Name. I think such doctrines are wicked, at their heart, although well intentioned. Inevitably, priests and mages postured as if possessing the Great Secret of the Name, and taboos on speaking the Name allowed their posturing to continue.
If one knew the Name of God, I suppose that would be one among many names used to refer to or address that Being. What about being Baptized in the Name of God?
That mysterious L-anguage not only “represents” stuff, but it also creates stuff, indeed, most of what we think of as human is created by L, including our thoughts. We are of the Word, perhaps.
Maybe L and the Word, and what-ever-Is-is are really “just” light? Different kinds of Light?
Well, that depends on what you mean by “light.” Probably, what we call “light” is not more “Light” than what we call “language” is really “Language.” Sunlight, electric light, and so on are probably just representations of light: or, Light acting like light, to beings (acting like humans).
We cannot understand Light-Language by taking it apart, and gaining perspective over it. We can create representations of L, and study those, of course. But L will just look or act like what we are looking for or are acting like.
How can we understand L? or EL?
It would be convenient, I suppose, if we could Google it, and have our answer.
Or, if someone proposed a five-step program to take us to L, or to really know L.
I suppose we must believe that L created what L created, and that by understanding L’s creations, we don’t understand L, but we can comprehend how to create in a manner like unto L. Does that make us Like Unto L? Not at all, except as we’ve confused ourselves into believing that imitating a person gets at what that person really is. We have confused acting, say, on a stage, with the character acted out; as if actor and character were really the same, or, like unto one another. They may act like one another, and yet be whatever they be. All are alike unto L. But L doesn’t act like L. L is L.
So, I don’t think we are trying to become like L, or at least, I don’t think such attempts are wise.
What about, then, being Baptized in the Name of God? Would it be correct to say, Immersed in the representations of “God”? Whose representations? We are all baptized in somebody’s representations: Sidney Rigdon’s, Joseph Smith’s, Aristotle’s…But who has been immersed in the Named One’s representations of God? Surely, all of us. Though we rarely let that little light shine, as the song goes.
When one is baptized in the Name, one apparently, following Nephi here, learns the tongue of angels. Is that tongue able to represent L more correctly than, say, English? Apparently. But, still we are dealing with representations, in this case, angelic rather than human. Better, for sure, but not really transcending the divide between the name of L, and L.
Maybe being baptized in the Name is like being immersed in L? At some point we might even find ourselves no longer merely content to represent L with language, being immersed (a-timely) in L?
But isn’t that all just mysticism? The whole I-can’t-explain-but-I-feel-it stuff? In a way. Also, it means one cannot create a public institution to teach people how to immerse in L, or to rank one another based on how much L they’ve been immersed in, and so on. The end of the World is probably not the End of the Earth, but at least the end of institutions-representations-power (most recently, Gentile).
What about Zion, then? Maybe they are scattered, and few, because they don’t organize, or “gather” as we understand the term? maybe they all have been or will be immersed in L, and that is what “gathers” them, in a union they are not conscious of, as in, “I belong to Zion” sort of consciousness?
I came across this representation of an idea, called a Klein Bottle. It is a flat surface folded in at two corners, and then at the other two corners, as though a flat plane was made spherical. And yet, there is only one surface, not two. It is like unto a Mobius strip, indeed, if one placed a Left-handed and a Right-handed strip together, one has a Klein Bottle. They don’t exist here as bottles, but we can describe them. They exist in L. If we attempt to create a Klein Bottle, we are forced to put that thing described into a fourth dimension, and yet, when it is a stable thing, that means the bottle’s “neck” penetrates the bottle at it’s “base.” In reality, that does not happen. Only in two-dimensions (say, on a computer screen) can we represent the Klein Bottle, without that neck-through-the-base problem; but we then sacrifice one of the other three dimensions (e.g. depth). But that is our best attempt to get at, physically, a thing we can describe with language. In our imaginations we can represent it, however; and yet, what dimension does that Imagination exist in? 3? 4? 1? And that is a L-uva thing, don’t you think?