Shopping Cart

No products in the cart.

Reply To: Language as Metaphor?



Sorry to take so long to respond. Exchanges on these message boards unfold at a much more leisurely pace than the speed of social media. When I read something profound, I often have to let it sit and simmer in the back of my mind for several days for the full flavor to come through. I have to say your words certainly strike a chord (speaking of “hitting the bull’s eye”).

What resonates most for me is your concluding thought:

On metaphors, the menu is not the meal: your perception of reality is not the reality, but only your perception of it, and hence it is not the reality. Ceci, c’est n’est pas une pipe. Your senses are impaired, your vocation crippled.”

Yes! A thousand times, yes!

When we encounter an object in the external world, we don’t observe the actual “thing in itself” (Kant’s dinge an sich), but an image formed by our senses (not that this is anything new for you). The rose I see is perceived differently by a dog, or a butterfly, or an amoeba encountering that same rose. Our senses, in conjunction with the mind (considered a sixth sense in Hindu/Buddhist metaphysics), in effect construct the universe out of metaphors – the subjective sensory images we perceive. Archetypal psychologist James Hillman offers imagination as the organ through which we perceive and engage “reality” – which could be described as a projection of the interior world onto the external universe.

I find myself bringing this back to myth (as metaphor), which then serves as both the womb, and the substance, of experienced reality.

We can expand this theme and approach mundane reality as we would a dream, where everything we experience, everything we encounter, has a symbolic value that deepens and enriches life. Life as a waking dream is a perspective adopted by the many cultures that value oracles. Hence, everything bears significance: the appearance of a rainbow or an abrupt shift in the flight of a bird speaks volumes to an African pygmy or Australian aborigine, as does an I Ching spread to a Taoist adept. “All that exists is but a metaphor,” to paraphrase Campbell’s favorite quote from Goethe (“Alles Verganglich ist nur ein Gleichnis.”). We can interpret, analyze, and engage the stuff of life just as we can the stuff of dream, if we view life with a mythic eye.

Does embracing the metaphor that consensus reality is as illusory and transitory as dream somehow negate the searing pain I feel when I touch a hot stove? Hardly. On one plane, I can recognize that I “am One with” a brick wall – but it doesn’t follow that I’ll decide to physically become one with that wall while zipping along the freeway at ninety miles an hour. That would be reading the metaphor a mite literal . . .

The mythical perspective is in addition to that of waking consciousness – not to replace rational thought and ego consciousness, but deepening and enhancing our experience.