"Existence" is one of my favorite things to ponder, mostly because existence (the boundless variety) is imponderable. It's just what it is: Isness, Thatness, whatever you want to call primal That -- which isn't a What.
A few months after I started this blog, I wrote "Existence exists. Amazing!" And said in that post:
My head hurts when I think too much about existence. But I get an enjoyable chill up my spiritual spine when I simply try to wrap my psyche around existence. Not in a wordy way. In, well, an existential way. This happens when I try to let the stark reality of existence blow the roof off all my notions about what exists, when I try to strip away thoughts about all that is until the skeleton of a bare is remains.
For me, existence pure and simple is absolutely real, though I’ve never seen, heard, smelled, touched, or tasted it. I have no idea what it is, this essence of everything that can’t be a thing itself and certainly isn’t nothing either. I feel it much more than I think it. Not emotionally, but like sensing an invisible presence in a dark room that you know you’ll never be able to put your finger on.
Nothing has changed about my relation to the almost-Nothing that I talked about above. Except, I'm less inclined to agree with my "certainly isn't nothing" conjecture about existence pure and simple.
Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Maybe it is and it isn't. Impossible to know.
That's the existential beauty of boundless existence, a term used by Milton Munitz in one of my favorite books, "Does Life Have a Meaning?" This morning I was drawn to pull it from my bookcase, the first time I'd visited this paean to boundless existence since I wrote a post about it back in 2007.
I enjoyed flipping through the short (114 pages) book and reading passages I'd highlighted the first time through. This paragraph in the Summing Up section not surprisingly sums up Munitz' central theme nicely.
Boundless Existence consists in the fact that the universe Exists. It marks the ontological locus of the impenetrability by any humanly devised scheme of conceptual bounds to go beyond the awareness of this basic fact. It blocks all attempts to explain how or why the universe Exists.
...Awareness of Boundless Existence as a fundamental feature of Reality is tantamount to denying the possibility of making the Existence of the universe intelligible by appealing to any conceptual scheme -- whether philosophic, religious, or scientific. Any such scheme, whether purportedly descriptive, explanatory, or valuational is, from the vantage point of the world picture here advocated, altogether lacking in convincingness or plausibility.
Milton Munitz explored life deeply: scientifically, philosophically, and most importantly, experientially.
Though he talked with Einstein, wrote books about the philosophical ramifications of cosmology, and had a distinguished academic career, the sense I get from him through his last book -- "Does Life Have a Meaning?" -- is that of a guy who I would have loved to have a coffeehouse chat with over a couple of lattes, because he felt much the same as I do about existence.
He just had the smarts to describe those feelings much more clearly and intelligently than I'm capable of doing. Munitz wrote:
To become aware of Boundless Existence calls for entering a different mode of experience. It is not reached by a leap of faith. Nor does it consist in a type of access that affords a special source of knowledge. It is simply a wholly unique mode of awareness that reveals a different level of Reality from that which comes from observation and the use of concepts of any sort.
The correct use of the term "Boundless Existence" lacks all reference to what is observable, conceptually interpretable or capable of serving as subject for propositions that can be judged as true or false. It is that of which no scientifically warranted, factual knowledge at all can be obtained.
Boundless Existence is unobservable, unintelligible, unknowable -- beyond all space, time, or any other conceptual distinctions -- hence not subject to changing horizons either of an observational or conceptual sort.
In the June 2010 issue of Scientific American I came across a paragraph in an article, "Extra Dimensions," that Munitz would have liked.
The discovery [of extra dimensions] would transform not only physics but also its allied disciplines. Extra dimensions might explain mysteries such as cosmic acceleration and might even be a prelude to reworking the entire notion of dimensionality -- adding to a growing sense that space and time emerge from physical principles that play out in a spaceless, timeless realm.
Cool. And close.
Yet Munitz' Boundless Existence isn't a "realm." It isn't anything, because it isn't a thing. Yet this "it" that isn't an it, but That, is beautiful -- because without That, there wouldn't be any beauty, or anything else.
Awareness of Boundless Existence is approached with silence. But noisy words are necessary to communicate this. I tried in "Meaningful meaningless meditation."
Blogger Brian - you have, literally, said it all. Whether inadvertently or by dint of intent - you have said it all.
Posted by: Willie R. | June 05, 2010 at 08:33 AM
Very closely related to the idea of nirguna brahman. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirguna_Brahman
Posted by: Han | October 09, 2012 at 08:20 AM