The Numinous Beauty of the World

The Numinous Beauty of the World

The existentialist philosopher Soren Kierkegaard sees three distinct stages of human development: 

It is in the third stage that we begin to long for the numinous, for experiences that transcend reason and connect us with the divine. 

The phenomenologist philosopher David Abram describes this experience in magical terms: 

“Magic doesn't sweep you away; it gathers you up into the body of the present moment so thoroughly that all your explanations fall away: the ordinary, in all its plain and simple outrageousness, begins to shine -- to become luminously, impossibly so. Every facet of the world is awake, and you within it.”
― David Abram’s ‘Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology’

As David Abram has observed, the shift from pre-Socratic thought to post-Platonic thought marked a major turning point in our collective culture. 

In ancient Greece, Socrates was known for his dialectical method that interrogated a person’s base motives and beliefs. For people who lived in a narrative / mythical headspace, these questions were like stinging bees. 

The Socratic dialectic forced people to think deeply and explain their actions in rational terms; it was like asking an aboriginal hunter gatherer to explain their gazelle-stalking techniques in the form of a COBOL computer program. Much was lost in the translation. 

Over time, our use of language has become further degraded — as have the thoughtforms associated with it. 

Plato extended the Socratic dialectic to all beings living and non-living, classifying them as imperfect versions of the perfect Platonic form which existed … somewhere we can’t see or feel. 

This Platonic process severed the connection between language, meaning and the world around us. 

What follows is a 5 minute clip from David Abram, which is a bit challenging from a ‘is this guy talking nonsense?’ perspective.  

It’s worth a listen; please give it a chance: 

Language itself can be flat, or evocative. It can represent external concepts like Platonic forms, or it can represent a bridge between two outwardly dissimilar aspects of reality. 

Do mountains sing? Do rivers dance? That’s a matter of personal perspective and interpretation. 

However, the opposite interpretation  — that mountains are nothing but lifelsss atoms and rivers are nothing but water finding its easiest path to the lowest point due to the effects of gravity — perhaps those Platonic ideals don’t fully reflect the reality of the world we live in. 

When you’re out in nature, alone with the natural world and your thoughts, does the world around you feel alive and incipient with meaning? Or does it feel mechanistic and cold, like the turning of gears in a giant clock? 

That’s up to you to determine.

What I would suggest is that you give the idea a chance to percolate a bit, to be open to the potential for something numinous and new: 

Sacred spaces and the natural world have something deep and meaningful to offer if you take the time to listen and experience. 

What that experience is like — that is an observer-mediated event. 

What you take with with you is, to a large extent, what you will experience: 

Our ancestors didn’t see the natural world as something foreign and external, they saw it as deeply integral to their personal lives.

Written by Erik Schimek

Erik is an entrepreneur and self-improvement expert. You can learn more about Meliora Meditation at Infinite Chorus.

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