By torchlight we see into darkness, amidst the crumbling ruins of yesterday, picking our path past moldering edifices and the calcified choices others have made before us. Yet neither the phantoms of the known nor that shining light illuminating the way defines us. We are Travelers through both, and a myriad of worlds in between and even beyond. Now we define the term, the tool from which we will fashion a key.
With the definition of the word, Apophasis in mind, in action, our imaginations may be inspired by the image of a torch held high revealing a mystery of choices. This allows our awareness to leap into a particular juxtaposition where we can see from this vantage point to a perfect metaphor of perception, to see just how powerful our situation actually is. This occurs regardless of any encroaching obscurity, indeed and in fact, and in a sense even thanks to it.
One jumps to the familiar theme long heralded by the New Agora’s Editor, of both freedom itself and the action of freeing oneself. A freeing from which there must exist that which is opposed to such a state of being, and from which one must become free.
Now I’m not just trying to be clever with negatives, although that does come with apophatic inquiry, rather, as I see it, the strength here is in the conceptual springboard the word and idea animating it offers, in the exercise of perspective that can free perception to see what is truly there and not only what we have been told is so. A showing rather than a telling makes for a better story. One is experience-based, the other a second-hand affair at best.
To help visualize the concept, one draws an image out from an outline, while envisioning the absence of a thing in order to arrive at its image or form. Imagine drawing a hand not by actually drawing it but by drawing everything else around that hand. Describing something by explaining what it is not. Affirmation through negation; A kind of shadow play, a game of hide-and-seek. Apophasis. Negative space as a design tool. A fast before a feast. An allowing of emptiness to fill one with its silence. A presence felt through absence. An impression left behind. An imprint or stamp of that which is no longer there.
What I am trying to do is stimulate your imagination with these concepts, as I’ve found that when one looks upon the Theatre of the World it truly helps to have a tool or two of consciousness at hand. At the very least, begin by including that which has been occluded by all this darkness, ignorance and general skullduggery, and go beyond that to imagine what dreams may yet exist beyond the hysterics and squabbling of our species.
Apophasis is a formula, a sort of shortcut, or shorthand; a decoding device to apply to one’s perspective in one’s experience of navigating through a presently polluted stream of awareness. It’s not just denial but more of encompassing, to arrive at totality. You see what is and determine from that picture what actually might be from the original‘s subtraction. In other words: See evil – Be good.
My contention is that, once contextualized within one’s field of awareness, that very darkness fulfills its apophatic role. It may then represent what it is not to help delineate and thereby manifest what is. Then it ceases to exist in the same manner, ceases to be relevant or necessary in outlining and generating polarity and becomes instead a moving part of the flowing whole as the energy-based balance of all the elements drives it, as the Tao Turns. In picturing Yin & Yang, the formula takes form. The meaning of its substance, as well as its function, becomes apparent as an essential ingredient that serves as an instigator or antagonist in the great system of transformation that is Life.
It may seem complicated but actually it’s natural as natural can be. Complications begin with the imposition or introduction of the artificial or unnatural. These misdirect us with the beliefs that a square box of grey reality contains our destiny; that magic isn’t real but taxes are, that life isn’t a miracle and each breath not a gift, and that Love is not our actual and original state of Being. It takes just as much energy either way, believing oneself a slave or being actively awake in freedom.
Imagination is the tool and play is the action. Word craft, the spelling of images and ideas, whether from a writer’s pen or an artist’s brush or a lens, photographic or otherwise, all are secondary to the straightforward application of attention. We all do it as children with our liquid sense of perception, our reality as yet un-jarred and un-labeled by the teachers of the day. We see intimations of the technique with various ‘trompe l’oeil’ that fool the eye, enticing the mind’s eye into imagining other worlds. What better example than our own children sitting happily on the earth playing with their hearts, minds and eyes open to the wonder that is Creation?
What if I were to suggest to you that within the suspension of belief, that moment, that pause, there between it and your disbelief, energized by the power of paradox, form becomes subject to substance, and a kind of levitation away from the laws of the known occurs, one that allows for the application of imagination itself upon the formulation of reality. Yowza. Howzat? Hunh?
Here’s a simple test: go somewhere and turn off your internal dialogue, i.e. stop thinking, for as long as you can muster then master. Then, while gazing with a kind of noncommittal looking, not staring but more so glancing, at anything and everything that presents itself before our eyes, allow for the chattering mind to simply quiet of its own accord. Let the gentle weight of each passing moment fill you with the act of perceiving past words, beyond language or syntax, past identification or categorization, and far beyond the structured realm of the ‘known’ into the formless unknown. Herein waits a new world that is created through you, because of you and for you.
Life’s invitation may appear to be framed in limitation, but really it is only an effect of the light at play, giving the illusion of a necessary separateness. Paradoxically, this is what lends the entire view its poignancy. It is found in the simple fact of temporality, in an inward breath of wonder, with the exhalation of awe. It is a gift of perspective upon which one might encompass that totality, that endless eternity. Dark and light, each highlighting the other; form and formlessness intertwined in meaning and movement; a dance of opposites in symbiosis, spiraling off into fractal beauty sketching out worlds without end.
You can call it dreaming if it helps you conceptualize the practice, detaching as one does from the stress and static of the day, while we draw outside the lines of our reality and allow for imagination to fill in the blanks, letting wonder spread our wings as we formulate new worlds of discovery awaiting our curiosity, courage and creativity.
And so we see that the backdrop of existence, be it the mad machinations of lunatic city states, over gorged politicos scrambling in their melee to reach their pyramid’s top, or the rabid froth of the politically and socially corrected, all yet have something in common with the velvety darkness of our night’s sky, as that starry stuff scintillating in the heavens reminds us too of ourselves, our purpose, our bloom, our own torch’s light.