Depth Consciousness and the Nature of Being
David Klemm is professor emeritus of Religious Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. He has written much concerning figures such as Paul Ricoeur, and topics such as mind, consciousness, and hermeneutics. Along with William Schweiker, he is the co-author of Religion and the Human Future. Dr. Klemm has long been a practitioner of Vajrayana Buddhism, within which he has received many empowerments. He resides in Iowa City, where he has given many lectures at the Milarepa Buddhist Center.
What is the meaning of ‘Being’? Being is the most fundamental, most basic, of all concepts, because it is implied in any other concept of anything that we can speak. We say that it ‘is,’ and yet to say that it ‘is’ also implies some contrast between its ‘being’ or ‘is-ness’ and its ‘not-being’ — its projected possibility of not being at all, its nothingness. And so Being has its own dialectical opposite — a prime pair of terms that go together — Being and Non-Being, and they’re inseparable, dialectically, and systematically inseparable. So we can’t think of Being without thinking also of Non-Being. Therefore, a sense of Being — we talk about the ‘common sense’ or ‘sixth sense’ or something like that, which you might just call ‘Mind,’ but it’s a sense of what it means to be. Even though we can not conceive, or rationally define, or cognize what it means to be, there has to be some other access to the meaning of being than that of rational cognition because, strictly speaking, ‘Being’ is undefinable — it can not be put into the form of a concept, just because any concept has to be able to distinguish itself from other concepts (both within its own genus and / or to be a contrast between its genus [or large class of terms] and other genera). But there’s no contrast that you can draw over and against ‘Being’ except for that mysterious factor which is part of Being — and that is its own potential Non-Being. But neither Being nor Non-Being will particularize a notion. It won’t convert into any particular thing, anything that you can point to or speak about. The ‘about’ nature breaks down. We have no third-person perspective on Being. It’s that within which we are or are not. So it can not be defined. So how in the world do we think about it? It’s the most mysterious term that there is because, in one respect we all know what the meaning of ‘being’ is (Martin Heidegger would point out that if I say ‘the sky is blue’ I recognize that ‘sky’ is the subject and ‘blueness’ is its predicate that I attribute to sky, and the connection between the subject and the predicate is — the copula is — ‘to be.’) And ‘Being’ is the connection between subject and object. It’s the connection between the subject of a sentence and its predicate. It’s the connectedness of all things.”
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