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The Metafizzical Essays of
Nicholas Hancock

Published by The British Hancock Society
by arrangement with the author.

Copyright  ©  2008 Nicholas Hancock.  Permission  is granted  to  distribute  in  any  medium, commercial or non-commercial, provided author attribution and copyright notices remain intact.



The cogito is tautological: if thought generated by me exists, then to say that I exist is not an inference; it is a repetition. Cogito, ergo illud est, while no more logical than Descartes' axiom, says something more.

It says that the eternally dormant, waking suddenly and briefly into time, cannot create its own dream. Dream and dreamer are created by an inanimate world beyond them; they are part of that world, but not all of it.

The mind is the world incarnate, a parcel of matter become sentient; diverted momentarily from thingness, it has grown estranged from matter; alienated, it is the Other, the Stranger.

Facing a world so totally insensible that it cannot even be indifferent to him, the dreamer sees what seem to be other dreamers. They are peripheral: if each dreamer were as acutely conscious as he, he would have no way of perceiving this; he could merely conjecture it. Looking into inner ocular darkness or holding a torso in his arms, he wants to apprehend by some mysterious gnosis the me-ness of eyes and chest that continually orbit around him, substance without essence, a palpable hologram. Most of these 'other beings' are like meteors, returning infrequently, or not at all; some few are planets that for long periods of time revolve barely out of reach; and the sun of his being is unable to draw them any closer.

In the vast Nothing, insentient matter - like so many impulses repressed at the back of God's mind - non-existed for billions of years till, here and there, certain amino acids began to grow in ever more complex molecular patterns, a fungus in the old age of the Nothing. The molecules formed colonies, became pinpricks of pain in the universe, isolated visions of inanimate matter. And throughout the circles of terrestrial Hell the fractured dream generated by these short-lived organisms flickered intermittently, each dream a sun to itself, the others merely satellites reflecting its light, surviving a short space by cannibalising other organisms, returning at last to the inanimate matrix in a microbiological Eucharist.

As one such organism, I am part of the Cosmos and at the same time distinct from it by my very hereness, by my awareness of a brief fragment of it enveloping me. I repeat the conjugations of God and wonder whether I am or It is.

Antonin Artaud saw himself as a part of the universe that could be experienced: 'I know myself, and that is enough for me, and it should be enough; I know myself because I am a witness, I am a witness to Antonin Artaud.' In a similar way, I am a witness to Nicholas Hancock.

However, beyond this image is the Other, which can also be experienced if the eye and the ear are turned towards it in quiet contemplation. The beyond-myself that Nietzsche failed to see is there. If words and sounds are 'rainbows and, between beings that are forever separate, make-believe bridges,' this simply means I cannot communicate verbally with the beyond-myself in the sense of communion, of a fusing of me with the Other; but this Other does not thereby cease to exist.

Furthermore, there is an aspect of my psyche - the atman - that I only become fully aware of from time to time; it seems to reflect something beyond me, which Hindus call the Atman-Brahma; it is a reflection, I repeat, and not a communion. Perhaps it is merely a hormone reflecting some apparently cosmic Hormone engendered by the mind. But, hormone or atman, it is there, waiting to burst into flame. 'What is here is also there,' says the Katha Upanishad, 'and what is there is also here. Who sees the many and not the One wanders on from death to death.'

The atman, on the other hand, is not something we can observe: it is an experience like Antonin Artaud - one that we might call atmanising if it didn't make us think of simonising. Proust wrote in La Prisonnière:

As a human being spends his life constantly thinking a number of things,
and as he is nothing but the sum of the thought of these things,
when chance removes them from before his eyes and he suddenly
thinks of himself he finds nothing but an empty box, an unfamiliar thing,
to give which some semblance of reality he adds the memory of a
face he has seen reflected in a mirror.

This is because Proust was searching for an underlying thought that would remain after the bric-à-brac was swept away. The atman is not a thought; it is not 'personality'; and if one is not 'looking in the right direction' it will not be seen.

Now, though the godhead is often spoken of in terms of the Other, we can conjugate God in all persons singular:

       I am what I am.
       You are what you are.
       He/she/it is.

Elohim - I am - is the most sacred name, and only He can use it: for a human to say I am would be to usurp the place of God. Yahweh - He is - remains at the opposite pole: it is what is both outside us and beyond our senses, whereas Tat tvam asi - you are that - is the Sanskrit bridge between the two, a union of atman and Atman, of this and that.

Thus, while the cogito remains a rag of culture to wave at the end of a stick - the 'intellectual's' cross of St George -, it means much less than it did in 1637. We might now say more aptly: I feel, therefore the Other exists, or even I feel because the Other exists - and, through the Other or beyond it, the Atman.