Truth and Lies, Part II
Yesterday, I discussed Nietzsche’s idea of truth and lie, the latter being the subversion of mankind’s conventional naming system. Unconsciously, we lie to ourselves and to each other because we have forgotten that the names of things are not the same as the original experience of the things themselves. The meaning of liar, of course, is relative, according to one’s perception. From the point of view of the masses, a liar is one who breaks with the accepted convention of not believing that language really describes reality. From Nietzsche’s perspective, we are all liars, since, to exist socially, we all use language.
To reiterate, what exactly is truth? From the perspective of the usual conceptual framework, Nietzsche believes it to be
A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding.
The experience of the “mass of images” originally flowing from the human imagination, like lava from an erupting volcano, was replaced at some point in the history of consciousness with the cushy “firmness” and “security” of an “invincible faith,” the lie that these images are the things themselves. Mankind has even forgotten “that he himself is an artistically creating subject.” In this sentence, Nietzsche has in mind an authentic sense of truth. Since “the drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive,” the practice of science and mathematics (take heed, all you STEM supporters) will not vanquish and satisfy it. The closest we will come to authentic truth is to engage in myth and art. Even if some of us are scientists, take time for these magical areas of your life. Otherwise, we really are living a lie, and denying that we are creators. The drive to form metaphors
continually confuses the conceptual categories and cells by bringing forward new transferences, metaphors, and metonymies. It continually manifests an ardent desire to refashion the world which presents itself to waking man, so that it will be as colorful, irregular, lacking in results and coherence, charming, and eternally new as the world of dreams. Indeed, it is only by means of the rigid and regular web of concepts that the waking man clearly sees that he is awake; and it is precisely because of this that he sometimes thinks that he must be dreaming when this web of concepts is torn by art.
Life should not be ruled by ratiocination, quantification, and cool logic. To be replete with meaning, life should be experienced as a dream, as a myth, with all the wonders and miracles that occur in dreams and myths. And please don’t take this literally, friends. We are discussing the drive to create metaphors.
…because of the way that myth takes it for granted that miracles are always happening, the waking life of a mythically inspired people, the ancient Greeks, for instance, more closely resembles a dream than it does the waking world of a scientifically disenchanted thinker. When every tree can suddenly speak as a nymph, when a god in the shape of a bull can drag away maidens, when even the goddess Athena herself is suddenly seen in the company of Peisastratus driving through the market place of Athens with a beautiful team of horses-and this is what the honest Athenian believed- then, as in a dream, anything is possible at each moment, and all of nature swarms around man as if it were nothing but a masquerade of the gods, who were merely amusing themselves by deceiving men in all these shapes.
Such a life sets up a constant stream of creation and possibilities. Anything is possible. I think this is the kind of life we have discussed before, in the work of Jung, and Hillman. It is the dynamic flow of soul. It is what Gebser calls the “new consciousness.”
When engaged in art and myth-making, “that master of deception, the intellect, is free; it is released from its former slavery and celebrates its Saturnalia.” Now, guided by intuitions, the free intellect smashes the “framework and planking of concepts,” and then creatively reconstructs it in strange, new ways. Think of a few of the creative movements that erupted not too long after Nietzsche’s death: Expressionism, Surrealism, and Dada. These are examples of ways the old conceptual framework was smashed and reconstructed, as if reality were so much clay we may fashion using our imaginations.
This is the life I want to live. I hope you choose to, as well. Happy Saturnalia!