Man is fundamentally unborn. Despite his literal biological birth, he has logically never left the in-ness in a womb. In being biologically born, he only exchanged the biological womb for another, a metaphysical womb, the womb of Meaning.
Man (I am here not speaking about the empirical individual, but, on the logical level, about Man at large, his “humanity”: the concept of man as and in which we all live) is not born directly into the environment, not “thrust into existence,” as the 20th-century existentialists thought. He is born first of all into and contained in myths, meanings, ideas, images, words, creeds, theories, traditions. They stand irrevocably between him and external reality, so that he is not naked, and it not either. Everything in the world is hopelessly enwrapped in mythical garments; nothing is just what it pragmatically is. Tools, weapons, things and events in nature, regardless of whether big or small, the activities of daily life: everything has its story about its primordial divine origin and cosmic significance, and this its mythical or metaphysical reality is its primary reality. Naked reality is fundamentally out of reach. When man came into this world, he ipso facto had entered into One ongoing, continuous, and all-comprehensive Dream, a dream from which there was no awakening since this dream was his real world and life, his “reality principle.” What we call consciousness is just as much part of this Dream as are the many particular literal dreams (which normally are thought to belong to “the unconscious”) (End Of Meaning, by Wolfgang Giegerich).
I must admit, Giegerich has a point. Certainly, we come into this world and immediately inherit all the “myths, meanings, ideas, images, words, creeds, theories, traditions” of our ancestors (I must remind myself we are talking on a logical level here, not of the literal, biological birth). This is another sort of womb; we exchange one womb for another. In this way, Giegerich claims Man is unborn. “He merely exchanges the biological womb of the mother for a second womb, the spiritual womb, the amniotic sac of the mind, images, and meanings.” In this way, the latter womb is like the spacesuit astronauts wear: Man “enters the environment only safely encapsulated in the space-suit, or should we say environment-suit, of his images, ideas, concepts, words.”
We are born into this world, not directly exposed to the world in the same way as animals. Animals come into this world totally naked and live according to their survival instincts. They have no conscious knowledge of what they are doing. They are in a state of total unconsciousness.
Man is born encapsulated in a cocoon (to use Giegerich’s word) of images, words, myths, and ideas. He has knowledge, he knows what he is doing, so he lives in a state of consciousness. Giegerich calls him “Overanimal.” What man doesn’t know is how he knows. He has no conscious awareness of his consciousness.
I think we are all born into this “pre-modern” state. Some of us spend our entire lives encapsulated in a kind of spacesuit that buffers us from the harshness of an existence where we must question our own existence. A few of us, through introspection and self-questioning, break through the cocoon and begin to see reality for what it is, begin to become conscious of our own consciousness. The Apostle Paul said, “We see through a glass darkly,” but then face-to-face.”
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