Hermeneutics is the study of spiritual thought, usually through literature, as an integral facet of the search for meaning. We all search for meaning, although we invariably look for it in different places: for some our car gives life meaning, for others their job does the trick and for a few, meaning is found within a spiritual, rather than a material context. All meaning is subjective; reality for you cannot be the same as reality for me, because we each interpret experience according to our own unique perspectives, which means, very simply, that nobody is wrong.
It took me many years to work this out. When the realisation finally broke upon my consciousness, very recently in fact, it was both liberating and shocking. Liberating because in releasing others from the burden of my subjective expectations, I also released myself. And shocking because I came to understand how much energy I have wasted in my life as a result. Strange (and good) things have begun to happen to me, emotionally, mentally and physiologically.
I create all resistance. If my neighbour decides to mow his lawn at 7:30 am, as he did this very morning, the problem has nothing to do with his mowing the lawn, and everything to do with my expectation that he should be more considerate on a weekend. In that situation I could respond in one of two ways: I could either apply pressure on him to mow his lawn later in the day, or I could decide not to have a problem with him mowing his lawn at 7:30 am. The problem arises of course when I have made a rule. My rule might say that ‘people should not make excessive noise on the weekend before 9 am’, and all might be well in my life provided nobody breaks my rule. In a world which contains inhabitants with a different rule: one which says people ‘should not make excessive noise on the weekend before 7:30 am’ there is the potential for conflict.
Clearly this is a rule designed to make sense of the physical world and yet its existence contains a seed of disharmony. Were I to enforce my rule then I am quite sure that relations with my neighbour would deteriorate rapidly, because, what with all experience being subjective, we would both be right: and no compromise would be reasonable for either party. If a compromise were reached it would undoubtedly feature at least a modicum of resentment.
And while that’s only a potential, it is nonetheless a potential actualising from grass-mowing.
Hermeneutics is derived from Hermes, thus Mercury and comes from the Greek hermeneuō, meaning to interpret or translate, and in keeping with Mercury, it is within the derivation of meaning from what is said, that the potential for difficulty arises. Mercury was after all a trickster as much as a communicator. What is meant has almost no bearing upon what is understood.
This is really intriguing because if we accept that all understanding is subjective then we can posit the amazing understanding that no two people can understand the same reality. Scientists will argue, but increasingly the field of quantum study suggests that the Heisenberg principle is distinctly more far-reaching than even Werner Heisenberg himself suspected. Observation alters reality at the quantum level, therefore subjectivity affects reality in the most profound manner imaginable, since observation is intrinsically subjective. Objectivity is bunkum.
Therefore, hermeneutic results are only good for the one engaged in the study. So, I study my life in a spiritual context to elicit meaning and I can share that experience. Indeed, it is what I do every day in conversation, correspondence and in my work, and that is all to the good. Problems can only arise therefore when I create rules. Rules which are absolutely accurate and valid for me cannot, for quantum reasons, be accurate and valid for anybody else, and this applies to grass-mowing as much as to spiritual context. Objectivity is rule-making and therefore senseless.
Okay, so you can argue. You might say that surely it’s objectively correct that you should never physically assault another person. Here there is a confusion of content with context, which is the classic flaw of objectivity. The content (assaulting others) is only inappropriate in context: (e.g. while shopping for groceries). In another context assaulting somebody may be entirely appropriate (if they are threatening to kill your children for example). The realisation therefore is that objectivity cannot exist and this is true for everything of course.
Every problem in the world would resolve itself overnight if everybody realised this truth.
Hermeneutics, which found its natural home among countless Catholic scholars from the Middle Ages on, and to this day informs fundamentalists and moderates alike of various faiths, is enormously limiting to social harmony. If all interpretation is subjective, then interpreting objective truth is a failure of perspective, even if subjectively the interpreter cannot be wrong. Religion is the transformation of subjective spiritual truth into objective rules. While there may be a consensus among scholars, the law of attraction ensures that those of a like-mind collaborate, minimising the need for compromise. If my neighbour believed that mowing the lawn should never happen before 9 am, our conflict potential would be greatly minimised.
So where’s the problem? The same insight applies in reverse. There ought to be no problem with religion, since if that’s what a person chooses to believe then that’s only their reality, right? The problem with religion is that it seeks to quarantine personal hermeneutics and exalt one person’s interpretation over another’s. The priest who proclaims God’s message is denying another human being’s freedom to subjectively interpret their reality. When we deny others the right to choose their leaders, we call it totalitarianism. Defining spiritual truth in commandments, rules or judgements – and denouncing others for not following them – is spiritual abuse. Living by them privately is your choice and how wonderful that you have interpreted spiritual truth within the context of that consensus. If that is your choice, I respect your choice, because what you believe is absolutely, marvellously, beautifully perfect.
“Spiritual abuse”. How divine!
Another brilliant piece. “Liberating because in releasing others from the burden of my subjective expectations, I also released myself.” I suspect I, too, am wasting a lot of energy but, unlike you, can’t seem to break the pattern emotionally. Any pointers? Desperately need “good things to happen to me emotionally, mentally and physiologically”.Thank you so much….I really enjoy your skilled writing as well as your resonating subject matter.
Thank you AJ.
I find that the trials of a spiritual life are much alleviated by taking responsibility for your intention and leaving the rest to the Universe (or God if you prefer). A Course in Miracles puts it in a slightly different way, stating that your are only responsible for the effort and not the results of those efforts. Thus if you align your intentions with the highest good then you do not have to worry that you are on a wrong footing. If things don’t work out as planned then you don’t have to fret about what is wrong. If other people are negative then you can leave them to explore the consequences of their choices without having to take responsibility for them or their consequences. Having right intention (in the Buddhist sense) therefore frees you from the necessity for defensiveness, if your intentions are for the good then a mistake is simply that: a mistake and you can let it go.
If need be, you can fake it till you make it, which is always a useful principle in spiritual work. Start small and let the little things go. If something isn’t to your liking just accept that it’s not to your liking, don’t seek to control the outcome. If you’re given the wrong change, or your coffee isn’t what you asked for, try to accept that everything is as it should be and in that way you can practise letting go. Eventually you’ll be able to apply the principles learned with the small stuff to the big stuff too.
It’s important to remember that spiritual work isn’t binary. It’s not accurate to say that you’re either enlightened or you’re not. Rather there is a spectrum between total linearity and total transcendence. Even Buddha had moments where he felt less than perfect and struggled with anger, frustration or non-acceptance, and even the most materialistic of individuals has moments of clarity and acceptance. The goal of spiritual work is not to flick a switch and become perfect, but rather to replace more dissatisfaction with more acceptance. Right intention is the way to make steady progress.
The rest you can leave to God 🙂
“If something isn’t to your liking just accept that it’s not to your liking, don’t seek to control the outcome…try to accept that everything is as it should be and in that way you can practise letting go.”
Wow, I really needed to read this. Very insightful. Thank you Jeremy.
You’re most welcome, it’s good to remember that there’s a reason they call it PRACTISE 🙂
…or you could contact your local council and find out if there is a bylaw that governs noise zoning? Your neighbour may be unenlightened about a simple law….
Well, it’s true that I could complain, but somehow I would feel a sense of failure if I did. I would also ahve much to complain about: his dogs often make an awful racket at 3am, his hedges are taller than my upstairs windows and only 10 feet away, he’s always burning rubbish…
On the whole, it’s annoying, but I would rather try to raise my annoyance threshold because otherwise I will get dragged down into dissatisfaction, and there are worse things than this.
Yes, if we all raised our annoyance threshold, wow think about all that we could tolerate! Oh yes, that’s one of the reasons the world is the way it is. Many people raised (and continue to raise!) their annoyance threshold during some of the most inhumane moments of our history, pretending transcendence while mentally blocking their cowardliness, apathy, and lack of self, social responsibility or responsibility to the future (self, family, nation, etc.). There is something called justice. Closely related to the Libran archetype, but real justice is Scorpio. Real balance is hard (that’s the point where both you and him are happy, or the imbalance he has created within your minute neighborhood society (Gemini—>Libra) is gone). Yes it is pretty much as hard as waging war and overt aggression (Aries) as slowly working towards a balance between you and others (Libra) with a nice look on your face, or better, a logical genuine friendly love that by nature aims towards the spiritual and logical progression of something bigger than ourselves (Venus in Pisces-exaltation), like possibly your neighborhood or county?? What do they think? Why is it that society (Libra) comes after Virgoan manners and opposes Aries (pure, naive, self centeredness and interest without regard, or total ignorance, of others)? Because society is a group and is also a structure. Saturn in Libra should be making us all aware of. Beyond Libra is Scorpio, which gives a chance for true justice and the ability to transform difficult problems (like Mars intensified with a power plant that uses the earth’s core as fuel). Look to Scorpio if you want to see transcendence within transformation towards a social or group goal that leads to mental openness, philosophy from others as well as yourself-Sagittarius (thinking about ones/the human/ and another’s mind, and thinking about thinking, which, I believe is the first level of true intelligence) spread of knowledge, growth of culture, and social change. The only way to get there, is by talking to the guy (Gemini).
Thanks Heather for taking the time to write this. My stance though has nothing to do with cowardliness, apathy, and lack of self, social responsibility or responsibility to the future; it’s much simpler; there are bigger issues in my life and I prefer to pick my battles. Besides, I do talk to my neighbour from time to time and we get along just fine.
Thank you…that’s great advise! And you are spot on…letting go/acceptance of increasingly bigger stuff is the lesson for me (venus square pluto?)Yes, I’ve tried faking it, but sometimes I just don’t make it:) Will work on right intention. Many, many thanks.
You’re welcome AJ, I hope it helps.
Very nice piece. In the past year, I too have experienced a marvellous sense of liberation by realising (through several hours of discussion with psychologist friend) that it is impossible to change anyone else’s mind, impossible to persuade him/her that your reasoning on a specific matter is the correct one, the one to be adopted. Once I had truly understood and internalised the full meaning and significance of this, I felt a huge sense of relief – I had gone through life thinking that people should do this, should do that – ‘should’ had become a central pillar of my worldview, which of course was judgemental in the extreme, but I thought I was just being ‘reasonable’. Anyway, I am delighted that I can now listen to other people’s opinions, not agree with them, and not feel that I have to oppose them and try to convert the person to my way of thinking. Obviously there are subjects that are exceptions (I would not just sit there happily by while someone extolled the virtues of paedophilia or racism etc.), but most of the time I can just listen and not feel the need to intervene.
Michael you are very wise. The real trick is in walking the fine line between not trying to control others but at the same time not to allow yourself to be a soft target for all the controllers out there. Actually, I think that largely the one ameliorates the other, but we all have legacy controllers in our lives. I have one deeply unpleasant acquaintance in my life who I cannot ‘get rid of’ and they are very controlling indeed, so I spend energy on defining boundaries (which they try to abuse). It’s wearying, but at least it’s not my problem, even if sometimes it’s a problem.
I think it’s okay to endure listening to obtuse perspectives by the way, what’s tougher is to have to listen to people telling you that your perspectives are obtuse. I’m getting that worked out too! What matters is what is true…
I forgot to add that my psychologist friend had explained that while we believe that we are thinking with our brains, in fact most of our opinions come from our hearts, from our feelings. And so when you are trying to convince someone to change the way they think, what you are really trying to do is to change the way they feel. Fancy your chances of that?
Dear Jeremy, I feel that you have touched on many currently simmering issues, but that the title of the article still leaves a lot of space. I sense subverbaly your discontent with the polarized world.
Here some thoughts on your post:
– Rules and religion do polarize reality, but rules are what we think they are. Not objective. Fake objective. Rape of meaning(s) essentially.
– We are left with idea of meanings, but how do they relate to rules? (I see the word “meaning” as a Sun radiating in all directions with an illuminating core)
– Now what is at the base of rules? Agreements? Maybe he missing link is agreement, leading up to the rules…
– How do planets play out in agreements? Do they work first through self-acceptance?
– Where it all comes together for me is in Edgar Cayse’s statement that planets and luminaries have consciousness. We are not the receivers of the influences. Cosmic influence is not one-way motion, like most of the things in the polarized world. They can build our self acceptance and agreements which lead to the new set
of rules, the silent ones, the self-understood ones.
Do you think you could invite your Neptune to build an acoustic shield from the insensitive mower operator, but not involve him in an excluding polarity?
Does this little bit of jazz strike any chords with you?
Love and Peace.
Fascinating article and one which I can completely relate to! I am extremely sensitive to noise but like you, I am attempting to raise my annoyance threshold as well. I remind myself that I am upset because my perceived ‘rule’ has been broken. That said, I also think that in order for us to live in peace together there needs to be some ‘rules’ but I would rather a world in which these ome from within than from without. A sublime understanding between each other.
I’m interested to know if you have any 9th house transits going on? The search for meaning, understanding, rules, religion – very 9th house issues.
Thanks Leah, I’m glad you found some food for thought here.
I’ve had Neptune transiting my 9th for the best part of a decade, so maybe that explains it.
Nice post! Reminds me of the chinese parable that I love about the old man and his son whose only possession of worth was a beautiful stallion, which they used to plow their crops. One day the stallion ran away and all the villagers came to show pity and exclaimed, “Oh! This is terrible!” To which the old man replied, “Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We shall see.” The next day the stallion returned with a small herd of wild horses, which increased the old man’s fortune. The villagers exclaimed, “Oh this is wonderful! How fortunate!” To which the old man replied, “Maybe. We shall see.” The next day the old man’s son tried to ride one of the wild horses and he broke his lef. This was unfortunate because the old man needed his son’s help on the farm. Again, the villagers exclaimed “This is terrible!” to which the old man replied, “We shall see.” The following day, the General and his ary came into the village and declared that all able-bodied young men had to join the military to fight a war in a land far away. Since the old man’s son had a broken leg, he couldn’t be drafted into the war.
“Hermeneutics, which found its natural home among countless Catholic scholars from the Middle Ages on, and to this day informs fundamentalists and moderates alike of various faiths, is enormously limiting to social harmony. If all interpretation is subjective, then interpreting objective truth is a failure of perspective, even if subjectively the interpreter cannot be wrong. Religion is the transformation of subjective spiritual truth into objective rules. While there may be a consensus among scholars, the law of attraction ensures that those of a like-mind collaborate, minimising the need for compromise. If my neighbour believed that mowing the lawn should never happen before 9 am, our conflict potential would be greatly minimised.
So where’s the problem? The same insight applies in reverse. There ought to be no problem with religion, since if that’s what a person chooses to believe then that’s only their reality, right? The problem with religion is that it seeks to quarantine personal hermeneutics and exalt one person’s interpretation over another’s. The priest who proclaims God’s message is denying another human being’s freedom to subjectively interpret their reality. When we deny others the right to choose their leaders, we call it totalitarianism. Defining spiritual truth in commandments, rules or judgements – and denouncing others for not following them – is spiritual abuse. Living by them privately is your choice and how wonderful that you have interpreted spiritual truth within the context of that consensus. If that is your choice, I respect your choice, because what you believe is absolutely, marvellously, beautifully perfect.”
Thank you Jeremy you’ve expressed these abstractisms in a most perfect and practical way, I,
like many others, am like minded. From personal experience I’ve come to realise that pressure to conform for fear of losing one’s identity remains a powerful motive against any expansion of the mind, if expansion it is and not someother human folly; moreover, old ideas, which really provide comfort and security, sometimes die extremely hard as they are deeply bred in the bone – one simply cannot teach old dogs new tricks. Perhaps the dynamic of challenging religious worldviews provides grist for the mill only to those interested in seeking new solutions to modern human cultural fall out.
Thank you for writing this post, it was absolutely beautiful to read and came at the perfect time in my life 🙂
Jeremy, I thank you – and Daykeeper Journal link – for your profound observations, having just imbibed a half-dozen or more this evening.
Your skilled usage of English is refreshing!
‘…that nobody is wrong’ offers rules of the road for ‘walking in peace on the battlefield’, my personal ‘wooden rabbit’…