“As If Analogy Were So”

	Our situation propounds itself as a story we discover as we tell it or as it is told, already
duplicitous, redundant, the first time 'round. We have the impression that the tale of what we
really are, what we do and suffer, is such as can be told; but also that no specific telling tells
it all or tells it right. There would always be other reckonings -- analogical or parallel tales,
to complete the real.
	But does this incompleteness at the source of apparency deride the
thought of a dynamism and vitality, a treasure trove and vigor at the heart of
Being? It surely does unmask a dark propensity, for thus are we sold on analogy.
We assume an identity when we grasp the analog of our situation, heard of
another in the tale: we "identify" with the persons of the story.
	This analogical identification is, of course, prior to analysis. We give
ourselves over to identity without ascertaining whether the analogy on which it
is based is an apt one; we do not take note of the limits of its aptness; we do not
inquire into its procedure; and we surely do not raise the suspicion that what we
truly are may not be capable of analogical characterization at all.
	To recover from our analogical identifications requires some careful
teasing apart of our self-presence from the "form" under which it is grasped. But
the problem is that, when we are somehow stirred to undergo this self-inflicted
surgery, we tend to perform it by replacing one analogical form with another.
Critiquing the aptness of some analogy, we search for a better one. Cognizant of
excess or exaggeration, we put up a limit. But if what we truly are on our most
intimate terrain is without form, no story, no image, no limit imposed upon
analogy, will peg us down.
	Thus to arrive at the formless center of our reality, however, is not yet to
raise the question of how it is that, in general, we commit ourselves to analogy.

	In the Dzogchen teachings of the Tibetans, an essential formulation has it
that though our "essence" is formless or empty, another complexion of our being,
translated usually as our "nature," perpetually generates apparent form. Though
all appearances belie what we really are, what we really do is take on
appearances.
	Formlessness of essence -- what does this mean? An essence is the
character of an entity by means of which we distinguish it from another. It is a
mark that is proper to the thing. It is the manner in which a being reveals that
which it intimately, inwardly, and truly is. To speak of an essence is to provoke a
noetic movement beyond the appearance to the thing as it is in itself, but in such
a manner that the thing as it is in itself discloses its self through its appearance. A
being's essence is its private, inner reality, but such as can be linked to its public
display. Its essence is just that display which does not betray the intimate
character of a thing. Essence therefore, in this sense, involves apparent form. To
say that an essence is "empty" or without form is paradoxical. It is to say that its
appearance is to have no appearance, that its proper distinction from other
things is to fail of such distinction. A formless distinction is no distinction at all.
A formless essence is an essence without an essence, or it is an essence that
remains tucked up in itself with such thoroughness that no determination of it
can appear without betraying it.
	Now to be without an essence and yet somehow still to be -- is to court
analogy. Without determinate character on my own terrain, I spontaneously
grasp myself on the basis of my similitudes. The origin of my spontaneous
commitment to analogical identity seems to lie precisely in my essenceless
essence, my lack of distinctness from that which I am not. It is not just that I have
no essence. I am the project of a belief that it is possible to discover or attain one
after all.
	Since an  essence is both a principle of distinctness and the inward core of
the distinguished thing, the essenceless essence of this inner core does not
amount to the possession of determinate form or the grasping of a distinction
between one's own characteristics and those of another. Rather, it determines
one's concrete existence as paradoxically anterior to all determination: though
lacking in form, we are not for all that lacking in a certain concreteness, self-
presence, or existence as such.
	My spontaneous impulse to seize upon identity through analogy does not
arise simply out of my lack of determinate character, but from the contradictory
fact that  though indeterminate, yet I am. The indeterminate yet immediate
character of my own being projects me into a quest for identity and ever-renews
that quest through the dialectic of analogy -- the spontaneous exercise of an
analogical will, succeeded by the pain of contradiction and the loss of sense of
identity. The disclosure of the inadequacy of the analogical, spontaneously
reanimates it.
	The dialectic of identity is an impossible project. It cannot culminate in the
attainment of determinate identity at last, and its self-corrections and
reanimations cannot lead to an as-yet-unattained but in principle attainable core.
Rather, it labors in the production of new analogies, new contradictions, new
connections. And if it gain some respite, some apparent stability in its self-
identification, it does so at the cost of its own awareness of how that stability is
sustained by social supports, themselves as dubious and ephemeral as its own
elusive character.
	The dialectic of identity may be terminated, however, if the spontaneous
will to analogy seizes upon the formless as its only analogical truth. Now the
question is: if my analogical will is the failure to appropriate the formlessness of
my essence, why, when this failure is overcome, does my own apparent form not
cease to appear?
	Perhaps an indirect answer might be this: that the manifestation of outer
appearance is not explained by the analogical will and its dialectic; rather, the fact
of appearance itself is among the conditions for the dialectic's possibility. I seek
true form because, though inwardly formless, outwardly I do take shape. The
intimacy of formless essence with external appearance may not proceed from
errancy but be among its causes. It might just be of the essence of essenceless
essence to generate apparent form.
	Our appearances are not errant accidents, inessential to our true but
formless being. To be both formless and yet not being-less is to generate
apparency.
	The necessary generation of apparent form from formless essence is our
nature. And it is this nature that gives the possibility of our errancy, the
possibility of the wanderings of an analogical will. For if we did not take form, we
would not seek a true form, and if we were possessed of a true form, the quest for the
apprehension of it would culminate in a vision of our determinate being. But neither of
these is the case.
	The generation of apparent form from formless essence is productive not
only of errancy, but of the positive display of apparent being itself. Essence and
nature are neither dissociated nor in any way apart from each other, but
nondualistically co-implicate. If apparency occurs and is not true, its essence is
essenceless. The nondual identity of essenceless essence and empty appearance is
the depth of the display of Being -- the energetic manifestation of the
concreteness of existence.

*from  . . . by Gerrit Lansing
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